Sunday, May 15, 2011

Files reveal late Yankees owner blamed lawyers for Nixon donation

Files reveal late Yankees owner blamed lawyers for Nixon donation
5/9/2011 4:15 PM ET
George Steinbrenner, who served as the principal owner of the Yankees for 37 years, died Tuesday.
Newly released FBI documents revealed that George Steinbrenner assisted the agency in two investigations and shed new light on the illegal corporate contribution that Steinbrenner made to President Richard Nixon's re-election campaign in 1972, The Associated Press reported on Monday.
The late Yankees owner assisted the government on matters of national importance, according to the documents. One memo released Monday described a probe in which Steinbrenner, who died in July, assisted in an "undercover operation" that ultimately led to an arrest, prosecution and conviction. The other investigation was described as a "sensitive security matter."
The FBI deleted the specifics about the two probes before releasing the file on Steinbrenner. A separate document revealed that Steinbrenner assisted the bureau from 1978-83, and a memo from 1988 indicates that he offered the use of Yankee Stadium for the staging of more than 500 gambling raids against a major organized crime syndicate in New York. Another location was ultimately chosen for the raids in question.
In addition, the documents showed that Steinbrenner blamed inadequate legal counsel for the $25,000 donation to the Nixon campaign that led to him pleading guilty in 1974 to both a conspiracy to funnel campaign contributions to politicians and to making "false and misleading" claims about the contributions. Steinbrenner was also sanctioned for trying to coerce the testimony of employees of his shipbuilding company.
That series of events had a wide-ranging set of repercussions. Steinbrenner, who had acquired a majority stake of the Yankees in 1972, was fined $15,000 as part of his plea bargain and subject to further sanctions by Major League Baseball. Bowie Kuhn, the Commissioner at the time, suspended him for two years.
"Attempting to influence employees to behave dishonestly is the kind of conduct which, if ignored by baseball, would undermine the public's confidence in our game," Kuhn wrote in a 12-page ruling.
The suspension was later reduced to 15 months. In an unrelated case, Steinbrenner was later banned from day-to-day operations of the Yankees by Major League Baseball in 1990 in response to his dealings with reputed gambler Howie Spira. That sanction lasted three years, with Steinbrenner reinstated as managing partner in 1993.
Steinbrenner sought a presidential pardon in 1979 and the newly released FBI documents indicate that he told officials he would not have made the contribution to the Committee to Re-elect the President if he knew it was illegal. Steinbrenner, according to the documents, said his attorneys should have been more thorough in their research.
Another FBI memo, which was acquired after the AP and other organizations made a request under the Freedom of Information Act, indicated that Steinbrenner thought of his conviction as an "embarrassment." Steinbrenner was ultimately pardoned by the next President, Ronald Reagan, in January of 1989.
The FBI also released Steinbrenner's application for a pardon, which contained a detailed explanation of his side of the story. Steinbrenner said that the conviction hurt his business and limited his participation in civic and charitable affairs. Furthermore, he argued that a pardon would "permit me to contribute more of my services to the community."

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