By Robert Parry
- Lost History: Marcos, Money & Treason
WASHINGTON -- Republican campaign strategist Ed Rollins has
dropped an important clue to the mystery of whether the
Reagan-Bush era started in 1980 with an act of treachery that
bordered on treason. But it's a clue the mainstream media has
In his new book, Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms, Rollins
recounted a dinner he had with a top Filipino politician in
1991. Over drinks, the man casually asserted that he had
delivered an illegal $10 million cash payment in a suitcase from
Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos to Ronald Reagan's 1984
"I was the guy who gave the ten million from Marcos to your
campaign," the Filipino told Rollins, who was Reagan's 1984
campaign manager. "I was the guy who made the arrangements and
delivered the cash personally. ...It was a personal gift from
Marcos to Reagan."
Rollins described this stunning news with a light touch. The
first thought that raced through his head, he wrote, was "Cash?
Holy shit." In the book, Rollins also withheld the names of both
the Filipino and the Republican lobbyist who allegedly accepted
the cash for Reagan. Rollins suggested, too, that the illegal
contribution never reached the campaign or the president. "I
knew the lobbyist well and I had no doubt the money was now in
some offshore bank," Rollins wrote.
Rollins apparently did not realize that there was a history to
the allegations of Ferdinand Marcos paying off Ronald Reagan.
Neither did the news organizations that briefly mentioned the
cash delivery in their stories about the Rollins book. The news
stories gave no larger context, nor was there any editorial
demand that the disturbing allegations be investigated. Rollins
simply shrugged that the statute of limitations for illegal
campaign contributions had probably expired.
But the Marcos-Reagan money story is near the core of the
corruption that permeated the 1980s. Indeed, the story begins
when Reagan was battling to unseat President Carter in 1980.
Some witnesses who claim knowledge of alleged Reagan efforts to
sabotage Carter's negotiations to free 52 U.S. hostages then
held in Iran maintain that Marcos contributed some of the money
used by Republicans to bribe key Iranian mullahs.
Certainly in 1980, Marcos was in Reagan's camp. They had been
friends for years, since 1969 when President Nixon assigned
Reagan to represent the United States at the gala opening of
Imelda Marcos's multi-million-dollar cultural center in Manila.
Reagan charmed the Philippine president and his wife as the
former beauty queen danced with the former actor.
In 1980, Marcos also was annoyed by Carter's nagging about human
rights and frightened by Carter's inability to protect another
despot, the shah of Iran, from ouster and a humiliating exile.
As U.S. president, Reagan would drop the human rights lectures,
look the other way on Marcos's renowned corruption, and defend
Marcos as an important Asian ally. Vice President George Bush
would even toast Marcos for his "adherence to democratic
Documentary evidence about the alleged Marcos-to-Reagan payoffs
first surfaced after Marcos was ousted by a revolution in March
1986. As Marcos's fall neared, Reagan arranged for the dictator
to be flown to Hawaii. Marcos's opponents then ransacked
government files and found a Feb. 17, 1986, letter signed by a
senior Marcos aide, Victor Nituda.
In the letter, Nituda warned Marcos that Reagan's emissary, Sen.
Paul Laxalt, R-Nev., was demanding that sensitive files,
including ones listing the 1980 transactions, be turned over to
the Americans before Marcos could go to Hawaii. Nituda's letter
specifically cited accounts set up for Reagan and his 1980
campaign manager William J. Casey, who, in 1986, was Reagan's
Laxalt "expects all documents checklisted during his last visit
or the deal <[>for a Hawaiian exile] is off," Nituda wrote. The
first two documents listed were "1980-SEC-014: Funds to Casey"
and "1980-SEC-015: Reagan Funds Not Used."
In a follow-up letter three days later, Nituda added, "we
urgently need to fly the last batch to Clark <[>Air Force base]
soonest. <[>National security adviser William] Clark and
<[>Reagan chief of staff Michael] Deaver are not happy with what
we've sent them so far." Laxalt wanted files from 1984, too,
including papers on bank loans and Marcos's "donations to Gen.
<[>John] Singlaub" who was raising money for the Nicaraguan
For years, Laxalt's spokesmen have denied that the senator had
any discussions with Marcos about the information referenced in
the Nituda letter. In a recent interview, Deaver also told me
that he has no idea what Nituda was writing about.
But during his Hawaiian exile, Marcos declared that he had given
Reagan $4 million in 1980 and $8 million in 1984. He made the
admission to a Republican lawyer named Richard Hirschfeld, who
secretly tape-recorded the conversation. Hirschfeld turned part
of the tape over to Congress. But the core allegations -- that
President Reagan had received criminal pay-offs from a foreign
dictator -- were never seriously explored.
Despite its lack of details, the Rollins book provides important
corroboration that Marcos did make sizable illicit payments to
Reagan. Rollins wrote, too, that he asked Laxalt about the $10
million payment when the two men were alone at cabins they own
in Front Royal, Va.
"Paul absorbed the story with increasing interest," Rollins
wrote. "'Christ, now it all makes sense,'" Laxalt exclaimed.
"'When I was over there cutting off Marcos's nuts, he gave me a
hard time. "How can you do this?" he kept saying to me. "I gave
Reagan ten million dollars. How can he do this to me?" I didn't
know what the hell he was talking about. Now I get it.'"
Though Laxalt's comment seems self-serving if not disingenuous,
it does confirm that he and Marcos discussed the alleged payoffs
to Reagan. That contradicts the denials from Laxalt's aides.
But it's more likely that Laxalt, who had been chairman of the
1980 Reagan-Bush campaign and was one of Reagan's closest
advisers, understood exactly what Marcos was describing.
Hirschfeld, who lives in Charlottesville, Va., also has dangled
hints that he possesses bank records showing where many of the
Marcos accounts were located and documenting how much money went
to Reagan and other Republicans. Yet, when I spoke with
Hirschfeld, he refused to release any documentary evidence
But the possibility that a president of the United States was on
the payroll of a foreign despot is not insignificant. It is
even more troubling if the dictator's money was used to
influence the outcome of an American presidential election and
lengthen the captivity of 52 Americans held by a hostile state.
If true, the allegations would border on treason or at least be
accessory to kidnaping. Neither crime has a statute of
A serious investigation of the Marcos money might shed light,
too, on another perplexing mystery from the 1980s: the curious
relationship between the American government and the corrupt
Bank of Credit and Commerce International. In Jan. 22, 1981,
two days after Reagan's Inauguration, Marcos and his cronies
co-founded a Hong Kong bank with New York financier John
Shaheen, one of Casey's closest friends dating back to the World
War II-era Office of Strategic Services.
Called the Hong Kong Deposit and Guaranty, the bank was
capitalized with $20 million supplied by Princess Ashraf, the
shah of Iran's strong-willed twin sister who hated Jimmy Carter.
The bank attracted onto its board leading BCCI figures,
including Abu Dhabi's Ghanim al-Mazrouie and Saudi diplomat
Hassan Yassin, the cousin of Iran-contra figure Adnan Khashoggi.
In 1983, the bank collapsed with reported losses of more than
$100 million. The money was never recovered, but Shaheen
associates claimed that prior to the bank failure, substantial
amounts were funnelled to Marcos, who reportedly was pulling the
strings behind the scenes.
The Hong Kong bank might have been a missing link in the
intelligence mysteries of the 1980s, connecting the early
Reagan-Iran deals with key BCCI players. It also could explain
how Marcos was repaid for his alleged 1980 largesse and why he
would be even more generous in 1984. Marcos died in exile in
A Time for Truth
Rollins's book also meshes with other new evidence suggesting
that Reagan may have maintained offshore accounts. FBI wiretaps
placed in the New York office of Iranian banker Cyrus Hashemi in
1980 picked up comments about a "Reagan overseas corp.,"
according to a secret FBI summary that I found in the files of
the House task force that was appointed in 1992 to investigate
the October Surprise allegations.
Though that inquiry ended in a bipartisan whitewash (see The
October Surprise X-Files: The Hidden Origins of the Reagan-Bush
Era ), the Rollins's account should compel some official body to
re-examine this important historical issue. At minimum, Rollins
should be put under oath and compelled to identify both the
Filipino with the suitcase and the Republican lobbyist who
received it. Then, they should be interrogated. The government
also should force Hirschfeld to turn over whatever evidence he
has on the bank accounts.
With the Reagan legacy at the heart of Bob Dole's 1996
presidential campaign, there can be no doubt that the American
people should know the truth about that legacy. With the
Republican convention resonating with impassioned calls for
completing the Reagan Revolution, it is not only relevant, but
vital, that the voters are given the facts so they can decide
for themselves whether that revolution started out as treason.
Copyright (c) 1996
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