Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The pilot with the smoking gun

(From my day job)


There aren't a lot of people in the world who have been war heroes, created a high-flying business, and uttered the words that would bring down a presidency. Ken Dahlberg was one of them.

His obituary is tucked quietly in the Star Tribune today.

As a World War II fighter pilot (Barry Goldwater was one of his flight instructors) , Dahlberg was one of the war's "aces," with 14 1/2 "victories." He won the Distinguished Service Cross for leading a flight of 16 P-47 Thunderbolts against 70 German Messerschmitts, shooting down four of them. He was shot down three times and spent the last months of the war as a POW, returning to Minnesota to eventually start the Miracle Ear corporation.

The remnants of the P-47 from Dahlberg’s last flight were recently unearthed by engineers inspecting a tract of farmland that was about to be developed.

Dahlberg was the Midwest finance chairman for the Committee to Re-elect the President during President Richard M. Nixon's 1972 campaign. A mysterious check, which later would be determined to be from the CEO of Archer Daniels Midland, was made out to Dahlberg, who converted it to a cashier's check. It was money from the campaign destined for the Watergate burglars.

When "Deep Throat" told reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to "follow the money," that was the money. And when Woodward called Dahlberg to confirm he handled the check, Dahlberg didn't lie. It was the turning point in the Watergate investigation, the first proof that the Watergate burglars were financed by a money laundering scheme that was tied to the Oval Office.

It ended up a critical part of the movie All The President's Men.

Back then, it was all legal. People could make secret campaign donations and expenditures. You can't do that anymore and this is why.

It's still amazing his life didn't end up as a movie. Here's an interview I did with him a few years ago.

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