Herbert Kalmbach served as deputy finance chairman for the Committee to Re-elect the President and as personal attorney to President Nixon. Often described as the re-election committee’s “bagman,” Kalmback raised money for the campaign and disbursed it, often at the direction of others. Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski, in a staff memo explaining why he would permit Kalmbach to plead guilty to lesser charges, described him as a “not-very-smart errand runner” who “was a good lackey” to carry out the desires of others.
Yet this “lackey” had powerful people worried. In a January 1973 conversation between Chuck Colson and President Nixon, shortly before the trial of the Watergate seven was opened in Judge Sirica’s court, Colson asserted that “the mistake of Watergate was whoever said to do it. It was a mistake to have it financed out of … Kalmbach.” “It was very close to me,” the president lamented.
Eventually Kalmbach pleaded guilty to raising $3.9 million for a secret congressional campaign committee and for having promised an ambassador a better post in exchange for a $100,000 contribution. He served six months in prison. Beyond these illegalities, Kalmbach made logistical arrangements for money to be paid to the Watergate burglars. Though others intended the money to buy their silence, Kalmbach insisted he was motivated by the belief that the money was to defray the burglars’ legal and living expenses.