Friday, July 13, 2012

Those Pesky Republican Operatives

Killer Political Instincts 

©2005 by Linda Minor

A Taste for Blood 
George Walker Bush called Karl Rove his "Brain". Part of the story has been told many times. Paul Begala, Rove's Democrat counterpart said of one book, Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential, by Wayne Slater and Jim Moore: 
"Love him or hate him, Karl Rove is one of the most brilliant and successful political consultants of all time." 
Brilliant, yes. But what makes him successful as a Republican strategist is that atavistic ability to lunge for the jugular and not let go. It is a trait that has come to epitomize Republican politics--at least the political game played by the strategists who get paid to manage the campaigns of of all levels of candidates running for office today.

RNC Head Picks Winner
It was an auspicious meeting between 23-year-old Karl and George H. W. Bush in 1973 which sealed the younger man's meteoric rise within his chosen career. Rove was vying for the chairmanship of the College Republicans against his more traditional opponent, Robert Edgeworth, who heartily embraced Barry Goldwater in that year when Bush was dubbed as chairman of the Republican National Committee at the height of the politically disastrous Watergate scandal. Given the choice between Rove and Edgeworth, the seemingly mild-mannered Bush picked Rove hands-down, according to a 2003 article by Nicholas Lemann in The New Yorker. [1] The meeting would become only the first step in a long-term relationship between Rove and Bush, leading, as it turned out, to an even more co-dependent association between Rove and Bush's son, "Dubya".It was all about getting into power, which seemed like an impossible dream in those days after Watergate.

George Bush was, at that moment in time, frustrated because former Goldwater idealists, disgusted by Watergate shenanigans, were abandoning politics in droves.In their place, new power was being handed to a youthful electorate within the College Republican organization, whose value to the Party promised an abundance of gratuitous labor and an almost self-sufficient network of grassroots volunteers. Senator Carl T. Curtis summed it up well when he said:

"I can think of no other political organization which can give conservatives a bigger 'bang per buck.' " [2]

George Bush’s Political Secrets
In 1972 the 48-year-old George Bush had already experienced a varied career in both business and public life. A Navy pilot in World War II, he completed his studies at Yale in 1950 (Skull and Bones) and moved to Texas to engage in the oil business. Financed largely by clients of his father and uncle with connections to the investment banks of Brown Brothers Harriman and  G.H. Walker & Co., he worked first for a subsidiary of Dresser Industries (now part of Halliburton), which was then wholly owned by Brown Brothers Harriman, of which his father (Senator Prescott Bush) was a senior partner with a veritable coven of Skull and Bones bankers--Averell and Roland Harriman, Knight Woolley and Robert A. Lovett.

Prescott Bush in Brown Brothers Harriman office with Bonesmen partners Bunny Harriman, Knight Woolley and Lovett

After more than a decade in Texas, having attached himself to wealthy Texans Bill and Hugh Liedtke, W.S. Farish III, and Robert Mosbacher, Bush thought he had gained sufficient backing to enter the political fray. He managed to win election twice to a Republican Congressional seat from a wealthy precinct in Houston in 1966 and served until 1970 when then President Nixon, anticipating an important vote concerning China’s status to that body, appointed him to be Ambassador to the United Nations.

When hell broke loose over Watergate, Sen. Bob Dole, who had replaced Rogers Morton at the Republic National Committee, quickly resigned, and Bush took over in January 1973. Nixon had placed the real political power of his office in the hands of his former law partner, John Mitchell, who headed the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP), the source of the scandal to begin with. By placing Bush at the RNC, the White House was hoping for more loyalty to Nixon than Dole had shown. And, too, Bush was also there to cover his own misdeeds and those of his fellow fundraisers, referred to on the “smoking gun” tape as “the Texans,” disclosure of whose role in the campaign could have revealed “the whole Bay of Pigs thing,” according to Nixon. [3]

Though conspiracy theories abound, George Bush’s real role in Republican politics during the Kennedy years remained buried, at least until publication of Russ Baker's ground-breaking book, Family of Secrets. Bush would have even more opportunity to cover up prior dirty tricks when President Gerald Ford appointed him Director of the C.I.A. late in 1975.

There's a Lesson There
Keeping the lid on the secrets being uppermost in his mind, when the stressed-out Bush met the arrogant and ebullient Rove in 1973, he was, therefore, inspired by the young man’s optimistic spirit, as well as his ability to engage in the same dirty tricks that were to land Donald Segretti in a prison cell. Segretti, one of many "advance men" that had been hired by CREEP to disrupt Democratic campaigns during the 1972 primary season through acts of political sabotage and espionage, once distributed a letter falsely claiming that former Senator Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson had fathered an illegitimate child with a 17-year-old girl. He pled guilty in 1973 to three counts of distributing illegal campaign literature.

In 1970, it has been often reported, Rove, while working for a Republican candidate and pretending to be a Democrat volunteer for that opponent, removed two reams of stationery from the Democrat's office which he used to advertise the opening of his  headquarters, adding "free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing." [4] Stories about such successes were undoubtedly boasted about at College Republicans training weekends. Karl Rove was a fast learner. 

While the Watergate scandal was at its peak, Rove’s opponents for the College Republican position—Terry Dolan and Robert Edgeworth—leaked to the Washington Post a tape recording of an amused Rove and another College Republican, recounting their antics and campaign espionage during previous political campaigns. The story that appeared in the Post ran under the headline

Republican Chairman George Bush was not amused. Edgeworth told the New Yorker, “Bush sent me ... the angriest letter I have ever received in my life. I had leaked to the Washington Post, and now I was out of the Party forever. That letter is a family heirloom." [5] In contrast, Bush rewarded Rove with a full-time job at the Republican National Committee. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

Rove's Rise to Fame
Lee Atwater
The manager for Rove's 1973 CRNC campaign was none other than 22-year-old southerner, Lee Atwater, who would become famous for his killer political instincts seven years later, after George Bush hired him as strategist in his post-Watergate campaign for the presidency.  Rove's own fame came hot on Atwater's heels.

While a high school senior in Salt Lake City he worked in the campaign of Utah Senator Wallace F. Bennett and got his first taste of political strategy. As a freshman political science student at the University of Utah he interned for Ralph Tyler Smith’s 1970 U.S. Senate campaign in Illinois and so overwhelmed his College Republican boss that he was rewarded with the job as executive director of the College Republican National Committee (CRNC), located in Washington, D.C., no less. [6]

The move to the nation’s capital would be a heady experience for  Rove, a nerdy lad who already had an established history of impatience and even brazenness. As a protege of the College Republicans' national chairman, Joe Abate (now a lobbyist), Rove soon met others with his taste for political blood, including his former campaign manager Lee Atwater, as well as Roger Stone and Terry Dolan—each of whom was trained in the College Republican stable to be a political consultant for the conservative cause. A decade later, equally adept, yet unprincipled, trainees—Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist—joined them there. [7] 

Reed and Abramoff in a casino
Baby-faced Ralph Reed was anointed by Pat Robertson to head the IRS-designated not-for-profit 50l(c)(4) organization, the Christian Coalition. Time magazine in 2006, at the time of his fall from grace, quoted Reed, during the peak of his hubris, in a not-so-Christian moment, likening his political role to a jungle killer fighting a war:

Reed with Pat Robertson

"I do guerrilla warfare," Reed once boasted to a reporter, describing how he ambushed his enemies as a political operative. "I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag."

Rove's Background

Under Rove, direct mail—a dirt path blazed by Richard Viguerie—would be paved. The simple mailing list would be broadened to establish ideological coalitions spanning the nation. The Republican political base would be analyzed and broken down into categories with enthusiastic young ideologues appointed to raise money from each segment by preaching to their respective choirs about their candidates.

Because 1972 was the first year that eighteen-year-olds could vote, the CRNC became an official auxiliary to the Republican Party, and its chairman (Rove) was made an ex officio member of the national committee’s executive committee. Quite a step up for a young man of Rove’s age. 

At the same time, emotional upheavals in Rove's family life intensified the experience, as he traveled to his hometown of Sparks, Nevada, to check in on his mother and found himself profiled in the Reno Evening Gazette on January 31, 1972, which described him as:
a political science and history major at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where the College Republican National Committee has its offices. He attended Florence Drake Elementary School and Dilworth Junior High when he lived in Sparks.

The paper also proudly proclaimed his other achievements:
Former Sparks [Nevada] Youth Named To Who's Who
Karl Rove, the 21-year-old son of Mrs. Reba Rove of Sparks, has been appointed to Who's Who of Outstanding Young Men of America.

The upheaval involved Karl's being told by an aunt that Louis Claude Rove, Jr. was his adoptive, rather than his biological, dad. He also discovered that Louis was, in fact, gay. Even though Karl would continue to raise funds from the anti-homosexual Republican base constituents by bashing gays, he came to terms with his father's lifestyle.

Karl's mother, the former Reba Wood, was divorced from Louis on May 25, 1970 in Reno, Nevada, where Reba took her family to live after giving up her gift shop in Salt Lake City. Reba had met and married Louis while he was a student at the Colorado School of Mines in Denver, when Karl and his brother Eric were quite young. The name of their real father, her first husband, is unknown. Louis' graduation and marriage occurring at the beginning days of the 1950's uranium boom, led to one of his first jobs at Climax Molybdenum Co. in Salt Lake City, Utah. By 1966 he was chief geologist at Vitro Minerals Corp., created under supervision of the Atomic Energy Commission during the peak of the boom in 1955

Louis Rove's Resume
From Louis Rove's Who's Who listing
(Note: This blog previously explored a contract between LBJ friend, Morris D. Jaffe, and the Climax uranium company, as well as uranium mining companies owned by Dallasite, D. Harold Byrd. Readers can search this blog or scan tags for more on these subjects, by finding these tools in the frame to the right.)

Carl M. Loeb, Jr.

According to Climax's company history, it merged in 1957 with the non-ferrous metals mining company, American Metal Company (Limited)--the majority of whose stock in 1918 had been placed in a voting trust for its British alien owners, though the company president was an American, Carl M. Loeb (father of John L. Loeb). After the war it became American Metal Climax, Inc., still controlled by the Loebs, evidenced by the fact that Carl M. Loeb Jr.,
"a metallurgical engineer, ... was an executive with the Climax Molybdenum Company, which later became AMAX Inc. [in 1974]. He was also a limited partner in Loeb, Rhoades and Company, a brokerage and investment banking firm that his father, Carl Sr., and his brother John had helped found, and that was later merged into Shearson and then American Express."

The family moved to Sparks, Nevada as early as 1961:
Rove’s father and mother, Louis and Reba Rove, were listed in a local [Sparks] city directory beginning in 1961. Louis Rove was a geologist with the Utah Mining Company (one of the six corporations that built Hoover Dam). At the time, the Roves were living at 2195 Nelson Way, a block east of Pyramid Way and just north of the then relatively new Greenbrae Shopping Center.
By 1962, Louis Rove’s title had changed to regional manager and the corporation’s name had changed to Utah Construction and Mining Company [UCM]. In 1963, the Roves moved to 149 East Gault in Sparks. Karl was the second of five children in the family. His brothers and sisters were Olaf, Reba, Eric and Alma.
UCM was a high-security-clearance company which built a facility for the Atomic Energy Commission after first entering the nuclear industry in 1957. In 1964, according to Jason Wanlass's website at Weber State University, Communications Department, UCM was hired to construct an underground control center for Minuteman missile launching facilities. The company, which began by laying railroads and building dams, "under the guidance of Marriner Eccles, ... expanded into mining dredging, and land development."

Reba Wood Rove
Reba had been born in New Mexico in 1929 to Robert G. and Elsie Wood of Pueblo, Colorado (her father died there in 1973). Prior to her divorce and employment, she had been active in a women's group, Beta Sigma Phi, in Reno since moving there and served as president of the Reno-Sparks city council prior to 1966. 

After her 1970 divorce from Louis, her name sometimes appeared in the news as the coordinator for the Senior Citizen Resource Center, which handled the "meals on wheels" and similar programs for seniors in Reno's Washoe County, but it also announced her resignation from that post in May 1972. Karl's sister, Reba, who was only ten when her parents divorced, became a high school cheerleader. She and her sister Alma were also active in the local chapter of Rainbow Girls, a Masonic-connected society. In 1973 Alma married John Robert Monroe, but divorced him four years later.

It is quite likely that Reba had met her last husband, Lowell Henry Brinson, while she worked at the senior center in Reno. The son of a California railroad porter, he was regional coordinator in Stockton, California in 1968 for the Foster Grandparents Program, before moving to Reno to become Nevada's state director for ACTION, a new federal volunteer agency. Lowell and his wife Shirley had divorced soon after filing bankruptcy in Reno in late 1969--at the exact same point in time Louis Rove abandoned his family to take up a full-time gay lifestyle. They married in Los Angeles, California, on May 17, 1981, the same year she purportedly committed suicide. Although her suicide was mentioned in Time magazine, while reviewing The Architect, the marriage to Brinson was omitted:

In 1981 a third devastating blow struck what remained of the Rove family. Karl's mother committed suicide in Reno, Nev. She had surmounted much in her life, Rove says, starting with poverty. Her father had worked on a road crew in the San Juan Mountains and sold knives from the back of his truck to grocery stores in little out-of-the-way towns. "They lived in a house in southern Colorado where, when they finished reading the evening newspaper, they'd take flour paste and slap it on the wall for insulation," he says.

After persevering through all that, the disintegration of a marriage and the challenge of raising five children by two fathers, why had Reba Wood Rove reached a point where she couldn't go any further? "Again, it's hard to figure out," Rove says. "You can speculate on what demons she just wasn't able to overcome, but she couldn't. And it's very sad for my sisters, who were very close to her."

Louis Rove--Louie, as he was commonly known in the piercing party circuit--died on Jul 14, 2004 in Palm Springs, California. 

The Mullen Company, Utah and the CIA
As we mentioned earlier, Rove received his political baptism in the last campaign of Senator Wallace Bennett, who had entered the U.S. Senate only one year prior to Prescott Bush.  Bennett’s wife of 71 years was a daughter of the Mormon Church's former President, Heber J. Grant. 

Sen. Bob Bennett, defeated by Tea Party
Utah Senator Robert F. Bennett, who had headed his father’s campaign the year Rove worked for it, would be elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992. He had preceded Rove at the University of Utah by some fifteen years, graduating in 1957, and then running the family’s manufacturing business, from which he took a leave of absence to run his father’s 1962 campaign. He then moved to Washington permanently to work as press secretary for a Republican Congressman. After a stint as a lobbyist, he ran his father’s last Senatorial campaign in 1968, the year Richard Nixon was elected to his first term. President Nixon rewarded him with a job as Congressional liaison for the Department of Transportation.

That was the same year Bob Bennett met Charles Colson—once a lobbyist, an aide to former Massachusetts Senator Leverett Saltonstall, and then corporation lawyer—who was tapped to be Nixon’s special counsel. By the summer of 1970, Bennett was receiving phone calls from Colson, as well as from fellow Mormon Bill Gay, who had come to dominate the Hughes Tool Corporation. Both men informed him that Robert R. Mullen was selling his public relations company, Mullen and Company, which already had the Washington account as lobbyist for the Mormon Church. [8] When Hughes Tool fired Democrat Lawrence O’Brien as its lobbyist, late in 1970, Bennett was hired to replace him. [9] Thus armed with this important client, Bennett left his job at Transportation to become president of Mullen and Company, the final purchase of the firm closing in September 1971.

E. Howard Hunt
Between 1968 and 1970, Chuck Colson and E. Howard Hunt, both alumni of Brown University (Hunt in the class of 1940 and Colson a 1953 grad) were seeing each other on a regular basis.[10]  Hunt, a naval officer and an agent of the Office of Strategic Services from 1943 until its demise, obtained a Guggenheim fellowship which paid him to travel in Mexico while he wrote his first novel (later a best-seller). After that he worked on the staff of Ambassador Averell Harriman, a partner of Prescott Bush at Brown Brothers Harriman, as well as adviser on-call to every Democratic President since FDR.

In 1948 Hunt left Harriman’s employ, having been recruited into the Central Intelligence Agency by Frank Wisner. In the meantime, he had married one of Harriman’s secretaries, Dorothy, who had spent the war years in Bern, Switzerland in the Treasury Department’s Hidden Assets Division, looking for hidden Nazi assets. Coincidentally, or not, it was in Bern where Allen Dulles, Hunt's ultimate boss in the CIA, spent the war years. Those contacts gave Hunt thus powerful references on his resume!

By the end of April 1970 all details fell in place for Hunt’s “retirement” from the C.I.A., and his employment one day later by Mullen and Company. According to Hunt's autobiography, Undercover: Memoirs of an American secret agent, he got the job through the “CIA’s placement service,” and was told by the placement officer that “the Mullen firm had ‘cooperated’ with CIA in the past." [11]

Subsequent to Hunt's settling into his new office, Mullen sold the firm to Rove's friend from Utah, Robert F. Bennett. Though miffed by the change in management, Hunt was stroked by Colson, who only a few months later telephoned him with the opportunity of a lifetime, to work at the White House. Thus, in July 1971 Hunt was hired to work on Colson’s staff as a consultant on a part-time basis until the end of the 1972 election, while still maintaining his position with Mullen and Company.

The rest, as they say, is history. Or it would be history...except for the fact that it's still going on!

[1]  For details of the battle for the chairmanship, see Nicolas Lemann, “The Controller,” The New Yorker (May 12, 2003).  Both Rove and opponent Robert Edgeworth claimed to have been elected and appealed to the Republican National Committee, of which George H.W. Bush had recently become chairman.

[2]  Scott Stewart, “The College Republicans – A Brief History” (July 24, 2002).

[3]  See the transcript from Nixon archives.

[4] Jake Tapper,“Spy vs. spy” in Salon, September 26, 2000.  See also the website supporting Public Broadcasting System’s “Frontline” episode on Karl Rove, "The Architect."
[5]  James Moore, Wayne Slater, Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003), p. 135.

[6]  The Salt Lake Tribune, 18 September 2004.

[7]  For Norquist’s views on Rove’s agenda, see Michael Scherer’s article at Mother Jones, January 2004.

[8]  The Associated Press Political Service, 15 June 1992.

[9]  O’Brien had been placed on retainer in 1968 after Robert Kennedy’s assassination upon orders from Howard Hughes, who felt he hit paydirt when O’Brien also landed the job as head of the Democratic National Committee in 1969.

[10] Colson was president of Brown University’s alumni association and Hunt was vice president.  Brown University had been named for its first major donor and treasurer, Moses Brown, a member of a wealthy Rhode Island shipping family long engaged in the slave trade, who used public relations to create a reputation for themselves as abolitionists. In “Money and Gunpowder” it is revealed that Providence, Rhode Island was the home of John D. Rockefeller’s father-in-law, Senator Nelson Aldrich who was most instrumental in setting up legislation creating the Federal Reserve banking system. When Samuel and Flora Bush sent their eldest son, Prescott Bush, to St. George's prep school at nearby Newport, Rhode Island, Samuel Bush was placed on the board there, where he served for many years. The family vacationed on Narragansett  Bay every summer, and Flora Bush died there, having been struck accidentally by a car. See Part Two also.

[11]  Hunt specifically mentions in Undercover (Putnam 1974) that the PR firm had “established and managed a Free Cuba Committee for CIA.” [p. 141]  Hunt, at that point in his book, brings up a name—R. Spencer Oliver—whose real importance is never fully explained by Hunt. It is only through books published after that date that one learns what some say was the real reason for the burglary of the Democratic headquarters. What Hunt does not reveal is that, at the time of the Watergate break-in, Oliver was working for the Democratic National Committee, where, as Executive Director of the Association of State Democratic Chairmen, he had an office in the complex. Not only that, but the key to his secretary’s desk was found in burglar Bernard Barker’s pocket. This secretary, Ida Maxwell "Maxie" Wells, filed a lawsuit against G. Gordon Liddy, which she lost and subsequently appealed.  The opinion in Wells v. Liddy, reversed on appeal, contains some most interesting information about a call girl ring operating out of Oliver’s office in the DNC.  Hunt’s purported reason for mentioning this name is to give evidence of why Hunt felt uneasy at Mullen after Bennett’s taking over the firm. He describes Oliver as the “son of a lobbyist occasionally employed by our firm.  A Democrat, Oliver had been engaged for some time in an international student exchange which I suspected to be financed by CIA.”  [Undercover, p. 142]  Hunt may have been referring to the National Student Association, headed by Cord Meyer, Jr., exposed in 1967 as a C.I.A. front by Ramparts. magazine in 1967.

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