F. Donald Nixon, whose phone was wiretapped with the approval of his elder brother, Richard M. Nixon, during the Nixon presidency, died of cancer Saturday evening at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterianin Newport Beach, members of the family said Monday. He was 73.
Donald Nixon was a longtime businessman and consultant who was in the public eye as early as his brother's first presidential campaign in 1960.
During the height of the Watergate investigation, then-President Nixon told a 1973 press conference that the wiretap was undertaken to learn "what others who were trying to get him to use improper influence . . . might be doing." But Watergate investigators said they concluded that Nixon and his White House aides feared that the brother was involved in questionable financial deals and wanted to keep tabs on them.
Donald Nixon later acknowledged that presidential aides John D. Ehrlichman and Herbert Kalmbach had also sought periodically to examine his business contacts.
"I didn't need anyone telling me how to behave," he said. "I didn't like it a goddamned bit."
He also said, "My younger brother (Edward C. Nixon) and myself should have been a sounding board for the President. We were not given that opportunity."
Donald Nixon, often in business difficulties, was one of a series of presidential brothers who over recent years have proved embarrassing to their powerful siblings. Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter also faced such problems.
Loan From Hughes
In Richard Nixon's 1960 presidential campaign, a 1956 loan of $205,000 to Donald Nixon from the Hughes Tool Co., directed at averting the bankruptcy of his grocery and restaurant businesses, became a campaign issue. Political foes said it showed unhealthy influence by Howard Hughes over the Nixon family.
In his gubernatorial campaign debate with then-Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown in 1962, Richard Nixon said Donald Nixon had been in "deep financial trouble" when he got the loan and eventually went bankrupt.
"I had no part in my brother's business, and I had no part in the negotiation of this loan," he said.
Yet, he lamented, political "hatchet men have been constantly saying that I must have gotten some of the money."
After Nixon became president in 1969, again his brother's business conduct became cause for worry. As a newly hired vice president of Marriott Corp., Donald Nixon traveled the world, often getting VIP treatment. He dined with officials of the Greek military junta and met with Venezuelan cabinet ministers. Some airlines regulated by the Nixon Administration switched their food catering contracts to Marriott.
In addition, Donald Nixon traveled to the Dominican Republic and other spots with controversial former Hughes aide John H. Meier to explore business opportunities. His son, Donald Jr., went to work for investor Robert L. Vesco, who fled the country to escape prosecution.
There was court testimony by another former Hughes executive, Robert A. Maheu, that he fired Meier in 1969 after the White House requested that Meier's association with Donald Nixon be dissolved. Presidential accountant Arthur Blech said he had been asked by Kalmbach in 1970 to "review" all business dealings between Meier and the President's brother.
Blech quoted Kalmbach as telling him, "Don Nixon is a very gullible guy, and people are trying to use his name."
By mid-1974, Donald Nixon's career was in a shambles. He told an interviewer that he had been forced to quit a consulting job with Carnation Co. and had taken early retirement from Marriott. He said his total income had dropped from $140,000 a year to $36,000.
In April, 1977, Donald Nixon was called as a witness before a federal grand jury investigating the financial dealings of Gene Conrad, an Orange County political financier and loan broker.
Nixon was accused of having introduced his lifelong friend, Whittier oil man Jack Urich, to Conrad, who was later convicted of defrauding Urich of $840,000 paid to Conrad's Irvine-based Pension Funds of America as fee for obtaining a $40-million loan. Urich never got the loan.
Nixon said, however, that he had no financial relationship with Conrad, knew little about the firm's disputed business dealings, and denied that he introduced Urich to Conrad, who was also convicted of laundering campaign contributions to Orange County politicians.
Nixon was never implicated in Conrad's illegal activities. The two men had adjoining offices in the same Irvine bank building.
Donald Nixon's survivors include his wife, Clara Jane; daughter, Laurene Anfinson of Great Falls, Va., and sons, Donald Jr. of Tustin and Richard of Newport Beach.
Anfinson unsuccessfullybriefly ran for the 1982 Republican nomination in the 43rd Congressional District, which is split between south Orange and north San Diego counties.
Former President Nixon, 74, is recovering from recent prostate surgery, a family spokesman said, and will be unable to attend the funeral service, which will be private.
A memorial service for Donald Nixon, who was also a longtime member of the Whittier school board, will be held at 2 p.m. today at the East Whittier Friends Church.