A Nazi Attempt To Influence U.S. Elections
N.Y. Times reports on an episode that foreshadowed today's accusations about China
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, July 23) -- The Nazis were so intent on keeping the U.S. out of World War II that in 1940 a German diplomat launched a scheme to give money to isolationist American politicians, according to a report in today's New York Times.
The episode, documented in German government communiques seized at the end of the war, is eerily similar to the accusations today that China allegedly tried to buy influence in U.S. politics in the 1996 election campaign.
According to the Times, Hans Thomsen, the charge d'affaires at the German Embassy in Washington, asked Berlin for $3,000 for "a well-camouflaged lightning propaganda campaign" at the 1940 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. Thompsen also sought thousands of dollars more to help pay for "Keep America Out Of War" newspaper advertisements that would run during the convention.
The $3,000 was to help an unnamed Republican congressman take about 50 isolationist members of the party to the convention to press for anti-war language in the GOP platform.
The historical record shows that Germany tried to meddle in the Democratic National Convention that year, too. A communique from a German envoy in Mexico City said that approximately $160,000 had been turned over to someone in the Pennsylvania Democratic Party for persuading that state's delegates to vote against Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whom the Nazis rightly viewed as someone sympathetic to Britain and who would lead the U.S. into the war.
While the historical records are intriguing, they do not paint a full picture of how much money the Nazis actually turned over to isolationists in the U.S. or what was done with it. And unlike today, it was not illegal then for American politicans to accept overseas money.
Still, a professor who has studied the dispatches says it was an ambitious effort by the Germans.
"It was at the time the most extensive foreign intervention -- direct intervention -- ever into an American election campaign," Gerhard L. Weinberg, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina, told the Times.
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