Publisher’s Note: I have broken down this assessment of the relationship between the final two of three Lieutenant Governors who served under Governor Ronald Reagan into three parts. The first part, discussed below, covers their relations and activities by Lt. Governor Ed Reinecke between January of 1969, when he assumed office, through January of 1972.
The second part will assess the state of their relationship and Reinecke’s work between January of 1972 and the federal trial that resulted in his conviction in 1974. The third part will discuss the period of time between Reinecke’s conviction, his departure from the office of Lieutenant Governor, and the appointment and brief tenure of his successor, John Harmer, between October of 1974 and January of 1975.
With the departure of Bob Finch in early 1969 to serve as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Nixon, California Governor Ronald Reagan was given a rare opportunity to appoint a lieutenant governor that was more aligned with his thinking. Indeed, after the clashes that marked his relationship with Lieutenant Governor Finch, Reagan would not have appointed anyone who did not clearly support his vision of state government. And, he found the Perfect Lieutenant Governor in Congressman Ed Reinecke of the San Fernando Valley. As time wore on, though, Reinecke, who clearly was positioning himself as Reagan’s successor, found himself increasingly isolated and without Reagan’s support in the 1974 California gubernatorial primary.
When he appointed Congressman Reinecke as his second-in-command in January of 1969, Reagan indicated that he and Reinecke agreed fully “…upon the goals and aims of the Creative Society” (Goff 1969), the Governor’s name for his state political vision. And, from all appearances, Reinecke’s credentials, including an electrical engineering degree from Caltech and several years representing a staunchly conservative House district in the east San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles Times, 1969), seemed to buttress those claims.
After his appointment, Reinecke for the most part disappeared from the headlines throughout 1969 and 1970, with the only item of his that made news for the duration of 1969 being his appointment by Reagan to head a multi-agency effort analyzing the California coastline (Gillam, 1969). In 1970, Reinecke briefly made the headlines statewide when he suggested that the press voluntarily refrain from reporting episodes of student unrest at California colleges and universities, an idea seconded by Governor Reagan (Greenburg, 1970). Having a lieutenant governor who made the news very rarely most likely was quite a relief to Reagan and his staff, who clearly appeared frustrated at times with Finch and his legitimate desire to get the attention of the media and forward his own agenda. In Reinecke, one gets the sense that his agenda was simply to serve as a loyal deputy to the Governor, hoping that it would pay political dividends down the road.
After being elected in his own right to the office of Lieutenant Governor in 1970, Reinecke began to assume more formal authority within the Reagan Administration and to appear more and more in the media spotlight, as he prepared–along with others in state office–to run for Governor when Reagan stepped down in 1974. Reagan kicked off his second term in office by assigning Reinecke formal jurisdiction over intergovernmental relations, Model Cities affairs, management services, and environmental policy (California Journal, 1971). In addition, Reinecke was named by Reagan to administer the state Department of Commerce (California Journal, 1971).
In March of 1971, Reinecke garnered headlines via his position on the State lands Commission, he demanded a private-sector audit of state tidelands revenue used by the city of Long Beach to help purchase the legendary cruise ship Queen Mary that had since been turned into a stationary floating museum (Los Angeles Times, 1971). It is worth noting that Republican State Senator George Deukmejian, who was known to covet higher office statewide, represented Long Beach in California’s upper house, and this may have been an effort by Reinecke to both harm Deukmejian’s chances for the gubernatorial nomination in 1974, and promote his own credentials. Reinecke continued this effort to prove his conservative bona fides later in the year, when as acting governor he criticized teachers at the University of California for having what he considered to be extremely light teaching loads (Trombley, 1971).
Throughout the year, Reinecke also garnered headlines via work he was assigned by Reagan to carry out, or took on himself. He spearheaded the effort to assist jobless California aerospace workers by successfully lobbying the federal government to fund an unemployment assistance center dedicated to their industry (Jones, 1971). In addition, Reinecke was appointed by Governor Reagan to lead the state’s effort to obtain federal contracts to build the new Space Shuttle (Foley, 1971). All of the work that he conducted during this time was putting him in contact with national Republican Party officials, which is when he also began leading an effort to land the 1972 Republican National Convention in San Diego, something that was little-noticed at the time, but would ultimately embroil him in the Watergate scandal and doom his chance to become Governor.
The final significant activity that Reinecke participated in during this period of time occurred at the tail end of 1971 and into January of 1972, during a fight between Reagan and the Legislature over who would get the ability to craft the maps that apportioned legislative districts throughout the state, an activity that occurs every decade after the census is conducted. At the time, a little-known and apparently never-used group, the California Reapportionment Commission, still existed in California government. The body, founded in 1926, was allowed to intervene in reapportionment disputes and consisted of the Lieutenant Governor and several state constitutional officers–all of whom, fortuitously, happened to be a majority Republican (Fairbanks, 1971). Thus, Reinecke announced his intention to revive this commission, and actually convened one or two meetings of the group to discuss the matter and plan next steps before the state supreme court stepped in and ruled in January of 1972, much to his displeasure, that the commission was unconstitutional (Goff, 1972).
California Journal. “The Lieutenant Governor and His Office.” January, 1971, Page 4.
California Journal. “Interview: Lieutenant Governor Ed Reinecke.” January, 1971, Page 7.
Fairbanks, Robert. “Special Commission to Work on Redistricting.” Los Angeles Times, December 9, 1971, E23.
Foley, William J. “State Has Good Chance to Get Shuttle Sites, Reinecke Says.” Los Angeles Times, August 17, 1971, A3.
Gillam, Jerry. “Reagan Asks Overhaul for State Government; Plan Would Scrap Equalization, Franchise Tax Boards,31 Other Agencies, Commissions.” Los Angeles Times, March 6, 1969, A3.
Goff, Tom. “Reagan Announces Reinecke’s Appointment to Succeed Finch.” Los Angeles Times, January 9, 1969, A3.
Goff, Tom. “Reagan, Reinecke, Denounce Court; Legislative Leaders Praise Action.” Los Angeles Times, January 19, 1972, A14.
Greenburg, Carl. “Governor Defends Reinecke Proposal on Violence News.” Los Angeles Times, June 13, 1970, A1.
Jones, Jack. “State to Open Center for Aerospace Jobless.” Los Angeles Times, July 30, 1971, A1.
Los Angeles Times. “Reagan May Select Congressman to Fill Finch’s State Job.” January 8, 1969, A3.
Los Angeles Times. “Reinecke Urges Private Audit on Queen Mary; Cites Waste of Money on Huge Project; State Lands Commission to Study Request.” March 26, 1971, A1.
Los Angeles Times. “San Diego Plans $1.5 Mil for GOP Parley; State Officials Confident of Acceptance for National Convention.” June 30, 1971, pp. 3.
Trombley, William. “UC Teaching Load Hit as Too Light.” Los Angeles Times, October 16, 1971, A1.