Herbert Kalmbach, Who Figured in Watergate Payoffs, Dies at 95

In another episode, after withdrawing $100,000 earmarked for the anti-Wallace effort from a safe deposit box, he hand-delivered the cash to a stranger in the lobby of the Sherry-Netherland Hotel in New York, identifying himself as “Mr. Jensen of Detroit.”

Mr. Kalmbach later testified that when John W. Dean III, the president’s counsel, instructed him to meet him in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, to discuss the hush money, he was cued to wave his arms boisterously during their conversation so that they would not appear to be conspiratorial.

“It was like a Grade B thriller,” Mr. Kalmbach said.

On Feb. 25, 1974, he pleaded guilty to violating the Federal Corrupt Practices Act by raising $3.9 million for a secret Republican congressional campaign committee. The money included a $100,000 contribution from an ambassador who was promised an even more prestigious post.

On June 17, Judge John J. Sirica, in United States District Court in Washington, sentenced Mr. Kalmbach to up to 18 months in prison. But Mr. Kalmbach wound up serving only a third of that, 191 days, when Judge Sirica released him the following January, citing his cooperation with prosecutors.

Though he admitted that he had violated federal law, Mr. Kalmbach, in his own defense, testified that he had solicited money for the Watergate burglars and had delivered it to them because he had been told that it was being granted on “humanitarian” grounds — to pay for the men’s legal fees and to support their families — and that it had been authorized by John D. Ehrlichman, the president’s assistant for domestic affairs, and by Mr. Dean.

“The fact that I had been directed to undertake these actions by the No. 2 and No. 3 men on the White House staff,” Mr. Kalmbach said, “made it absolutely incomprehensible to me that my actions in this regard could have been regarded in any way as improper or unethical.”

Herbert Warren Kalmbach was born on Oct. 19, 1921, in Port Huron, Mich. When he was only 14, he contrived an airplane de-icer, which was reproduced in Popular Mechanics magazine. After serving in the Navy, he taught celestial navigation at the United States Naval Academy.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1949 and a law degree in 1951 from the University of Southern California and was admitted to the bar in 1952. He became friendly with Nixon later in the 1950s after being introduced by H. R. Haldeman, Nixon’s future chief of staff.

His wife, Barbara Forbush Kalmbach, a former Rose Bowl princess, died in 2005. He is survived by a daughter, Lauren Kinsey, and a son, Kurt. Another son, Kenneth, died in 1980.

After Nixon was elected president in 1968, Mr. Kalmbach rejected an offer to be deputy commerce secretary. Instead, he profited enormously as a real estate lawyer representing corporate clients who hoped to cash in on his personal relationship with the president. Mr. Kalmbach had handled Nixon’s income tax returns and matters involving his home in San Clemente, Calif.

Considered trustworthy and discreet, he was enlisted as deputy finance chairman of the 1972 re-election campaign. But he rapidly became embroiled in illegal fund-raising. After the break-in that June, he was instructed to deliver money to the Watergate defendants through a bagman, Anthony Ulasewicz, a former New York City police detective who had been on the Nixon campaign’s private payroll.

It was unclear whether the payments were made with the president’s direct approval.

“I had the feeling that someone in some manner expressly had directed these people to go forward on this assignment,” Mr. Kalmbach testified, “and the assignment was, as I say, stupid and illegal — idiotic — but there was a feeling that as long as they had been directed to undertake this, that there was at least a moral obligation to provide for lawyers for them and for the support of their families.”

Mr. Kalmbach was asked during the Senate Watergate hearings if, as a lawyer, he would have advised a client to do what he did.

“If the client had come to me in this situation, which is wholly separate from any situation that I could believe anyone would be faced with, I would have asked him to exercise caution and make inquiries,” he replied. “But in my situation, Senator, I was dealing with the counsel to the president of the United States. It was a matter of absolute trust in the man’s integrity and honesty.”

Continue reading the main storySource: New York Times – Politics

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