Three Groups In Search of an Umbrella
November 1, 1973
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Unless the President unexpectedly resigns, his impeachment will be a long, tedious process: The problem is how to persuade members of the House of Representatives to take seriously the issues in impeachment, including an understanding that they must actively share in the management of government. It’s a consciousness raising lesson as much as anything else.
Citizen pressures for impeachment are now forming along three different fronts. Most important is the American Civil Liberties Union campaign which aims to arouse the electorate to persuade members of Congress to take the issue seriously. Already this campaign, which includes newspaper advertising and direct mailings to between one and two million people, is meeting with considerable success. As of late last week, two ads in the New York Times produced more than $31,000. In Los Angeles, returns on newspaper ads in two days — Tuesday and Wednesday — raised more than $20,000. In San Francisco, the ACLU was beginning to run ads, and planned local town meetings where members of Congress will be invited to come to debate the issues.
A second front revolves around Ralph Nader. Nader himself has come out for impeachment, and last week he chaired a meeting of left-liberal groups that gathered to consider strategy. Nader’s efforts are channeled through his organization Citizen Action, which is asking local groups to pressure their congressmen to debate impeachment.
More important, Nader’s lawyers have launched a legal maneuver that can result in tightening the binds around Nixon. Their suit, filed last week, argues that Archibald Cox should be reinstated because his dismissal violates Justice Department regulations promulgated May 31 when Elliot Richardson set up the special prosecutor’s office. Among other things, the regulations specified that the special prosecutor would continue to carry out the responsibilities of his office until “such time as in his judgement he has completed them or until a date mutually agreed upon between the attorney general and himself.”
This suit also argues that in abolishing Cox’s office Nixon failed to comply with procedures mandated by the Executive Reorganization Act. That Act expressly provides that whenever one branch of an agency is transferred to another branch, then the President must submit reorganization plans to Congress.
Even if Robert Bork had the power to abolish the office of the special prosecutor, the suit says his attempt to do so in the Cox case was ineffective because he was directed to do so by the President, who himself was subject of investigation.
While this suit awaits a hearing, lawyers are getting ready to hit Nixon on another front. Bork is Acting Attorney General, but within 30 days Nixon must send a nomination for a new attorney general to Congress. If Nixon ignores this law, as he did in the case of OEO, he will be hit by lawsuits demanding removal of Bork on grounds he illegally holds office. The courts removed Howard Phillips, acting director of OEO, on these grounds.
A third important move toward impeachment is being brought by a group of Washington attorneys led by William Dobrovir and financed by Stewart Mott, the liberal philanthropist. Mott provided the money for Dobrovir’s suits that exposed campaign contributions by the dairy industry. Since July, Mott and Dobrovir have been working on a 100-page detailed bill of particulars for impeachment. This “indictment” will be used by an ad hoc group of Congressmen led by John Conyers in their campaign to press impeachment before the House Judiciary Committee. The ad hoc group numbers between 12 and 20 members, and includes Bella Abzug, Barbara Jordan, Donald Riegle, and Pete Stark. They have been meeting off and on for several months, with Dobrovir and his associates, in effect, functioning as staff.
The left-liberal meeting last Monday included representatives from organizations such as ADA, Peoples Bicentennial Institute for Policy Studies, Movement for Economic Justice, and others. It was inconclusive in terms of devising future strategy. Movement groups argued for national demonstrations. Nader’s people seemed to be opposed to that idea, pushing instead for local pressure on members of Congress. There was a good deal of skepticism from the other groups about Nader’s sudden interest in impeachment.
It seems likely that the different groups will go off in their own directions, with Nader probably being most successful in legal affairs and perhaps in organizing law school faculties.
As the pressure to impeach builds, the lack of national leadership can become more of a problem and may yet result in an umbrella organization.