Today is March 28, 1992 and we are continuing the oral history of Irwin Goldbloom in connection with t.he Dist.rict, of
Columbia Federal Court Oral Hist.ory Project.
S: Good morning, Mr. Goldbloom (Irwin).
Good morning, Ms. Gere (Sa1ly) .
This morning we are going to begin a new topic.
Yes, it involves a case that took place here in t,he District of Columbia before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. ft was actually
considered by many to be part of the whole Watergate
scenario, but it did not start out that, way. The
case had a number of ramifications from both civil
and criminal aspects, ?s well- as polit,ical
overtones. The case is worth describing. The
events that led to the development of this lawsuit
occurred well over a year before the Watergate
break-in. It invol-ved the establishment of a price
support’for the Department, of Agriculture’s milk price support program. The details of this are
somewhat vague in my mind since I have not addressed the issue directly for a number of years. In any
event,, the case resulted from what appeared to be an
unusual circumstance in which the Department of Agriculture had initially established a price
support number which was the number aL which milk
would be supported. This had a major impact on how
much dairy farmers would get for the milk that t.hey produced. This is by no means, or at least. at Lhat time during those years, it was by no means an
unimportant number. It affected the price of milk
throughout, the country. A very complicated milk pricing system meant an awful lot to dairy farmers
because a swing of a dol1ar or more one way or the
other made substantial differences ln what dairy
farmers were able to realize for their l-abors.
f believe this took place in 1970, Lhe exact date
escapes me. There was a number that had been
established and the number appeared to be lower than the organized dairy farmers of America had thought
shoul-d be the case. There was a guite a hit of furor within the dalry industry or at least the dairy farmer industry. We have to be careful
because t.he dairy industry is complex and they have
a lot. of different groups.
fn any event, organized lobbying and proLests took place and eventually the Secretary of Agriculture
made a reassessment of the milk price support sit.uation and raised the price by a substantial
percentage. Again, I forget t.he exact details, but
he did raise the price.
When he did that, there was a great hue and cry from other interests and as a result, a lawsuit was filed
by Ralph Nader against. the then Secretary of Agriculture, challenging the price support decision
on t.he ground that. j-t was improper, arbitrary, and capricious and would affect consumers in an adverse
way. This lawsuj-t was fiIed, in my recoll-ection I
may noL have the exact accurate, but it. was filed clearly a year before the Watergat.e break-in. So, it. is hard to see how even in itself, it is
relat.ed t.o Watergate and yet it. became an event in the Watergate phenomenon, which strongly affected the whole issue of the dairy price support.
We began litigating that case on behalf of the
Department of Agricult.ure and I was the principal
attorney for the Department. ft was at that time in
my vJ-ew a rather straight-forward administrative 1aw case. ft had some interesting administrative 1aw
issues but on its face it did not appear to be extraordinarily difficult or provocative.
There was this allegation of an improper raising of the price and I wou1d, in the normal fashion, ask the Department of Agriculture for a lit,igation report and they gave it to me. It turned out that they reported back to the Department of ,Justice that there were good and sufficient reasons, having
reexamined the issues, when they made the original determination. The Secretary looked at these issues
and determined that. the price should be elevated. It j-s fair to say that there were obvious political
issues associated with the case. I am not
suggesting for a momenL, that f was oblj-vious t,o them. Nevertheless, there are always issues about polit.ics in major cases of administrative 1aw. You
tended to t,ake them in stride in part because of the
way that these cases got litigated during the ’70s. There were a 1ot of public interest law firms and public interest lawyers who would raise a polit.ical
specter about virtually every governmental action.
In any event, we got the det,ails of the case and
were assured by the officials of the Department of
Agrlculture that the case was clearly defensible and was nothing inordinate about. the
decisionmaking process. In order to defend the case
properly, as it turned out by the time the case was actually brought, there had been a change in
Secretarys at Agriculture. The Secretary that had
made thal initiil determination and then the amended
determination had left and he was now in private
industry. There was a new Secretary, and the new
Secretary was not the one that had anything to do with it.
fn order to defend the case. it became necessary to
go out’to meet with the former Secretary and to get
his story about how the decisj-on had been reached,
and I did that. I traveled out to St. Louis, actually f remember going with David Anderson, who
was another attorney in the General- Litigation Section, and we visited Clifford Hardin, who had
been the Secretary of Agriculture at the time.
Secretary Hardin, prior to becoming Secretary of Agriculture had been head of the University of
Nebraska. He t.hen became Secretary of Agriculture
and, having left that position, was working for t,he
Ral-ston ?urina Company. He was, I forget his precise tit1e, he was Vice-Chairman of the Board and
perhaps Chief Executive Officer, or Chief Operating Officer, something like that, but he was a major
of f icial with Ralst.on Purina. I remember fairly well because his offices were at this building
located at Checkerboard Square in St. Louis. They
were in the Executive Suite at the very top of the building.
Dave and I went there and we sat with the former
Secretary and discussed all- the matters about the
case. He had a fairly good recollection of the
events, because by then this was a fairly
controversiaL topic. He related all of those things
to us and we decided that we would use his affidavit
to support a motion for summary judgment on behalf of the DeparLmenL of Agricul-ture. We sat there and,
he having told us what the facts were, wrote them
out on paper. He looked at them and made some
changes and revj-sed it. These were his views, his
thoughts and his description of the events. We came
away from that with his affidavit which he
swore to and signed. We eventually attached that to
a motion for summary Judgment
The motion evenLually got made and one of the j-ssues
that came up j-n the case, when we were preparing our
motion, was the fact that the price support system
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was an annual determination. By t.he time we got
around t.o making the moLion, an entirely new
determination had been made for the following year.
We argued in the motion that whatever the case was,
while we defended the case on the merits attacking
the plaintj-ff’s arguments, we also had a mooLness
argument. We contended that the passage of t.ime and
the arrival of a new price support determination
mooted the case because there was nothing for the
courL !o do about an old determination.
Which courL was this before?
We were before the U.S. District Court for the
Dist.rict of Co1umbia. The judge was Wil1iam B.
,Jones, who f ‘m not sure that he was chief judge
at the time, he could very well have been t.he chief judge but he had the case. I remember I do
noL remember the specific argument but I remember
we came out for argument and he listened to it. He
was a very able judge, extremely ab1e, very bright,
very quick, very knowledgeable, sLern and all that,
but he was just a very, very able judge in my
recollection. t believe, again I am just reaching
back from memory, that. he granted the motion for
summary judgment on the ground of moot,ness.
Essentially he said that a year has gone by and
there was nothing more for the courL to do.
The plaintiffs took the case to the United States
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit and, again, I can not remember if I handled
the appeal or whether the appeal was handled by
someone in the appellate section, it could very wellhave been that I handled t.he appeal. But it came up
before a panel of three judges in t.he Court, of
Appeals and the decision is in the books, and they
reversed the mootness decision. The essential
element of their decision is the docirine of capable
of repetition yet evading review that doctrine
which t.he courLs use Lo override mootness issues, particularly arising i-n administrative law contexts.
My reference to timing here, is not too good because
I have not gone back and put things in contexL. But
the reversal by the Court of Appeals in effect sent
the case back to the trial court. I cannot teLl
what was happening in relation to timing but I do
know that stories began Lo come ouL that major dairy
farmer groups had visi-ted Washington and protested
the ori-gina1 decision on the price support
determination. They had actually gone to the White
House and met. with the President. There were large
groups of dairy farmers, the officials of these
three major organizations. In the course of that,
and this reminds me now because it puts it in a
better time frame. I think that the original
decision, the price support decision, was probably
made in L971- because, that was the year of the
initial decision.
The public records refl-ect.ed, that these dairy
organizations had made rather major contributions to
t.he Committee to Reelect the President. There were
a number of rumors out on the street,
again I am just drawing on my general recollection,
nothing from the case in particular, people were
boasting that they had made the right political
contrj-bution and they had been abl-e to affect this
Whereupdn, w€ embarked upon a series of depositions
in which plai-ntiffs’ counsel would be taking the
depositions of various high ranking members of t.he
dairy producer orgarrrzations and others who were
associated with this thing. Depositions were also
taken of members of the Whit.e House and
administ.rat.ion people, all designed to show that in
one way or another, the decisj-on regarding price
support had been basically purchased by virtue of
political contributions.
Who was representing the plaintiffs, what lawyer?
They were represent,ed by a major public interest
lawyer at the time. He represented Ralph Nader.
Those depositions were fascinating in that they
were, this j-s my own judgment, on that, the
depositions seemed inconclusive abouL who did what
and under what circumstances. Certainly, there were
a number of principals or participants in these
political discussions within these farmer
organizations where they believed that having made
these contrj-butions they had produced the result
thaL they had sought. Or putting it another wdY,
having been solj-cited for contributions, they made
the contributions and got the result that everyone
Along about this time, the Watergate case broke.
The burglary and the invest.igat.ion and all of the
matt,ers about Watergate were in t.he press on a
regular basis. Investigative reporters became very interest.ed. At the time of t.he decision by the
Court of Appeals, I believe t,here was a great deal of journalistic interest in the act.ivitj-Es of these dairy producer organizat.ions as well as generally in
Lhe subject of campaign cont.ributions which were
then beginning to get ginned up as a topic of public interest.
One of the things that I recaIl vividly about that time frame, ds we were then going through the depositions, was the fact that we woul-d go out on a
deposition, and t,hese deposit.ions took place all
over the country, from one end of the country t,o the other, and I t.raveled with opposing counsel from city to city.
The deposition would be taken, it basically took
around 3O days until the transcript was produced and
f iled with t,he court. The day it was f iled with the courL there would be a front-page story in the Washingt.on Post detailing the activities of the part,icular witness in connection with either the Dairy Producers Association or how the contributj-ons
were made or the circumst.ances associated with
meeting with them at the WhiLe House. There had
been a meeting in the Cabinet. Room of the Vfhite
House wit.h the President and the Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary Hardin, and ot.hers. The Secretary of Treasury, ,John Conna1ly, was al_so at t.hat meet,ing because of the vast economic impact of the price support decision.
In any evenE, iL was interesting because you could
almost clock it 30 days after a deposit.ion was taken, and within t.hat, 30 days f had presumably
forgot.ten the details of what had been testified to.
These depositions were illuminating but, by no
means, bombshells. They were not front-page news in
and of themselves becauie they did not, l*-far as I
was concerned, detail- specific alleged corrupt acts. But they were interesting. They were interesting
because t.hey shed insight into political fundraising
and the machinations of the various organizations
and j-ndividuals involved. As a result, you would pick up the paper 30 days the deposj-tion was taken and there would be a front-page story.
Meanwhile, the Watergate investigation certainly was
heating up at that time and there were all kinds of
disputes over access to government documents, things
of that sorL. f remember, ds just as an aside here,
comj-ng before Judge ,Jones on discovery disputes of
various and sundry items. The judge was incensed,
in one way or another, about some aspect of the
governmentrs conduct, and it was clear to me that he
was reading the newspapers and that. he was getting
his information from news articl-es which had either
over-ch’aracterized or mischaracterized some of the
deposition testimony. r remember feeling very
helpless because I would st.and up before this judge
for whom I had a great. deal of respect and still do.
However, he took me Lo task for trying t.o defend
what he was viewing as conduct that had been
prompted by a bunch of rascals. These clearly
chance comments were being made, not as a result of
some intense examination of the record, but rather
based on a perusal of the newspapers. The matters that were before him, that he had an occasion to say
these th’ings about, were never more than your
typical discovery disputes. In any event, I found it very and somewhat alarming.
Then, of course, another bombshel-I occurred in the
Watergate case when it. was revea1ed that the White
House had this taping system. Wat.ergate Special
Prosecutor Archibald Cox made efforts to get at t.he
Watergate tapes. Ultimately that turned out to be
one of the major elements in his being fired by the
Acting Attorney General. The milk case sort of played a role in all of t.his because on the one hand I was representing the Depart.ment of Agriculture, actively defending this case in court, and, in a
sense, another aspect of the governmenL, the
Watergate Special Prosecutor’s staff was beginning
to get interested in political contributions.
The Watergate Special Prosecutor and his staff were
becoming interested in the affairs of t,he milk price
support program as being an element of illegal
campaign contributions, things of that sort. f felt
somehow or other f was caught in the middle because
on the one hand I was defending the government
Secretary of Agriculture, the then Secretary of Agriculture and the Depdrtment with a plaintiff down on me trying to get j-nformation from me
and now all of sudden, the Watergate Special
Prosecutor was seeking to get, access to documents
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and materials that were involved in t.he case. I
have a vague recollecLion that. we accommodated some of their requests by making available to them materials which they would otherwise have been
capable of either subpoenaing or getting through
lawful judicial means. In any event, Ehere was this plaintiff on the one hand that I was fighting off
and a Watergate Special Prosecutor on the other. I
had no idea what my relationship was supposed to be
to them.
fn any event, the furor over the White House tapes with respect to Lhe Watergate Prosecutor was int.ensifying dramatically and everyone in the
country seemed to know about the problem of the
White House tapes. It was a fascinating issue just
in general. When the revelation about the taping
system came out, the plaintiff in my case, knowing that there had been a meeting at t.he White House,
made a demand, and I forget whether it was by
subpoena or ot.herwise, for a copy of the tape of this meeting with the dairy farmers, where the
President had met. with them durJ-ng t,his period just before this change j-n the price support determination. I relayed that request to the White
House Counsel’s office. I remember going over there
and discussing the issue regarding Lhe production of the t.ape.
Who was the White House Counsel?
I believe Fred Buzhardt was the White House counsel at the t.ime. Quit.e obviously, there were lots and lots of issues that they were concerned about as
they were dealing with the Watergate Special
Prosecutor and goodness knows whatever else they
were dealing with. f was just a lawyer from the
Depart.ment of ,.Tustice. I was Special Lit.igation
Counsel at that time. I was a senior trial
at.torney. Nevertheless, I am not sure that they
focused on all of the issues. But in any evenL, I
recaIl quite vividly that I was able to get that
tape from the White House.
Physically get, a copy of a t.ape?
Physically get, well I got a copy of the tape. But. I did not get the actual tape, buL they made a copy of the tape for me. I remember also that they had delivered the tape to me in December of a9’73, just
as f was about to embark upon another one of these
depositions with opposing counsel. It was sometime early in the month of December. I remember, only
because I thought about it at the t.ime right
afterwards. We were going to take a deposition of
Herbert Kalmbach, who was another Watergate figure,
out in Newport. Beach, California. As it turned out,
opposing counsel and I were going to take the same
plane to California. I remember going out to Dulles
Airpor.t and taking the t.ape with me and handing it
to hj-m ‘aboard the airplane or at the gate, in
effect, complying with his discovery request.. We
went, to California and he took the deposition of
Kalmbach, and I came back. It was just before
Christmast.ime of L973. What I had not focused on at
the time, was that this was basically the first
White House tape that had been disgorged by the
White House.
.S: It actually had President Nixon’s voice on the tape?
It actually had PresidenL Nixon’s voice on the tape.
f had l-istened to the tape before I t.urned it over.
It was an interesting tape. It was nothing worth
listening to, in my judgment., based upon my limited
knowledge of all the other circumstances. But,
since f was not in the Watergate Special
Prosecutorts office, I did not know what else they
had. Obviously, I am not suggesting that Lhere was
nothing on it. But from the perspective of my case,
it was an inconseguential tape, buL it. was an it.em
of evidence.
We came back from California and I remember vividly
getting a telephone cal1 from a television anchortype reporter sometj-me after f reLurned from
Catitornia. In those days I used to get cal1s from
reporters on a regular basis. There were reporters
who covered this part j-cuIar case j-n detall-. They
would fol1ow it. In fact., the reporter would write
the storj-es of the depositions. This was his case
to fo11ow, so j-t was noL a random reporter that. had
the case, there were certain reporters who followed
it. But this was a voice out of the b1ue, although
I cannot remember who it was, but it was somebody I
recognized as a celebrity-type journalist.. He was
frantically asking me about this White House tape
and did I know that, it had been played at a cocktail
party at Georgetown. I said I knew about the tape
but did not know about any cocktail party in
Georgetown. I had no knowledge about it and frankly
I could not help him at al-I. I could not shed any
light on j-t.
I would typically, over the years, get cal1s from
reporters. They were always seeking inside
information. This was easy becausd I had no
information to give him. f just simply said, sure I
knew about t.he tape but. I do not know about whaLever
happened to it. Later in the day I got. other ca1ls
from other newspaper men. Before the day was out, f
had at 1east. three or four ca1ls from newspaper menr
then from ot.her people in the Department asking me
what I knew about. this thing. ft was sort, of, again, I have the timing a 1itt1e bit upset. I do
not know whether it was a day after. There was a
l-ot of furor the next day. It was reported
extensj-ve1y on radio and television. There was
indeed a great deal of news coverage about. the playing of t.his tape at the cocktail party.
Had anyone from any newspaper or television station actually gotten a copy of the tape itself? Or was
this story sti1l confined to the fact that. it had
been played somewhere else? Or do you recall?
I do not reca1l. I do not believe that. anybody had
a copy of the t.ape. I do not think the copy had
been disseminat.ed. I do not believe that it had
been heard by any of these particular reporlers.
When they asked me about it t.hey were more interested in just the mere fact of the existence of
tape. The subject matter did not seem to be the
most int.eresting. Again, f could not shed any light
on what had happened. But the next thing I knew, I
got a call from the court saying that. there was
going to be a hearing the next day. The judge
wanted to know what had transpired with this tape. Of course, f went down to court and opposing counsel
was there. .ludge Jones was in a fierce mood. My recollection may not be accurate, but I do not. believe that we, that is the government or I, had
moved or done anything to seek any kind of relief
concerning the tape or to seek any sanction. The judge had done this sua sponte.
Of course, Lhe courtroom was mobbed with reporters
and journalists of every kind. In those days, the television cameramen were stationed in front of the
courthouse and they would chase you up and down the
street every time you came j-n and out of the
courthouse trying t.o get you to say something about
t,he case. They had fingered everyone who they
thought was involved in anything associated with
Watergate. I do not know whether it happened that
dayI remember, though, that the hearing was very
difficult for opposing counsel. He was sternly and
harshly reprimanded by the judge. In faj-rness to
him, f Lhink it. is fair to say as I stood in
court and the judge did question me about t.he tape,
you know that I had produced it. I had a terribly
hard tj-me keeping a straight face. While counsel
had done somethj-ng that he probably should not have
done in the sense of treating this evidence lightly
by playing it at a cocktail party, the fact. is that.
there was basically nothing on the t.ape that was
embarrassing or revealing of any inside informat.ion
about price support or dairy farmers or the
Pres j-dent or anybody else as far as I could telI.
Others niay have listened to that tape and found or
heard other things on it. Tn fact, I’rTr sure they
did, because the Watergate Special Prosecutor
focused on that tape quite extensively.
But, from my perspective, and I admit it was quite
limited, i-t was sort of half humorous. I had, as I
said, up until that point regularly appeared before
t,he judge and was excoriated for resisting turning
over information or trying to hold the line
somewhere or another. The judge had been beati-ng on
me because of what he was reading in t.he newspapers.
Now all of sudden now, he was beating on my
opponent. Taking the heat off me somewhat just.
seemed to be a welcome relief. But more basically,
the whole thing seemed to be a tempest j-n a teapot.
The opposing counsel had actually takbn the tape and
played it in his home?
Apparently. He had gone to some kind of, I do not
know the facts or the details, but apparently it
either had been at his home or somewhere else, where
he said I have this White House tape. The furor
that occurred, because of the press reports and what
the judge was expressj-ng, I only vaguely saw at the
time. I came to realize much Iater, the count:iy was
in this great chaotic situation in which the
President was resj-sting t.he disclosure of Whit.e
House tapes. The Watergat.e Special Prosecutor,
Archie Cox, was hammering away at the President and the White House to get access to the tapes. It was
the most, one of the most crit,ical issues, which was
t.hen being unfolded in the developing WatergaLe
imbroglio. Here, the tape had come out and had been treated Iight1y. fL had been treated with something Iess than the kind of reverence or dignity or
respect t.hat. one would have expected in cont.ext..
The lesson, of course, is that. you never take
anyt.hing that is evidence and treat it in a cavalier
Well as a result of that, did ,Judge .Jones either
impose sanctions or did you from that point forward
have materials exchanged under seal or in camera?
No, I do not. recall that he did I do not think there was any particular sanction. I mean certainly
it was an oral dressing down. I do not recall
that. there was any particular sanction. f do not
think we’sought any sanction.
Eventually, the milk price support, issue was littered throughout the Watergate period. It was
t.aken up by the House ,Judiciary Committee and was
considered as a possible plank in the impeachment
process proceedings. I think it was ultimately voted it was not. voted there was not an affirmative vote, but it was considered as a
potential plank or charge in t.he impeachment
The case I believe ult.imately went off favorably to the government. We ultimately moved for summary judgment on the basis of all the depositions that
had been taken and all of the discovery. I believe
,Judge .Jones ruled on the basis of evj-dence t,hat. there was no direct showing that the decisj-on thaL
had been made was inappropriate. Again, I may be
wrong it’s been a long time since I looked at t,he
There was another side issue though assocj-ated with it. That is the original af f idavit t.hat. we had
submitted on behalf of former Secret.ary Hardin. It
was viewed by some as noL being accurate. This was his affidavit. We had sat there with him and
prepared it., but we knew none of the facts.
Eventually there was a group within t.he WaLergate
Special Prosecutorrs Office which was assigned to
process that part of the investigation. f was
called before t.he grand jury, the Watergate Grand
,rury. I testified about the circumstances in which
that affidavit was prepared. I believe the
Watergate Prosecut.or eventually decided not to
prosecute. I do not know what his ground was
but my feeling was that he could not make a case
that t.his was a falsehood. rt was written in such a
way that you would have to argue you could have
argued ‘both sides of the issue. My involvement j-n
that case was over. The Watergate Special
Prosecutor, however, did go after ‘fohn Connal1y, in
connection with some aspect, not necessarily the
same aspect, of Connally’s involvement. with the
dairy people. That was a public trial in which we
know that Connally was acquitted.
Was t,his the one where he was represented by Edward
Bennett Williams? The argument basically was
something along the Iines that when one had as much
money as- Connally did, he would not stoop to take
such a modest amount. It was something like
$l-0, 000, something like that?
f do not. know the details. I did not follow the
case myself. My recollection is that that was a
distant cousin of the events, because some of the
people involved were associated with the milk
industry. It was a long drawn out case.
There is only one other thing worth mentioning. I
found it to be a fascinating comment. I cannot
think of t.he name of the chap who said it. He later
became Secretary of Agriculture, perhaps in the
Nj-xon administ,ration, but he was then an Assistant
Secretary of Agriculture. I remember he was not
involved in the case. He may not even have been
involved in the actual events that had transpired,
whether he was or not, I do not recaIl. f remember
meeting with him because he was sort of the clienL, the principal person, the client long after
SecreLary Hardin had 1eft. This is before t.he case
rea11y heated up, but wh11e lt was begj-nning to heat up. His comments, which f found interesting, were that there are a lot of deep psychological sensibilities about milk that relate to our infancy.
Wheneve:: you have something that is associated with mi1k, it dredges up primordial instincts that are
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difficult t.o control. The hullabaloo about this
case the int.erest t,hat it. seemed to generaLe,
derived more from that than from issues of public
responsibility or corruption or things of t.hat sort. I mean milk corruption in milk in a
sense t.hese are Lwo t.hings, which when you marry
Lhem, will get people upset.. That. certainly tur:ned out to be true.
S: WhaL an observatj-on.
r: Freudian.
S: Definitely Freudian.
But it j-s not something you would expect to hear
over at the Department of Agriculture. I certainly did not expect to hear it, but I thought it was