From then on, the two friends never seemed to stop swapping favors until Mr. Jones died in 1985. When Mr. Agnew needed a new business partner after his breakup with Mr. Dilbeck in 1975, Mr. Jones was ready and willing. He, too, wanted to cash in on Arab petrodollars. By the end of 1976, their joint efforts had landed three construction contracts in Saudi Arabia and Iran for a Jones company. During the company's bankruptcy proceedings a few years later, word emerged that Mr. Agnew made an $80,000 commission on one of the deals.
Hussein and the jackpot
There were some kinds of help that even Frank Sinatra and J. Walter Jones couldn't supply, and Spiro Agnew's early business career got one of its biggest boosts from the institution he despises most -- the news media. As much as he hated publicity, it became his best advertisement.
FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION
The Tennessee Apparel Corp., a uniform maker in Tennessee, hired Mr. Agnew in 1976 to represent its foreign trading company, Pan-East Inc., after the company lawyer read an article about his Middle East connections, according to the company president, John Nicholson.
"He just opened doors for us, made calls," Mr. Nicholson explained. "We gained a contract, but then, as so often happens with the Saudi government, one of the princes wanted a piece of the action. [The prince] wanted to buy an interest in the company, and I said, 'Well, it's not for sale.' And that was the end of the deal."
About a year later, Mr. Nicholson said, Pan-East was sold to a Lebanese businessman, Ahmed Habbous, who now lives in Libya. Mr. Agnew continued representing the company, and in 1984 he hit the jackpot. That's when Mr. Hussein bought $181 million in new uniforms for his armies.
According to papers in the files of a 1990 lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington and other accounts of the transaction, Mr. Agnew initiated the deal with a telephone call to Col. Jack Brennan, a former Nixon military aide, who, like Mr. Agnew, had gone into the international consulting business.
Mr. Agnew asked for help in getting the Iraqi contract for Pan-East. Eventually, Mr. Brennan decided that cheap labor costs made Romania the ideal place to manufacture the uniforms, and so he asked Mr. Nixon to write a letter of introduction to President Ceausescu. Mr. Nixon apparently was not aware of Mr. Agnew's role in the deal; the two have not spoken with each other since Mr. Agnew resigned. But the former president remained on the best of terms with Mr. Brennan, and he agreed to write Mr. Ceausescu.
When the deal went through, Mr. Agnew got a commission of $797,000 for his efforts.
He picked up other well-playing clients along the way, including MBB (Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm), the German armaments firm that helped supply the technology for a long-range missile program developed by Iraq, Egypt and Argentina (though no one has linked Mr. Agnew to the program); and Kukje Corp., once South Korea's seventh-largest conglomerate.
International Agnew sightings continued. He was spotted toasting in a Bangkok bar with Chatichai Choonhavan, former foreign minister of Thailand. A few years later, Mr. Choonhavan became prime minister.
Swiss businessman Bruce Rappaport was Mr. Agnew's host on another visit to the Far East. At the time Mr. Rappaport was
embroiled in a dispute with Indonesian officials over allegations that he'd landed a lucrative oil-shipping contract by giving a $2.5 million personal loan to the president of the state-owned oil company. His name also came up in an investigation of U.S. Attorney General Edwin W. Meese III, when it was learned that he and Mr. Meese had roles in planning construction of an oil pipeline from Iraq to Jordan.
An unfocused salesman
Only a few friends have gotten a firsthand look at Mr. Agnew's ways of doing business. As one explained, "Ted never talks much about work, and we don't ask him." But in 1986, Mr. Agnew inadvertently provided a glimpse when he filed a lawsuit against two former clients -- Aydin Corp., a Pennsylvania defense contractor, and Alicanto S. A., Aydin's representative in Argentina. He alleged that the companies cheated him out of a $2 million commission when they landed a contract with the Argentine military.
Mr. Agnew got involved with the companies through Horst Schober, a vice president of the Hoppmann Corp., a Northern Virginia communications company. Once again, he benefited from free publicity. Mr. Schober said he saw Mr. Agnew on television promoting his 1976 novel, "The Canfield Decision," a pulp-style tale of intrigue about a fictional vice president.
Mr. Schober was a bit skeptical when he saw Mr. Agnew's piddling office but hired him anyway, and Hoppmann eventually joined Aydin in an effort to sell communications systems to the Argentine military. That's when Mr. Agnew hooked up with Aydin and Alicanto, although at the time there was a U.S. ban on selling military equipment to Argentina.