"Checkers" Speech in Los Angeles, CA

No study questions

My Fellow Americans,

I come before you tonight as a candidate for the Vice-Presidency and as a man whose honesty and integrity has been questioned.

Now, the usual political thing to do when charges are made against you is to either ignore them or to deny them without giving details. I believe we have had enough of that in the United States, particularly with the present Administration in Washington, D.C.

To me, the office of the Vice Presidency of the United States is a great office, and I feel that the people have got to have confidence in the integrity of the men who run for that office and who might attain them.

I have a theory, too, that the best and only answer to a smear or an honest misunderstanding of the facts is to tell the truth. And that is why I am here tonight. I want to tell you my side of the case.

I am sure that you have read the charges, and you have heard it, that I, Senator Nixon, took $18,000 from a group of my supporters.

Now, was that wrong? And let me say that it was wrong. I am saying it, incidentally, that it was wrong, just not illegal, because it isn’t a question of whether it was legal or illegal, that isn’t enough. The question is, was it morally wrong. I say that it was morally wrong–if any of that $18,000 went to Senator Nixon, for my personal use. I say that it was morally wrong if it was secretly given and secretly handled.

And I say that it was morally wrong if any of the contributors got special favors for the contributions that they made.

And to answer those questions, let me say this: Not a cent of the $18,000 or any other money of that type ever went to me for my personal use. Every penny of it was used to pay for political expenses that I did not think should be charged to the taxpayers of the United States. It was not a secret fund. As a matter of fact, when I was on “Meet the Press”–some of you may have seen it last Sunday–Peter Edson came up to me, after the program, and he said, “Dick, what about this fund we hear about?” And I said, “Well, there is no secret about it. Go out and see Dana Smith, who was the administrator of the fund,” and I gave him his address. And I said, you will find that the purpose of the fund simply was to defray political expenses that I did not feel should be charged to the Government.

And third, let me point out, and I want to make this particularly clear, that no contributor to this fund, no contributor to any of my campaigns, has ever received any consideration that he would not have received as an ordinary constituent.

I just don’t believe in that, and I can say that never, while I have been in the Senate of the United States, as far as the people that contributed to this fund are concerned, have I made a telephone call to an agency, nor have I gone down to an agency on their behalf. And the records will show that, the records which are in the hands of the administration.

Well, then, some of you will say, and rightly, “Well, what did you use the fund for, Senator? Why did you have to have it?”

Let me tell you in just a word how a Senate office operates. First of all, the Senator gets $15,000 a year in salary. He gets enough money to pay for one trip a year, a round trip, that is, for himself, and his family between his home and Washington, D.C., and then he gets an allowance to handle the people that work in his office to handle his mail.

And the allowance, for my State of California, is enough to hire 13 people. And let me say, incidentally, that this allowance is not paid to the Senator. It is paid directly to the individuals that the Senator puts on his pay roll, but all of these people and all of these allowances are for strictly official business; business, for example, when a constituent writes in and wants you to go down to the Veteran’s Administration and get some information about his GI policy-items of that type for example. But there are other expenses that are not covered by the Government. And I think I can best discuss those expenses by asking you some questions.

Do you think that when I or any other senator makes a political speech, has it printed, should charge the printing of that speech and the mailing of that speech to the taxpayers?

Do you think, for example, when I or any other Senator makes a trip to his home state to make a purely political speech, that the cost of that trip should be charged to the taxpayers?

Do you think, when a Senator makes political broadcasts or political television broadcasts, radio or television, that the expense of those broadcasts should be charged to the taxpayers?

I know what your answer is: It is the same answer that audiences give me whenever I discuss this particular problem. The answer is no. The taxpayers should not be required to finance items which are not official business but which are primarily political business.

Well, then the question arises, you say, “Well, how do you pay for these and how can you do it legally?” And there are several ways that it can be done, incidentally, and it is done legally in the United States Senate and in the Congress. The first way is to be a rich man. So I couldn’t use that.

Another way that is used is to put your wife on the payroll. Let me say, incidentally, that my opponent, my opposite number for the Vice Presidency on the Democratic ticket, does have his wife on the pay roll and has had her on his pay roll for the past ten years. Now let me just say this: That is his business, and I am not critical of him for doing that. You will have to pass judgment on that particular point, but I have never done that for this reason:

I have found that there are so many deserving stenographers and secretaries in Washington that needed the work that I just didn’t feel it was right to put my wife on the pay roll.

My wife’s sitting over there [Nixon points to his wife, Pat, who is sitting about ten feet away.] She is a wonderful stenographer. She used to teach stenography and she used to teach shorthand in high school. That was when I met her. And I can tell you, folks, that she has worked many hours on Saturdays and Sundays in my office, and she has done a fine job, and I am proud to say tonight that in the six years I have been in the Senate of the United States, Pat Nixon has never been on the Government pay roll.

What are the other ways that these finances can be taken care of? Some who are lawyers, and I happen to be a lawyer, continue to practice law, but I haven’t been able to do that.

I am so far away from California and I have been so busy with my senatorial work that I have not engaged in any legal practice, and, also, as far as law practice is concerned, it seemed to me that the relationship between an attorney and the client was so personal that you couldn’t possibly represent a man as an attorney and then have an unbiased view when he presented his case to you, in the event that he had one before Government.

And so I felt that the best way to handle these necessary political expenses of getting my message to the American people and the speeches I made–the speeches I had printed for the most part concerned this one message of exposing this Administration, the Communism in it, the corruption in it–the only way I could do that was to accept the aid which people in my home state of California, who contributed to my campaign and who continued to make these contributions after I was elected, were glad to make. And let me say that I am proud of the fact that not one of them has ever asked me for a special favor. I am proud of the fact that not one of them has ever asked me to vote on a bill other than my own conscience would dictate. And I am proud of the fact that the taxpayers, by subterfuge or otherwise, have never paid one dime for expenses which I thought were political and should not be charged top the taxpayers.

Let me say, incidentally, that some of you may say, “Well, that is all right, Senator, that is your explanation, but have you got any proof?” And I would like to tell you this evening that just an hour ago we received an independent audit of this entire fund. I suggested to Governor Sherman Adams, who is the Chief of Staff of the Eisenhower campaign, that an independent audit and legal report be obtained, and I have that audit in my hand.

It is an audit made by the Price Waterhouse & Co. firm, and the legal opinion by Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher, lawyers in Los Angeles, the biggest law firm, and incidentally, one of the best ones in Los Angeles.

I am proud to report to you tonight that this audit and legal opinion is being forwarded to General Eisenhower, and I would like to read to you the opinion that was prepared by Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher, based on all the pertinent laws, and statutes, together with the audit report prepared by the certified public accountants. [Nixon reads from report.]

It is our conclusion that Senator Nixon did not obtain any financial gain from the collection and disbursement of the funds by Dana Smith; that Senator Nixon did not violate any federal or state law by reason of the operation of the fund; and that neither the portion of the fund paid by Dana Smith directly to third persons, nor the portion paid to Senator Nixon, to reimburse him for office expenses, constituted income in a sense which was either reportable or taxable as income under income tax laws.

(signed)

Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher,

by Elmo Conley

 

That is not Nixon speaking, but it is an independent audit which was requested because I want the American people to know all the facts and I am not afraid of having independent people go in and check the facts, and that is exactly what they did.

But then I realized that there are still some who may say, and rightly so–and let me say that I recognize that some will continue to smear regardless of what the truth may be–but that there has been, understandably, some honest misunderstanding on this matter, and there are some that will say, “well, maybe you were able, Senator, to fake the thing. How can we believe what you say–after all, is there a possibility that maybe you got some sums in cash? Is there a possibility that you might have feathered your own nest?” And so now, what I am going to do–and incidentally this is unprecedented in the history of American politics–I am going at this time to give to this television and radio audience a complete financial history, everything I have earned, everything I have spent and everything I own, and I want you to know the facts.

I will have to start early: I was born in 1913. Our family was one of modest circumstances, and most of my early life was spent in a store out in East Whittier. It was a grocery store, one of those family enterprises.

The only reason we were able to make it go was because my mother and dad had five boys, and we all worked in the store. I worked my way through college, and, to a great extent, through law school. And then, in 1940, probably the best thing that ever happened to me happened: I married Pat, who is sitting over here. We had a rather difficult time after we were married, like so many of the young couples who might be listening to us. I practiced law. She continued to teach school.

Then, in 1942, I went into the service. Let me say that my service record was not a particularly unusual one. I went to the south pacific. I guess I’m entitled to a couple of battle stars. I got a couple of letters of commendation. But I was just there when the bombs were falling. And then I returned. I returned to the United States, and in 1946, I ran for Congress. When we came out of the war–Pat and I–Pat, [who] during the war had worked as a stenographer, and in a bank, and as an econ