In a discussion of energy issues with consumer representatives at the White House last month, Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller could not resist one prideful remark. Speaking of himself in the third person, he said, “If the vice-president’s brother hadn’t made a deal with Libya to leak oil during last winter’s embargo, we wouldn’t have been as well off as we were.”
Three weeks later, the Wall Street Journal reported that Nelson Rockefeller was helping to save the IBEC corporation, run by his son, Rodman.
Yet before the House Judiciary Committee hearings, the vice-presidential designate denied any active part or interest in the Rockefeller business empire. And during both Senate and House committee inquiries, it was implied that David Rockefeller, chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank (a creditor of IBEC) would have nothing material to testify on regarding the political or economic influence of the Rockefellers.
Chairman Rodino’s performance regarding the Rockefeller nomination inquiry last fall continues to be a mystery. His prejudgment that Rockefeller had to be confirmed quickly dismayed staff investigators and several members of the Judiciary Committee who opposed the nominee.
But there is no mystery about Rodino’s cloak of secrecy over the massive materials collected by the staff. This suppression is so complete and defiant that it amounts to a Rodino information cover-up.
On Dec. 12, 1974, I had hand delivered a letter to the chairman, noting that the public did not have access to important background materials relating to Nelson Rockefeller which were outside the bounds of legitimate privacy or legal prohibitions. I suggested that the least the committee could do was to establish a freedom of information policy toward these materials before congressional adjournment that month.
On Jan. 10, 1975, not having heard from Rodino, I submitted a request that the committee make accessible to any citizen 39 items of information known to be in its Rockefeller confirmation files. These included reports by government agencies, campaign finance data, memorandaof specific staff interviews, and information concerning corporate involvement, gifts, and his tenure as governor of New York state.
The letter asked that a full committee vote be taken on this public information matter if the chairman decided against release of these materials.
In late January, Congressman Don Edwards (D.-Cal.) told our attorney, Jerome Murphy, that Chairman Rodino planned to reply to the second letter and immediately make accessible 16 of the 39 requested items. By late March, there was still no reply from Rodino and still no release of any information.
On March 26, Murphy visited Garner Cline, staff director of the Judiciary Committee, about the absence of any response from Rodino. Cline, for the first time, told us that all the information, except campaign financial data that was returned directly to the Rockefellers, had been sent in December to the national archives. To retrieve them from the archives, Cline said, would require a congressional resolution.
Chairman Rodino’s information cover-up is even more serious when viewed against the gravity of the Rockefeller
nomination to the nation and the chairman’s hamstringing of the committee’s investigative staff. Under his leadership, the committee did not authorize a single subpoena, did not call a number of highly material witnesses, did not require that staff depositions be conducted under oath where needed, blocked legitimate public access to materials, and did not permit a decent interval of time to review the evidence.
The committee relied totally on voluntary disclosure that was grossly incomplete and substantially unverified.
Is it any wonder that the public continues to view Congress with a mixture of cynicism and skepticism?