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VOL. 79 PART 1 JANUARY 2021
Watergate scandal, he went to see the Attorney General of Maryland to ask
about the local investigation. The Attorney General, however, was not even
aware of the investigation. After meeting with Agnew, he spoke to the prosecutors
to ask them about what they were up to. The prosecutors thought it
strange that Agnew should take an interest in their investigation into the
kickback scheme. They therefore decided to broaden the scope of their
investigation to include Dale Anderson’s predecessor, former Baltimore
County Executive member and current vice president, Spiro Agnew.
The three prosecutors—Barney Skolnick, Tim Baker and Ron Liebman—
discovered that not only had Agnew also been taking bribes as County Executive,
he had continued the practice as governor of Maryland, moving from
granting local contracts to larger state contracts. As governor, the prosecutors
learned, Agnew would keep fifty per cent of the cash, his roads commissioner
would take twenty-five per cent and his bagman (who would
collect the money) would take twenty-five per cent. What’s more, the
bribery scheme even continued on when Agnew became vice president,
with more cash kickbacks in exchange for federal contracts!
A Maryland businessman, Lester Matz, gave evidence to the prosecutors
that he was still secretly delivering cash directly to Agnew—$10,000 in cash
stuffed into a plain envelope was handed over in the basement of the White
House, for example. When Agnew took the cash in his temporary basement
office, Matz claimed Agnew pointed to the ceiling and said: “Don’t say anything.
We could be taped.” Agnew, it turned out, was also receiving money
from a Maryland engineering executive named Allen Green. Green delivered
thousands of dollars to Agnew in the Executive Office Building of the
White House three or four times a year. Remarkably, the cash transactions
were taking place at the very height of the Watergate scandal.
The prosecutors had solid evidence of the scheme and therefore drove to
Washington, D.C. with U.S. Attorney George Beall to meet with the Attorney
General, Elliot Richardson. Richardson, who had previously been health secretary
and secretary of defence, was a decorated war veteran who went
ashore on D-Day. He was also an ex-prosecutor, and from the moment he
became Attorney General, his life was consumed by the Watergate scandal.
Already overseeing the investigation into the president, Attorney General
Richardson now learned of almost certain criminal activity being conducted
by the vice president. Richardson foresaw a real constitutional crisis; successful
charges against Nixon would mean Agnew would assume the presidency.
Since it was highly likely that Nixon would be removed from office, a new
focus for Attorney General Richardson was on ensuring that another criminal
did not simply take the president’s place. Richardson therefore assumed