Reagan Staffers Counter Rove's Claim to Directing 1980 Texas Campaign

Reagan Staffers Counter Rove's Claim to Directing 1980 Texas Campaign

Two politicians involved in Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign have contradicted GOP strategist Karl Rove’s boast of directing the conservative icon’s Texas operation that year.

Both Ernie Angelo, Ronald Reagan’s Texas campaign manager in 1980, and Rick Shelby, the 1980 Reagan campaign’s regional political director responsible for Texas, told the Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis on Friday that Karl Rove was not the “director of the Texas campaign for Ronald Reagan in the fall of 1980” as he claimed Thursday on The O’Reilly Factor:

I finally caught up with Rick Shelby, who helped me get to the bottom of it. Today, Shelby’s with the American Gas Association, but in 1979, he was one of the original Regional Political Directors for the Reagan for President Committee. This involved coordinating nine states — including Texas.

Since Texas was important, Shelby tells me he spent an “inordinate” amount of time in the Lone Star State in 1980. And though Rove never technically worked on the Reagan campaign, Shelby says he served as executive director for the state’s Victory Committee.

In that capacity, Shelby recalls that Rove “played a vital role in helping raise the funds necessary” for an effective voter ID and turnout program in the state. 

Here’s what 1980 Reagan Texas campaign manager Ernest Angelo said about Rove’s role in the 1980 Reagan campaign in an email Friday:

In 1980 I was Gov Reagan’s Texas chairman in the primary and Campaign Manager for the general election. Gov Clements endorsed Reagan after the Texas primary and was the campaign Chairman. I was a full time volunteer on site for most of the Fall campaign in Austin. I worked closely with Rick Shelby who was a Reagan Regional Political Director and was in Austin nearly full time. We had a large staff of volunteers and paid individuals. I’m not much for titles but I can assure you Karl Rove was materially involved since he was working for me and Gov Clements in the campaign.

Reagan biographer Craig Shirley said he was “delighted” to see Angelo and Shelby confirm his own research, he said in an exclusive email to Breitbart News Friday evening.

“This confirms earlier documentation by Tom Pauken and Gary Hoitsma, both deeply involved in the Texas Reagan campaign of 1980,” Shirley wrote. He stated that his own interviews for the book Rendezvous With Destiny, none of his sources linked Rove to Reagan’s campaign.

In the course of interviewing President Carter, Vice President Mondale, John Anderson, Jim Baker, Jody Powell, President George H.W. Bush, Tom Brokaw, Lou Cannon, Dave Keene, Vic Gold, Frank Donatelli, Roger Stone, Ed Rollins and over 150 people all told including Ernie Angelo and Rick Shelby, Mr. Rove’s name never came up except sparingly in relation to the Bush 1980 campaign. But never the Reagan campaign.

Shirley says that he never found Rove’s name in his personal search of the Reagan Library’s files on the 1980 campaign. He claims that of the 200 books used in the bibliography for Rendezvous, “Mr. Rove’s name never came up in connection to the Reagan campaign of 1980 in any of these publications.”

“Just to be sure,” he continued, “we ran a search today of Texas newspapers from March to November of 1980 and Mr. Rove’s name never appeared. Period.”

Earlier this month, Rove’s announcement that he had established a new SuperPAC, the Conservative Victory Project, drew the ire of Tea Party activists, who saw this new organization as yet another attempt to force moderate candidates through the Republican primary process.