Herbert Kalmbach, President Richard Nixon's personal attorney who paid hush money to Watergate burglars and later served prison time for breaking campaign-finance laws and selling ambassadorships, has died. He was 95.
He died Sept. 15 in Newport Beach, Calif., according to a death notice published in the Los Angeles Times on Friday.
A longtime fundraiser for and friend of the president, Kalmbach became Nixon's lawyer after turning down an offer to become undersecretary of commerce in the first Nixon administration.
As the 1972 burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel developed into a political scandal that would take down Nixon, Kalmbach emerged as a shadowy figure who controlled millions of dollars in campaign money.
He was a witness at the nationally broadcast Senate Watergate hearings in 1973, where he told of raising and distributing more than $200,000 to the burglars on the orders of White House counsel John Dean.
During a 1974 federal prosecution of five defendants, Judge John Sirica said the payments were "to hush up these people," while Kalmbach, a cooperating witness, insisted that the money was for "attorney fees and family support."
He told the Watergate committee about following White House orders to give hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to men he'd not previously met, in covert meetings in hotel and bank lobbies. Asked by Sen. Herman Talmadge of Georgia if he knew what the purpose of the money was, Kalmbach replied, "I did not."
He also dispensed funds to pay Donald Segretti for "dirty tricks" meant to discredit Democratic candidates in a 1970 election,
Herbert Warren Kalmbach was born Oct. 19, 1921, in Port Huron, Mich. He served as a Navy flier during World War II and graduated from the University of Southern California Law School in 1951.
Politically active since the 1950s, Kalmbach raised money for Nixon's losing races for president in 1960 and California governor in 1962. He was associate finance chairman of the 1968 Nixon for President campaign and raised at least $20 million for Nixon's 1968 and 1972 presidential runs.
He made trips abroad on Nixon's behalf, meeting with ambassadors in Europe and the Caribbean to remind them to contribute to the GOP.
That role helped lead to his downfall when, in 1974, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of soliciting $100,000 to promote J. Fife Symington Jr., ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, to a European nation.
Kalmbach was convicted of other charges related to political fundraising, a felony and a misdemeanor for setting up a secret $3.9 million congressional campaign fund in 1970. He served six months in prison and was fined $10,000. His Watergate-related activities didn't figure in the charges.
Upon his release in 1975, Kalmbach made one of his very few statements to the press, calling Watergate "a most unfortunate episode in our nation's history."