Ed Reinecke, Lieutenant Governor Ensnared by Watergate, Dies at 92


At a time when I.T.T. was the target of three government antitrust suits, the company’s Sheraton Hotels division had proposed underwriting the 1972 Republican National Convention, then planned for San Diego, to the tune of $400,000.

In 1972, during Senate hearings on the nomination of Richard G. Kleindienst for attorney general, Mr. Reinecke faced tough questioning about whether he had discussed the Sheraton offer with John N. Mitchell, the previous attorney general, before or after the government settled the antitrust suits in I.T.T.’s favor in July 1971.

Mr. Reinecke had told reporters several months earlier that he had discussed Sheraton’s proposal with Mr. Mitchell in May. He retracted the statement a day later, saying the conversation had taken place in September.

“So the only time you discussed the convention with Mr. Mitchell was in September, after the I.T.T. case had already been settled?” Senator Hiram L. Fong, a Hawaii Republican, asked Mr. Reinecke.

“That is correct, senator,” Mr. Reinecke answered.

Accused of lying to Senator Fong, Mr. Reinecke was indicted by the Watergate grand jury on three counts of perjury (one was later dismissed) and found guilty in Federal District Court in Washington.

In his closing arguments, Richard J. Davis, an assistant special prosecutor, said, “Reinecke deliberately lied for one reason: to protect the still very powerful John Mitchell, a man who could help him become governor.”

Mr. Reinecke’s lawyer argued that his client had simply been confused about the dates.

A half-hour before receiving a suspended sentence of 18 months in prison, Mr. Reinecke resigned as lieutenant governor. He told the judge, “I still don’t feel that I am guilty.”

The conviction was overturned in December 1975 on procedural grounds. A three-judge panel ruled that only one senator had been present when Mr. Reinecke gave his Senate testimony, short of a quorum.

Mr. Reinecke later ran successfully for vice chairman of the California Republican Party and was voted chairman by acclamation in 1983. “I have no guilt feelings,” he told reporters. “I ran for vice chairman two years ago because people asked me to. They thought it was a bum rap, and I think so, too.”

Howard Edwin Reinecke was born on Jan. 7, 1924, in Medford, Ore., where his mother, the former Helen Purucker, was visiting relatives. He grew up in Glendale, Calif., where his father, Frederick, ran a manufacturing business.

After graduating from Beverly Hills High School in 1942, he enlisted in the Navy, serving as a radio officer in the European theater aboard the U.S.S. Cowie, a destroyer.

He earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 1950. With his brothers Fred and Bill and his sister, Charlotte, he founded Febco, a manufacturer of irrigation pumps and filters for the agriculture industry. The name came from their initials.

In 1964, he mounted a successful campaign to represent a sprawling congressional district in the San Fernando Valley. His campaign posters were illustrated with a big key and the slogan “Vote Rein-a-key.” He won re-election two years later.

In 1966, he married Jean Carole Hrabik. She died in 2011. In addition to his daughter Judy, he is survived by two sons, Mark and Tom; another daughter, Mimi Weyrick; 11 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

A strong environmentalist with a seat on the House Interior Committee, Mr. Reinecke helped block a federal proposal to build a dam on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

In 1969, when Robert H. Finch left his post as California’s lieutenant governor to become President Richard M. Nixon’s secretary of health, education and welfare, Mr. Reagan tapped Mr. Reinecke to fill the vacancy.

Reagan later led an appeal to raise money for Mr. Reinecke’s legal bills. “I’m sure, like most of us, you agree that Ed was — and is — a victim of circumstances and Watergate,” Reagan wrote in an appeal to donors. “This year it’s our turn to help a man we all know to be a fine Christian and loyal husband.”

Mr. Reinecke and his wife later moved to Placerville, Calif., where they raised Charolais cattle on the Diamond R Ranch, operated the Zachary Jacques restaurant and ran a real estate brokerage, Reinecke Realty Residential.


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