Peter M. Flanigan, Banker and Nixon Aide, Dies at 90
Published: July 31, 2013 7 Comments
Peter M. Flanigan, a Wall Street investment banker who became one of President Richard M. Nixon’s most trusted, influential and well-connected aides on business and economic matters, died on Monday in Salzburg, Austria. He was 90.
Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times
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His family announced the death.
Mr. Flanigan, an executive at the venerable investment house Dillon, Read & Company, was an early and strong supporter of Nixon before being appointed principal presidential assistant for financial matters. His facility in advancing business interests in regulatory agencies led Time magazine to label him “Mr. Fixit.”
His wide-ranging assignments included securities regulation, antitrust matters, and agricultural and environmental policies. Administration officials compared his influence on business issues to Henry A. Kissinger’s on foreign affairs.
“He’s the guy who people in our industry turn to,” a steel executive told The New York Times in 1972. “And we wouldn’t turn to him unless he came through.”
Mr. Nixon applauded his contributions to international economic policy and to the country’s moving to an all-volunteer Army. But some saw him as the face of an administration that had cozied up to business interests. Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate, acknowledged Mr. Flanigan’s influence by calling him a “mini-president.” He also called him the “most evil” man in Washington.
Mr. Flanigan was sharply criticized in Congress for his role in the Justice Department’s decision not to pursue an antitrust case against the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation as an illegal conglomerate. He had arranged for a colleague at Dillon, Read to draft a financial analysis that helped persuade the administration to drop antitrust charges.
At a hearing in 1972, Senator Thomas F. Eagleton, a Missouri Democrat, characterized Mr. Flanigan’s interventions on behalf of business as “the Flanigan factor.” The senator accused him of holding back enforcement actions by the Environmental Protection Agency against the Anaconda Corporation and the Armco Steel Corporation.
Mr. Eagleton called Mr. Flanigan “the mastermind, the possessor of the scuttling feet that are heard faintly, retreating into the distance in the wake of a White House ordered cave-in to some giant corporation.”
The White House press secretary, Ronald L. Ziegler, responded that the president wholly supported Mr. Flanigan. He demanded “concrete evidence that Mr. Flanigan has gained personally in any way.” Senator Norris Cotton, a New Hampshire Republican, called Mr. Eagleton’s charges “flimsy.”
Mr. Flanigan was unruffled. “I’ve gotten, as my wife says, a little leathery,” he told The Washington Post. “It’s an election year, and I note who’s making these charges.”
He left the administration in June 1974, just weeks before the Watergate scandal forced Nixon to resign. Mr. Flanigan himself was not linked to the scandal. President Gerald R. Ford, Nixon’s successor, nominated him to be ambassador to Spain, but the Senate did not vote on his appointment before a scheduled recess. Some senators said that Mr. Flanigan had arranged for prestigious ambassadorships to go to big Nixon contributors. Mr. Flanigan asked that his nomination not be resubmitted.
Peter Magnus Flanigan was born on June 21, 1923, in Manhattan and raised there. His father, Horace Flanigan, who was known as Hap, was chairman of the Manufacturers Trust Company, later Manufacturers Hanover. His mother, the former Aimee Magnus, was a granddaughter of Adolphus Busch, co-founder of Anheuser-Busch.
Mr. Flanigan was a Navy carrier pilot in World War II, then graduated summa cum laude from Princeton. He joined Dillon as a statistical analyst. He took a break in 1949-50 to work in London for the Marshall Plan, the initiative to rebuild war-ravaged Europe, then returned to Dillon. He became a vice president in 1954.
Mr. Flanigan became active in New York Republican politics in the mid-1950s and was named chairman of New Yorkers for Nixon in 1959 as Nixon, then vice president, was seeking the 1960 presidential nomination. Mr. Flanigan became national director of Nixon volunteers in 1960.
Nixon wrote in his memoirs in 1978 that Mr. Flanigan was one of a small group of Republicans who had raised money for him to campaign for Republican candidates in the 1966 midterm elections as an early step toward Nixon’s seeking the 1968 nomination.
In 1968, he was Nixon’s deputy campaign manager. After Nixon’s victory, Mr. Flanigan was a talent scout for the transition team. He served as a presidential assistant until 1972, when he was named director of the Council of International Economic Policy.
Mr. Flanigan’s first wife, the former Brigid Snow, died in 2006.
Mr. Flanigan is survived by his second wife, Dorothea von Oswald, whom he married five years ago and with whom he lived in Wildenhag, Austria, and Purchase, N.Y. He is also survived by his daughters Sister Louise Marie, Brigid and Megan; his sons Tim and Bob; and 16 grandchildren.
After his White House service, Mr. Flanigan returned to Dillon, where he was managing director until 1992. The passion of his latter years was education, notably starting a program to help inner-city Roman Catholic schools. He was chairman of the Alliance for School Choice. His great love was St. Ann’s Roman Catholic School in East Harlem, to which he gave more than $250,000.
His visits there were appreciated. “I want to make something of myself,” Lawrence King, a seventh grader, told The Times in 1992. “It’s important to have someone to look up to.”