Who dropped the dime on Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner for making illegal campaign contributions to the Nixon campaign?
According to Steinbrenner it was Nixon. Steinbrenner told baseball writer Roger Kahn for his book October Men that he wasn’t really a Republican at all and had been shaken down by the president’s men.
Steinbrenner was buddies with House Speaker Tip O’Neill and Ted Kennedy. He had raised about $2 million for Democrats running for Congress in the Cleveland area. That didn’t sit well with Nixon aides Bob Haldeman and John Erlichmann. “The Nixon people were very annoyed at my Democratic fund-raising,” Steinbrenner told Kahn.
As the 1972 presidential election approached, Nixon’s henchmen demanded dirt on Kennedy and other Democrats from Steinbrenner. “Rough stuff,” Steinbrenner told Kahn, “not only stories about the politicians but about their wives. Drinking. Sex. Very damn distasteful, if you ask me.”
Nixon’s men threatened an antitrust investigation of American Shipbuilding, Steinbrenner’s company, and punitive IRS audits. Steinbrenner decided to buy his way out with campaign contributions to CREEP, Nixon’s reelection campaign. But when he refused to squeal on his Democratic buddies, the Nixon campaign responded with a 14-count indictment in April 1974.
That’s Steinbrenner’s self-serving version anyway. As a prosecutor’s memo makes clear, Steinbrenner had no trouble squealing on Nixon’s people, Teamsters, Merrill Lynch or anyone else who might get him out of trouble.
Now it’s clear why even the Democratic controlled U.S. Senate had problems with the nomination of Alan Bersin, President Obama’s commissioner of Customs and Border Protection:
They caught him in a lie and he wriggled a fish to get out of it.
Bersin failed to file paperwork for household employees. That alone is excusable. It’s the rare American who fills out an I-9 form for every babysitter, nanny, gardener, or maid who works for them.
What’s inexcusable is that Bersin said that he didn’t know he was required to do so.
Preposterous. Bersin is a Harvard-educated Rhodes scholar as well as a former U.S. Attorney in San Diego and his wife under Clinton. Immigration was his signature issue: he served as “border czar” in two administrations.
If that wasn’t enough his wife, Lisa Foster, is a California judge.
Bersin employed 10 household employees since 1993 — the year he became U.S. attorney in San Diego — and didn’t fill out I-9 forms for any of them. A Senate memo wryly notes that Bersin “knew of the existence of the Form I-9” as it “came up” in his tenure as U.S. attorney.
Bersin tried to explain his screwup with Clintonian hair-splitting over the difference between employers and independent contractors.
The Senate Finance Committee, which received Bersin’s nomination in September, was clearly troubled by his explanation, or lack thereof. It seems that it dawned on Bersin that his nomination was in jeopardy in January when he began feverishly filling out his missing paperwork.
On March 19, Bersin and his wife, Judge Foster, met with committee staff. This meeting was described as a “due diligence” meeting, but “come to Jesus meeting” is more apt.
With much hand-wringing and kow-towing, Bersin apologized and fessed up.
Asked whether his legal hair-splitting was a rationalization for his failure to file the proper paperwork, Bersin responded “That could be.” He also said that he “should not have lawyered it.”
A week later, Obama used his executive power to install Bersin in office.
The president made it seem like Republicans were stalling his nominations to score political points.
In the case of Bersin, however, the Senate was merely doing its job.