IDEA / WATERGATE MOTIVE : Break-In Held Effort to Hide Nixon’s Money Link to Greece
Despite FBI investigations and the risk of deportation, Elias Demetracopoulos has tried to tell the world that Greece’s former military dictatorship illegally contributed more than half a million dollars to Richard M. Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign.
Finally, after 20 years, a respected historian has joined Demetracopoulos in his lonely battle, publishing a book that suggests the Watergate break-in was likely intended to obliterate evidence of Nixon’s Greek connection.
The danger of exposure of the dictatorship’s financial contribution “caused the most anxiety for the longest period of time for the Nixon Administration,” concludes University of Wisconsin professor Stanley I. Kutler in “The Wars of Watergate.”
Kutler relates that in 1968, Demetracopoulos gave Democratic Party operative Lawrence F. O’Brien evidence that Greece’s intelligence service, KYP, funneled $549,000 in cash into the Nixon campaign. Kutler says that the KYP used a Greek-American businessman, Thomas Pappas, as the conduit.
O’Brien, then campaign manager for Democratic presidential candidate Hubert H. Humphrey, made no use of the information in 1968. But in 1972, when he was Democratic Party national chairman, he presumably still had the evidence in his files.
Quoting Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy as saying the break-in “was to find out what O’Brien had of a derogatory nature about us,” Kutler concludes that the burglars were probably after the 1968 Greek documents.
“I find vindication in this book,” said Demetracopoulos, a former journalist, in an interview. “Kutler is a respected academic.”
Although Demetracopoulos is credited as the primary source for the information in the Kutler book, the professor subjected the story to a rigorous examination and deemed it credible.
Demetracopoulos said O’Brien never really tried to get the story out, even though it could have damaged Nixon and provided a major boost to Humphrey in 1968 and George S. McGovern in 1972.
Contributions to U.S. elections by foreign governments are illegal, and the Greek regime, supported by Nixon, was a military junta that had ousted a democratic government.
But O’Brien denied suppressing the information, suggesting he lacked supporting evidence of Demetracopoulos’ claims.
“You can be sure that if we had any information of this nature that had been verified, we most certainly would have released it,” he said in a statement.
Demetracopoulos was a political editor and diplomatic correspondent in Greece before fleeing in 1967 following the military coup. In the United States, he became a leader and frequent spokesman for the democratic resistance.
He said that in 1968, he offered Democrats a summary of the evidence by phone, even though he was afraid his line was tapped.
It probably was, because the FBI said in 1984 that it had conducted six investigations of the Greek journalist, although they never provided evidence of wrongdoing. There are ample indications that Nixon aides learned quite early about Demetracopoulos’ 1968 meeting with O’Brien, and threatened the Greek journalist with deportation.
He said that O’Brien was excited about the information, but was unsure how to confirm it.
O’Brien eventually issued a cryptic press release during the final week of the campaign calling on Nixon and Spiro T. Agnew “to explain their relationships with Thomas A. Pappas, a wealthy Boston importer.” It did not even hint at an illegal campaign contribution by the Greek colonels.
Not surprisingly, the issue had no impact on the 1968 election.