Princeton University’s Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library has recently acquired the papers of a former IRS investigator who uncovered evidence of secret campaign donations to then-Congressman Lyndon Baines Johnson.
The investigator, Elmer Charles Werner, led an investigation from 1942 to 1944 of donations from engineering and construction company Brown & Root to Rep. Johnson’s failed initial campaign in 1941 for the U.S. Senate. Werner found evidence of bonuses paid to Brown & Root executives that were ultimately directed toward the Texas congressman’s Senate campaign.
While Johnson lost that campaign, he ultimately won a seat in the Senate in 1949. Brown & Root later became a subsidiary of Halliburton, which merged it with the M.W. Kellogg Co. to form Kellogg Brown & Root. It is now part of the company KBR.
Brown & Root tried to charge the campaign donations as deductible expenses, and the IRS threatened to file criminal charges against the company. However, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration told the IRS to back down, and the company ultimately settled with the IRS for a fraction of the taxes and penalty amount owed.
Werner kept extensive diaries of the period, along with a manuscript entitled, “How High Can an Income Tax Fix Go?”
Johnson biographer Robert Caro had access to some of the Werner papers when writing his prize-winning 1981 biography, “The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power,” but the papers did not include the Werner diaries, according to the library’s blog.
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