|Title:||Paul Laxalt U.S. Senatorial Papers|
|Physical Extent:||850.0 cubic feet (34.5 cubic feet in 42 boxes available (850 cubic feet in 1001 boxes total))|
|Preferred Citation:||Paul Laxalt U. S. Senatorial Papers, 83-01. Special Collections, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Reno.|
|Repository:||University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department|
Paul Laxalt was born on August 2, 1922 at St. Mary's Hospital in Reno, Nevada to his parents Dominique and Theresa Laxalt. Like thousands of other young men from the Pyrenees region between France and Spain, Dominque Laxalt arrived in 1906 in the American West at the age of eighteen with virtually nothing to become a sheepherder. He hoped that the high deserts of the Far West would offer greater economic opportunities than the old country. For many years, Dominque herded sheep on the isolated foothills and ranges of Northern California and Nevada.
As Dominique Laxalt earned money, he bought sheep. Before too long he accumulated many sheep, which he employed others to herd for him. By the early 1920s, Dominque had become a sizeable figure in the sheep business in the West. His business dealings regularly took him to Reno where in 1921 he met Theresa Alpetche. She was in the United States seeing to her younger brother, Michel, who had been injured in a gas attack in World War I. Theresa was also from a small Basque village located about an hour's drive from where Dominque was born. Shortly after meeting, the two were married and went to live on a spacious ranch near Yerington, Nevada.
In the late 1920s, amid economic depression in the West, revenues in the sheep industry began to fall. Dominque was unable to keep up with his bank loans and was eventually forced to return to sheepherding full-time. With nowhere else to go, Theresa found herself residing with Dominque in the primitive camps in the hills working as a cook for sheepherders, ranch hands, and cowboys. After several months of that lifestyle, Theresa had enough. She heard that a small Basque hotel was available for purchase for one hundred dollars in Carson City, Nevada. Without hesitation she bought the establishment, named it the "French Hotel," and moved the then small family to Nevada's tiny capital city.
Prior to coming to the United States, Theresa had been trained at the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. In addition to running a boarding house out of the hotel, she also operated a small restaurant. Dominque's job kept him away from home in the hills above Carson City for long periods of time, so Laxalt and his five younger siblings, Robert, Suzanne, John, Marie, and Peter helped their mother at the restaurant. It was there, listening to the conversations of Carson City's politicians, particularly Senator Pat McCarran, that a young Laxalt had his political awakening.
Laxalt attended Carson High School where he played on the state championship basketball team. Upon graduation from high school, Laxalt headed for college at Santa Clara University in Northern California. In the summer of 1942, after the United States entered World War II, Laxalt's education was interrupted when he joined the army. He was assigned as an army medical corpsman, and in 1944 saw combat during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. Following Japan's surrender in September 1945, and Laxalt's discharge, he resumed his studies at Denver University where he graduated in 1949 with a Bachelor of Arts and law degree.
Laxalt's political career began in 1950 when he took the "political plunge" by running for the position of district attorney of Ormsby County and turning out the longtime incumbent, Dick Waters. After one term, Laxalt resigned in 1954 and began practicing law, which he did for the next nine years to come. Laxalt was regarded as a capable and skilled lawyer. He took on a variety of legal cases including land and water issues disputes, and others involving some of Northern Nevada's high-profile gaming and real estate figures. Laxalt's legal career afforded him a high degree of success and publicity in Northern Nevada.
Though never overly influenced by partisan politics of either persuasion, Laxalt's first run for statewide office occurred in 1962 when he ran as a Republican for lieutenant governor against former congressman, Berkeley L. Bunker. During a campaign rally in Las Vegas, Laxalt's running partner, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rex Bell, suffered a massive heart attack and died. Republican leaders from across the state encouraged Laxalt to consider taking Bell's place, but he declined and remained in the race for lieutenant governor instead. Laxalt's family and volunteer-run grassroots, "shoe-leather" campaign in the "cow counties," coupled with an ambitious radio and television campaign aimed at Las Vegas (where he had very little name recognition) allowed him to defeat Bunker by a favorable margin. Laxalt served one term as lieutenant governor from 1963 to 1967.
Hoping for an uninterrupted term as lieutenant governor, Laxalt's wishes were disrupted halfway through his term when he entered into a tough race for a seat in the U.S. Senate against incumbent Howard Cannon. In one of the closest U.S. Senate elections ever, Cannon defeated Laxalt by just 48 votes, which immediately raised suspicion of election fraud. At the same time Laxalt was dueling with Cannon for a seat in the Senate, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater was competing with Lyndon Johnson for the presidency. It was against this backdrop that Laxalt's unique personal and political friendship with Ronald Reagan began. The two met at a 1964 Goldwater fundraising event in California where Reagan was speaking. Two years later, both were elected as governors of their neighboring states, Nevada and California. During their governorships, the men frequently visited back and forth between Sacramento and Carson City.
Beginning in 1965, Laxalt challenged two-term Governor Grant Sawyer on a platform that promoted cooperation with the federal government on issues of investigating corruption and organized crime in Nevada's gaming industry. In the aftermath of the election, Sawyer was defeated by nearly 6,000 votes. Laxalt's tenure as governor was noted for his support of corporate ownership of gaming operations in Nevada (including Howard Hughes' purchase of multiple hotel-casinos in Las Vegas), which allowed for the establishment of Nevada's first community colleges and medical school. Laxalt, along with California Governor Ronald Reagan was integral in creating the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to protect and conserve Lake Tahoe. His other achievements included expanding the park service, promoting prison reform in Nevada, and appointing the first African-American in Nevada's history to a cabinet-level position (Willie Wynn). Laxalt made a shocking decision when he dismissed the idea of running for reelection in 1970. He believed returning to private life would be more beneficial for himself and his relationship with his wife and kids. By that point, Laxalt admitted that he'd had a "bellyful of politics."
After leaving the governorship, Laxalt's political activity was minimal. He focused his attention instead on his family, building and opening the Ormsby House hotel-casino, and practicing law. He did remain in occasional contact with Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan, but that was the extent his of political dealings during that point in this his life. Suddenly in 1973, Senator Alan Bible announced his plans to retire. In February 1974, Laxalt announced his candidacy, and easily won the Republican primary in September of the same year to face off against Democrat Harry Reid. By late 1974, however, the Republican Party was suffering from fallout created by the Watergate scandal and President Gerald Ford's subsequent pardon of Richard Nixon. Laxalt defeated Reid by a small margin of just 624 votes. At the time, given the circumstances, and the state of the Republican Party, Laxalt's victory was considered a major triumph. Senator Bible resigned three weeks early in December 1974, and Governor Mike O'Callaghan appointed Laxalt to finish out Bible's term, giving him a slight leg-up in seniority.
Laxalt's ability to accomplish much in the United States Senate during his first four years was curtailed by the fact that Republicans were the minority in both houses of Congress. Republican senate leadership rested largely in the hands of moderates or liberals. In 1975, Laxalt found himself a minority within the minority when he made the decision to endorse his friend, and former governor of California, Ronald Reagan to unseat President Ford in the looming Republican primary (it has been noted that Laxalt's political isolation during this time was made more bearable by his marriage to Carol Wilson). Laxalt was the only U.S. senator to back Reagan, serving as the chairman of his campaign. Though this decision was largely unpopular among his colleagues, polling numbers revealed that Reagan was a credible conservative candidate free of the baggage of the Washington scene. Members of the voting public gravitated toward his genuine appeal. It was a notable distinction that would pave the way for a resurrection of the Republican Party and Reagan's election to the presidency four years later in 1980. Following Reagan's narrow loss in the 1976 primary, Laxalt went on to work for the Ford campaign in the general election. Scholars have posited that Reagan's insurgency attributed to Ford's eventual loss to Jimmy Carter in November 1976.
During the Carter Administration, Laxalt found himself as the leading conservative critic of the new administration. He was responsible for opposing transfer of the Panama Canal to the Panamanian government, he also adamantly opposed legislation that allowed for "common situs picketing." His efforts thrust him into the Senate spotlight where he became a leading conservative spokesman as the 1978 midterm congressional elections approached. His efforts did attribute to an increased number of Republicans entering the Senate in 1979, though they remained the minority in both houses. Laxalt gave up on trying to fashion policy and instead focused on issues that might be used in the 1980 presidential election including the Family Protection Act, encouragement of the Sagebrush Rebellion, and promotion of the Republican Party for the 1980 election.
1980 was a big year for Laxalt, not only was he up for reelection in the Senate, but Reagan was again seeking the presidency. He did became frustrated that he was unable to spend more time participating in Reagan's presidential campaign due to his own campaign. Laxalt had spent the prior two years amid an inner circle of advisors working on behalf of Reagan's candidacy. There was serious speculation that Laxalt might be considered for the vice president slot. However, Laxalt realized that strategically, his consideration for the position was not feasible. Although Laxalt may have been Reagan's personal choice, the more moderate George H. Bush, Reagan's strongest opponent in the primary elections, was chosen as his running mate. The events of 1980 were indeed pleasing to Laxalt, not only was he reelected to the Senate by an overwhelming margin over his liberal opponent, Mary Gojack, but the Republicans gained control over the Senate for the first time since 1954, and Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter by a landslide receiving 50% of the popular vote. After Reagan's election, the media began referring to Laxalt as "the First Friend." Republicans, Laxalt included, believed that the stage was set for a great "new beginning."
In his second term in the Senate, Laxalt became a highly visible figure due to his friendship with the president and his efforts over the Panama Canal fight. Other conservatives urged him to challenge Howard Baker for the position of majority leader. Laxalt declined and instead went on to serve as the general chairman of the Republican Party beginning in 1983. He also became chairman of the powerful Appropriations Subcommittee, which had jurisdiction over the Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce. Because of this, Laxalt was included in leadership meetings with the president.
One of Laxalt's most notable victories during his period was his resistance to, and prevention of the MX missile system being located in Nevada. Another notable instance was his 1985 trip to the Philippines at the behest President Reagan. The National Security Council indicated that the country might be on the verge of a communist takeover. Laxalt was sent as an emissary to deliver a stern message to the president of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos. It was the first time Laxalt had been in the Philippines in 41 years. He met with Marcos and expressed President Reagan's concerns about the political and economic instability of the Philippines. Laxalt's trip allowed him to build a rapport with Marcos, one that may have ultimately avoided a bloody civil war in the Philippines.
Laxalt was at the zenith of his political career as the 1984 election cycle began, he was the general chairman of the Republican Party, chairman for President Reagan's reelection effort, chairman of two legislative subcommittees, and the spokesman for Republican causes. Laxalt was the intermediary between the president and his senate colleagues of both parties. As Laxalt had done two times before in 1976 and 1980, he again nominated Reagan at the Republican National Convention in Dallas Texas. The convention was something Laxalt and his colleagues in the Republican National Committee had begun planning in 1982. There was very little doubt within the party that Reagan would seek reelection in 1984. Due to an economic boom, lower inflation, reduced tax rates, decreased unemployment, and a robust gross national product, Reagan and his supporters in Congress enjoyed a high degree of popularity. So certain were Republicans that Reagan would win reelection, the campaign committee largely ignored Democratic candidate and former vice president, Walter Mondale. Reagan was overwhelmingly reelected, winning the electoral votes in all but Walter Mondale's home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia.
During his senatorial career Laxalt served on the Labor and Public Welfare Committee, the Appropriations Committee, the Judiciary Committee, and as national chairman for all of Reagan's presidential campaigns. Beginning in 1982, when Republicans regained the majority in the Senate he became the chairman of the Judiciary Committee's Regulatory Reform Subcommittee and the general chairman of the Republican Party. In Laxalt's two terms he participated in the first and second sessions of the 94th Congress (1975-1977), the first and second sessions of the 95th Congress (1977-1979), the first and second sessions of the 96th Congress (1979-1981), the first and second sessions of the 97th Congress (1981-1983), the first and second sessions of the 98th Congress (1983-1985), and although his political involvement began to wane in 1986, his career covered the first and second sessions of the 99th Congress (1985-1987). The papers and materials located within this collection reflect these congressional activities and the committee positions held by Laxalt. They also offer insights into the legislative, political, and democratic processes in the United States Senate.
After the successes up to and including Reagan's reelection in 1984, Laxalt again began to tire of politics. He had been in the Senate for ten years and his friend was now a lame duck president. As his second term progressed, Laxalt privately decided it was the appropriate time to make a graceful exit from the Senate. Amidst pressure from friends, colleagues, and staffers and much self-reflection, Laxalt retreated to Marlette Lake, his Sierra Nevada refuge and made his decision to retire effective in January 1987. He offered his support to Jim Santini. Santini ran a hard campaign but lost the race to then-Congressman Harry Reid. Despite Laxalt losing his seat to the Democrats, the Republicans still managed to hold a slight majority in the Senate. Although Laxalt threw around the idea of running for the presidency in 1988, and even formed an exploratory committee, he eventually ditched the effort when he failed to raise his designated campaign funding goal. He did remain politically active helping with the George Bush campaign in 1988 and acting as an advisor for Senator Bob Dole's 1996 presidential bid. Laxalt continued to work in Washington as a political consultant and lobbyist with his business, "The Paul Laxalt Group," but maintained his ties with his home state and his beloved Marlette Lake.
Laxalt's legacy is lasting, from the son of a Basque sheepherder to the best friend of one of America's most beloved and admired presidents. His independent instincts and distinctive political style allowed him to accomplish many of the goals he set for himself. One initiative that Laxalt derived great personal satisfaction from was the intern program that he established during his tenure in the Senate. College-age students were given the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. and work in Laxalt's Senate office for the equivalent of one semester. The program was responsible for turning out several individuals who went on to prominent careers in government including Nevada's current Governor, Brian Sandoval. On August 2, 2012, Governor Sandoval declared that the date should be therefore designated as "Paul Laxalt Day."
Further reading on Paul Laxalt can be found in his memoir Nevada's Paul Laxalt: A Memoir (Reno, Nevada: Jack Bacon and Company, 2000), and in Laxalt's The Nominating of a President: The Three Nominations of Ronald Reagan as Republican Candidate for the Presidency (Reno, Nevada: Native Nevadan Publications, 1985).
This project is made possible by a Library Services and Technology Act grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the Nevada State Library and Archives. With its support, these important materials from our political past are now available.
Scope and Content
The Paul Laxalt U. S. Senatorial Papers are contained within 850 cubic feet, and are primarily from Laxalt's tenure in the U. S. Senate dating from his entrance in 1974 to his retirement in 1987. Due to the size of this congressional collection, few resources have been available to organize and prepare the materials for users. However, in 2014 Special Collections applied for and received a Library Services and Technology Act grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the Nevada State Library and Archives to work with just the materials regarding Paul Laxalt's relationship with Ronald Reagan found within Laxalt's tenure in the U. S. Senate. Laxalt served as an advisor, campaign manager, and personal friend to President Ronald Reagan. These materials were organized and cataloged during 2015-2016.
Currently, the Paul Laxalt U. S. Senatorial Papers consist of one group: Ronald Reagan. This group covers the years 1975-1987 and are contained in 34.5 cubic feet housed within 42 boxes. None of the other materials have been reviewed for further organization. Group 1 is only a fraction of what is actually contained within the entire collection.
Group 1: Ronald Reagan, consists of papers, audio/visual resources, scrapbooks, and photographs that are associated with or related to Ronald Reagan and his three presidential campaigns in 1976, 1980, and 1984 and Laxalt's role as his national chairman. Other files include general White House correspondence and requests, constituency correspondence, and to a lesser degree materials relating to contentious policy issues of the Reagan Administration. Also represented are materials from Laxalt's roles as chairman of the Republican Party
Group 1 is divided into six individual series: Series 1) 1976 Presidential Campaign; Series 2) 1980 Presidential Campaign and Reagan Election; Series 3) Reagan Administration First Term, 1980-1984; Series 4) 1984 Reagan Reelection Campaign; Series 5) Reagan Administration Second Term, 1985-1989; and Series 6) Scrapbooks. It should be noted that Series 4 includes two subseries: Subseries 1) Republican National Committee and GOP Planning and Strategy; and Subseries 2: 1984 Campaign. Furthermore, it should be noted that any audio/visual resources have been listed at the end of their respective series with all items physically contained in Box 1008.
Laxalt maintained offices in Carson City, Reno, Las Vegas, and Washington, D.C. Materials retained from each of these offices are represented within this collection. Some of Laxalt's legislative staff included Ed Allison, Tom Loranger, Sam Bellenger, Carol Laxalt, Al Drischler, David Bethel, Bill Adams, and Eileen de Latour, among others.
Restricted use for all materials except those dealing with Ronald Reagan. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Paul Laxalt in 1983.
Photographs are placed in the Special Collections Photo Archive as collection number UNRS-P2015-12.
As part of the Library Services and Technology Act grant, a small selection of documents and photographs from Group 1 that highlight aspects of the Laxalt-Reagan relationship were scanned and can be found in our Digital Collections exhibit entitled "'The First Friend' of Ronald Reagan; Senator Paul Laxalt and Presidential Politics" : http://guides.library.unr.edu/laxalt-reagan/.
Group 1: Ronald Reagan
- Group 1, Series 1 1976 Presidential Campaign
- Group 1, Series 2 1980 Presidential Campaign and Reagan Election
- Group 1, Series 3 Reagan Administration First Term 1980-1984
- Group 1, Series 4 1984 Reagan Reelection Campaign
- Group 1, Series 4, Subseries 1 Republican National Committee and GOP Planning and Strategy
- Group 1, Series 4, Subseries 2 1984 Campaign
- Group 1, Series 5 Reagan Administration Second Term 1985-1989
- Group 1, Series 6 Scrapbooks
This collection is indexed under the following headings in the online catalog of the University Libraries, University of Nevada, Reno. Researchers wishing to find related materials are encouraged to use the following index terms:
- Republican Party (Nev.).
- Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- ).
- United States. Congress. Senate.
- United States. President (1981-1989 : Reagan).
- Conservatism—United States—History—20th century
- Political parties--United States--History--20th century
- Presidential candidates—United States—History
- Presidents--United States--Correspondence
Collection processed by Edan Strekal and Jacquelyn Sundstrand, September 2015. Finding aid prepared by Edan Strekal and Jacquelyn Sundstrand, September 2015. This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on July 12, 2016.
Detailed Description of the Records
Group 1: Ronald Reagan, 1975-1987 34.5 cubic feet
Group 1 consists of materials accumulated by Paul Laxalt and his staff during Laxalt's tenure as a U.S. senator, and Reagan's first attempt as a presidential hopeful and later as the president of the United States. Reagan was raised in a poor family in Northern Illinois. In high school and college he became interested in sports and theater. After graduating from Eureka College, in Eureka Illinois in 1932, he began working as a sports radio announcer on several regional radio stations, but he had larger aspirations of becoming a movie actor. In 1937, while accompanying the Chicago Cubs to Southern California for spring training, Reagan was offered an appointment with a talent agent. He did a screen test with Warner Brothers and then signed a contract as a B-movie player and quickly moved from Iowa to California. After his portrayal of famous Notre Dame Football coach, Knute Rockne, he began landing bigger parts that would eventually ensure him a long and distinguished career as a Hollywood actor. After a brief stint as a businessman with General Electric, Reagan decided in 1966 to run for governor of California as a Republican candidate, the same year Laxalt ran for governor of Nevada. Reagan served as governor for two terms ending in 1974.
By most standards, Reagan was a popular and successful governor, the next logical step it seemed was for him to run for president. Reagan ran a campaign in 1968, but was defeated by Richard Nixon in the primaries. In a largely unpopular political move to unseat President Gerald Ford, Reagan's next run at the White House came in 1976 with Laxalt as his campaign manager. Unfortunately, Reagan lost to Ford in the primaries, and Ford subsequently lost the general election to Democrat Jimmy Carter.
Four years later, Reagan took to the campaign trail again with Laxalt by his side. This time Reagan was elected as the thirty-ninth president of the United States just a little less than six and a half years after Nixon's resignation. Planning for Reagan's reelection began almost immediately after he took office in January 1981. Reagan did indeed run for reelection in 1984 easily defeating Walter Mondale. Laxalt resigned as a senator in 1986 before Reagan's second term ended, however, by that time, the Republican Party had undoubtedly been rebuilt and strengthened after the tumultuous events of the 1970s. This group reflects not only the campaign efforts of the Reagan camp, but also contains materials that represent some of the important policy issues concerning Congress and the constituency base during the Reagan Administration.
Group 1 is divided into six individual series: 1) 1976 Presidential Campaign; 2) 1980 Presidential Campaign and Reagan Election; 3) Reagan Administration First Term 1980-1984; 4) Reagan Reelection Campaign; 5) Reagan Administration Second Term 1985-1989; and 6) Scrapbooks. Any photographs that have been removed from these materials have been separated and placed in the Special Collections Photo Archive collection number UNRS-P2015-12. All audio/visual materials that were located have also been placed with their corresponding series at the end of each series. Series 6 includes copies of scrapbook indexes that were originally created by Laxalt's staff. These give an itemized listing of all of the materials that are contained within each book. In the absence of an index, a description of the scrapbook and its contents has been created.
Group 1, Series 1: 1976 Presidential Campaign, 1975-1976 2.5 cubic feet
Group 1, Series 1 includes information and material on Ronald Reagan's 1976 presidential campaign. The files in this series have been arranged chronologically according to month and year. This series contains quite a bit of constituency correspondence in support of Reagan's decision to run for president, press materials, statements, speeches, committee and organization materials, schedules, and itineraries. The series begins with constituency correspondence arranged alphabetically by the state that it came from. Following the state designations, files are arranged chronologically according to months and years.
In 1975, after two terms as the 33rd governor of California, Ronald Reagan began actively considering the possibility of running for president. The Republican Party was still reeling following Richard Nixon's admitted involvement in the 1972 Watergate scandal and the subsequent pardon offered two years later by President Ford. Reagan asked Laxalt's opinion on the matter, especially what type of support me might expect from Republicans on Capitol Hill. It didn't take long for Laxalt to realize that Reagan was not a favorite among the Washington establishment. At times it seemed that Laxalt might have been his only supporter in Congress. In July 1975, Laxalt announced the formation of the Citizens for Reagan committee. Laxalt expected the committee would convince Reagan to seek the Republican nomination for president.
By November 1975, Reagan announced his candidacy with Laxalt acting as the chairman of the campaign. As the campaign began, it quickly gained more support than political pundits had anticipated. With only a few caucus states remaining, questions surrounding Reagan's choice for vice president began emerging. As a strategic move, John Sears, vice chairman of Citizens for Reagan and campaign manager, suggested he select Pennsylvania Senator Richard Schweiker as his running mate. Schweiker, though designated as a Republican, was viewed by the media and some of his colleagues as a "middle-of-the-road" liberal. Reagan's campaign team believed the addition of Schweiker would balance out the Reagan ticket and potentially sway undecided delegates in their direction.
Regardless of his unpopularity in Washington, Reagan made a dramatic run for the Republican nomination against sitting president and incumbent Gerald Ford. His strategy of directly engaging the voters worked well during the primaries, so well that Reagan fell short by only a few votes at the 1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. Press speculation following the primaries placed Reagan as the obvious choice for vice president on the Ford ticket. Reagan however, was not interested and word quickly reached the Ford camp. Ford instead picked Bob Dole as his running mate, but in the end lost the general election to Jimmy Carter by a small margin. Though the 1976 campaign resulted in a loss for Reagan, he had proven himself as a charismatic and viable Republican candidate for the future. The events of 1976 laid the groundwork for the 1980 presidential campaign and marked a period of revitalization in the conservative movement in America.
Group 1, Series 2: 1980 Presidential Campaign and Election, 1977-1983 10.5 cubic feet
Group 1, Series 2 includes information and materials relating to Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign and his ensuing victory. The files in this series have been arranged chronologically according to months and years. Though this series pertains to Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign, the materials date from 1977 to 1983. Anything prior to 1980 is preparatory material for the 1980 presidential and congressional elections. The items at the end of this series that date to the months and years following the 1980 campaign and election relate to the Reagan Administration's transition initiative, finance issues from the campaign, invitations to the inauguration event, and a dinner for those that had been involved in the campaign. All materials in this series are relevant to the overall process and efforts put forth in getting Ronald Reagan elected as the 40th president of the United States. This series consists of the campaign team's campaign files, materials from Citizens for the Republic, Reagan Advisory Committee materials, editorials and correspondence from William Loeb, constituency correspondence, internal correspondence, press materials, news clips, itineraries, reports, materials regarding Reagan and Laxalt's opposition to the transfer of the Panama Canal, and transition team initiatives following Reagan's election.
As early as 1977, Reagan created a political vehicle called Citizens for the Republic headed by Lyn Nofziger. This political action committee (PAC) was designed to advance the conservative cause at a time when it seemed that those ideas were being abandoned in the United States. This PAC gave Reagan the funding to travel around the country to meet with key supporters, advance the conservative messages of self-determination and small government, and support like-minded candidates for various other state and local offices. William Loeb, owner and publisher of the Manchester Union Leader, was also very active during this time pushing conservative editorials in his New Hampshire based newspaper. Loeb was known for vitriolic editorials expounding the dangers of liberalism, collectivism, and Communism while at the same time preaching the virtues of conservatism and especially Ronald Reagan. Loeb kept in regular contact with Laxalt in the late 1970s, sending him correspondence and editorials on the conservative issues. These exchanges are present in this series beginning in 1977. Also present are several files containing material on the formation of Laxalt and Reagan's Committee to Save the Canal (which soon became known as the Panama Truth Squad), a response to President Carter's proposed treaties to turn over the canal to the Panamanian government. These initiatives and events served as unifying factors for the Republican Party that marked the early stages of Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign.
By March 1979, the Reagan exploratory committee was formed, and in November of the same year, the campaign kicked off in New York with Laxalt again acting as the chairman and John Sears as the campaign manager (though he was distrusted by conservatives, Bill Casey would take his place). Early in 1980 the Republican field was crowded with other presidential hopefuls including George H. Bush, Senators Bob Dole, Howard Baker, Phil Crane, and Texas Governor John Connally. Bush proved to be Reagan's strongest competitor from the onset, but quickly lost momentum and withdrew by May of that year. He would eventually become Reagan's running mate, but prior to the announcement there was much speculation that Laxalt or even Gerald Ford might make it on the ticket as the vice presidential candidate.
Reagan emerged as the dominant figure in the 1980 presidential campaign. He was able to muster support from both Republicans and the diverse elements that constituted the New Right. Reagan vowed to reenergize and revitalize America to make it "number one again." After four years of the Carter Administration, many Americans felt demoralized by high inflation, joblessness, and the poor handling of foreign affairs. Reagan's campaign team often referred to the "misery index" as a way of visibly measuring the failures of the Carter Administration. The results were disastrous for Carter. On Election Day in November 1980, Reagan easily defeated Carter by a landslide when he received 51 percent of the popular vote to Carter's 41%. Not only had Reagan won the presidency, but the Republicans had also taken control of the U.S. Senate for the first time since 1954. It was a momentous win for Reagan, Laxalt (who won reelection to the Senate), and the rest of the campaign team and supporters.
Group 1, Series 3: Reagan Administration First Term, 1980-1984 2.25 cubic feet
Group 1, Series 3 includes information and materials from President Reagan's first term in office. The files in this series have been arranged chronologically according to months and years. This series is comprised of materials that are related to Laxalt's political relationship with President Reagan, but not related to the presidential campaigns.
A good deal of the files are dedicated to correspondence and requests sent to the White House that were answered by Laxalt on behalf of the president. Also included is a large amount of constituency correspondence regarding issues surrounding the Reagan presidency including the national debt, the MX missile system, propaganda in Western Europe, the Iran hostage crisis, education, energy, and others. In addition, this series includes speeches, statements, magazine articles, press files, some news clips, and reports on political issues. It is worth noting that there is some information from the days immediately following the assassination attempt on President Reagan on March 30, 1981 just 69 days into his first term. Reagan's agenda was focused heavily in three areas: cutting taxes, balancing the budget, and beefing up national defense (in the midst of the Cold War). These issues are reflected in the materials in this series.
It was during Reagan's first term as president that Laxalt became known by the media as "the best friend of the president," or "the First Friend." Many of the magazine articles and news clips in this series are about Laxalt and Reagan's relationship. Laxalt was said to have one foot in Congress, and one in the White House. It was also during this term that Laxalt became the general chairman of the Republican Party, a position that would last from January 1983 through January 1987. More information on Laxalt's role as the general chairman of the Republican Party can be found in Series 4, Subseries 1: Republican National Committee and GOP Planning and Strategy, which focuses on the efforts of the Republicans to maintain power in the Senate and their planning for Reagan's reelection in 1984.
Group 1, Series 4: 1984 Reagan Reelection Campaign, 1981-1984 8.0 cubic feet
Group 1, Series 4 consists of two subseries: Series 4, Subseries 1) Republican National Committee and GOP Planning and Strategy; and Series 4, Subseries 2) 1984 Campaign. These subseries contain information and materials on the planning and strategy of the Republican Party prior to the 1984 presidential elections, and materials from President Reagan's 1984 reelection campaign. After winning both the White House and the majority in Senate in 1980, the Republican Party and its supporters were determined to hold on to their newly acquired prize. This involved making the Republican Party more appealing to minority voting groups, receiving favorable numbers in the midterm elections, and maintaining a conservative presence in the White House (preferably President Reagan). Each subseries has been arranged chronologically according to months and years.
Group 1, Series 4, Subseries 1: Republican National Committee and GOP Planning and Strategy, 1981-1984 4.5 cubic feet
Group 1, Series 4, Subseries 1 consists of information and materials that were gathered by Laxalt and his staff leading up to the 1984 presidential elections. This series begins with Republican National Committee (RNC) files organized alphabetically by state. Following the individual state files, all others have been arranged chronologically according to months and years.
Quite a bit of the information in this series is related to the activities of the Republican National Committee (RNC) for which Laxalt became the general chairman beginning in 1983 (same as the Republican Party). The RNC wanted to ensure continued strength and longevity in the Republican Party after the election of Reagan in 1980. During Reagan's first term in office, the RNC worked hard at consolidating delegates, fundraising for the party and its candidates, strengthening a diverse constituency base, and anticipating how various administration might affect Reagan's reelection prospects. These efforts are all highly visible within this series. Included in this series are correspondence, information packets, memoranda, brochures, some news clips, reelection stratagem, media materials, and files on various interest and minority groups.
In the 1982 midterm elections, Republicans were able to maintain a majority in the Senate losing only one seat, but the Democrats cemented their majority in the House of Representatives when they gained 27 seats. The gains made by the Democrats were largely a result of President Reagan's unpopularity, which was brought on by a deepening recession. Voters blamed the downturn on Reagan's economic policies, but despite some national dissension, those close to Reagan, like Laxalt, believed that the prospects for reelection were bright—much brighter than they had been in 1980.
By 1984, the economy had rebounded and Reagan's popularity experienced a resurgence—making him one of the most popular presidents in modern American history. As the 1984 election cycle began, Laxalt was at the height of his political career. He was the general chairman for the Republican Party, chairman of the powerful Appropriations Subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce, and he served as a conduit between his colleagues in the Senate and the president. Reagan asked Laxalt one more time to be the national chairman for his reelection campaign. Laxalt agreed knowing that it would be much easier than it had been in 1976 or 1980.
Group 1, Series 4, Subseries 2: 1984 Reelection Campaign, 1982-1985 4.5 cubic feet
Group 1, Series 4, Subseries 2 contains information and material relating to President Reagan's 1984 campaign for reelection. The files in this series have been arranged chronologically according to months and years. This series begins with early planning materials for the 1984 Republican National Convention, held that year in Dallas, Texas. Other materials in this series include proposed campaign themes, Republican platform drafts, volunteer information, meeting agendas, itineraries, correspondence, finance reports, polling and research reports, some news clips, briefing books for debates with Walter Mondale, and general campaign files.
The 1984 campaign had some hiccups in the beginning when Reagan told Laxalt and Ed Meese that he wanted to expand the political base by replacing some of the old Reagan supporters with new ones. The two most difficult states proved to be Texas and Illinois, where the Reagan camp suggested new chairmen. These issues are represented in this series and can also be found in the individual state files located in Series 4, Subseries 1: Republican National Committee and GOP Planning and Strategy. Others issues on the campaign trail included a "disastrous" debate with Democratic candidate, Walter Mondale in Louisville, Kentucky in October 1984. Reagan did poorly in comparison to Mondale. The campaign team worried that Reagan had come off stiff, humorless, and most damaging of all, old. The following debate in Kansas City was less structured and Reagan again flourished, laying to rest any doubt about this age.
Laxalt and Reagan traveled around the country campaigning aboard Air Force One. Many of Reagan's campaign appearances that year were to college campuses, which was surprising given the political backlash that occurred on many campuses during the 1960s. Instead, Reagan was greeted with large energetic rallies that no doubt contributed to the overall success of the campaign. As a close to the campaign, they even visited Mondale's home state of Minnesota to campaign against him. Reagan received a surprisingly warm reception from the surrounding farming communities. In November 1984, President Reagan was overwhelmingly reelected receiving 58 percent of the popular vote to Mondale's 40 percent. He won the electoral votes in all the states except for Minnesota and the District of Columbia.
Group 1, Series 5: Reagan Administration Second Term, 1985-1986 1.5 cubic feet
Group 1, Series 5 contains information and materials relating to President Reagan's second and final term as president as well as Laxalt's final term as a U.S. senator. Laxalt decided in 1986 that he would not seek reelection, his retirement from the Senate became effective in January 1987. The files in this series have been arranged chronologically according to months and years. Materials include White House correspondence, constituency correspondence, memoranda and correspondence from the Republican National Committee, news clips, and Laxalt's materials from his trip to the Philippines. The majority of this series consists of correspondence on a variety of topics sent to the White House and answered by Senator Laxalt.
President Reagan was sworn in as president for a second time in January 1985. His second term was marked by a variety of significant domestic and international issues including the "War on Drugs," the Challenger (space shuttle) disaster, the 1986 bombing of Libya, the Immigration and Control Act of 1986, the Iran-Contra affair, and the ending of the Cold War. Some of these issues are reflected in the constituency correspondence located in this series. By most standards, the Reagan presidency was a success, the economy improved, the Cold War concluded without bloodshed, the Republican Party rebuilt and reestablished itself. Throughout most of these events, Laxalt was there by Reagan's side as a political advisor and as a friend.
Group 1, Series 6: Scrapbooks, 1975-1985 9.25 cubic feet
Group 1, Series 6 consists of scrapbooks. The scrapbooks within this series contains materials that relate to Reagan's presidential campaigns, policies of the Reagan Administration, Laxalt's relationship and role within that administration, Laxalt's trip to the Philippines, and inauguration events. The scrapbooks are comprised of news clips, memorabilia, campaign flyers and buttons, photographs, and correspondence. This series begins with folders in Box 1007 that contain photocopies of the indexes from some of the scrapbooks. The indexes have been arranged chronologically according to months and years. The information that follows is comprised of descriptions of other relevant scrapbooks that did not contain indexes. These have been placed in a rough chronological order according to year. It is also important to note that some boxes contain more than one scrapbook.