Michael Keith Deaver was born in Bakersfield, California, on 11th April, 1938. After graduating from San Jose State University in 1960 he went into public relations and in the early 1970s worked for Ronald Reagan, when he was governor of California.
Deaver co-founded the public relations company, Deaver and Hannaford in 1975. The company "booked Reagan's public appearances, research and sell his radio program, and ghost-write his syndicated column." Peter Dale Scott claims that "all this was arranged with an eye to Reagan's presidential aspirations, which Deaver and Hannaford helped organize from the outset".
In 1977 Deaver and Hannaford registered with the Justice Department as foreign agents receiving $5,000 a month from the government of Taiwan. It also received $11,000 a month from a group called Amigos del Pais (Friends of the Country) in Guatemala. The head of Amigos del Pais was Roberto Alejos Arzu. He was the principal organizer of Guatemala's "Reagan for President" organization. Arzu was a CIA asset who in 1960 allowed his plantation to be used to train Cuban exiles for the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Peter Dale Scott has argued that Deaver began raising money for Ronald Reagan and his presidential campaign from some of his Guatemalan clients. This included Amigos del Pais. One BBC report estimated that this money amounted to around ten million dollars. Francisco Villgarán Kramer claimed that several members of this organization were "directly linked with organized terror".
Deaver and Hannaford also began to get work from military dictatorships that wanted to improve its image in Washington. According to Jonathan Marshall, Deaver was also connected to Mario Sandoval Alarcon and John K. Singlaub of the World Anti-Communist League (WACL). In the book, The Iran-Contra Connection (1987) he wrote: "The activities of Singlaub and Sandoval chiefly involved three WACL countries, Guatemala, Argentina, and Taiwan, that would later emerge as prominent backers of the contras.... these three countries shared one lobbying firm, that of Deaver and Hannaford."
In December, 1979, John K. Singlaub had a meeting with Guatemalan President Fernando Romeo Lucas García. According to someone who was at this meeting Singlaub told Garcia: "Mr. Reagan recognizes that a good deal of dirty work has to be done". On his return, Singlaub called for "sympathetic understanding of the death squads".
Another one of Deaver's clients was Argentina's military junta. A regime that had murdered up to 15,000 of its political opponents. Deaver arranged for José Alfredo Martinez de Hoz, the economy minister, to visit the United States. In one of Reagan's radio broadcasts, he claimed "that in the process of bringing stability to a terrorized nation of 25 million, a small number, were caught in the cross-fire, amongst them a few innocents".
Peter Dale Scott argues that funds from military dictatorships "helped pay for the Deaver and Hannaford offices, which became Reagan's initial campaign headquarters in Beverly Hills and his Washington office." This resulted in Ronald Reagan developing the catch-phrase: "No more Taiwans, no more Vietnams, no more betrayals." He also argued that if he was elected as president he "would re-establish official relations between the United States Government and Taiwan".
What Deaver's clients, Guatemala, Taiwan and Argentina wanted most of all were American armaments. Under President Jimmy Carter, arms sales to Taiwan had been reduced for diplomatic reasons, and had been completely cut off to Guatemala and Argentina because of human rights violations.
An article published in Time Magazine (8th September, 1980) claimed that Deaver was playing an important role in Reagan's campaign, whereas people like Campaign Director William J. Casey were outsiders have "valuable experience but exercise less influence over the candidate."
During the campaign Ronald Reagan was informed that Jimmy Carter was attempting to negotiate a deal with Iran to get the American hostages released. This was disastrous news for the Reagan campaign. If Carter got the hostages out before the election, the public perception of the man might change and he might be elected for a second-term. As Deaver later told the New York Times: "One of the things we had concluded early on was that a Reagan victory would be nearly impossible if the hostages were released before the election... There is no doubt in my mind that the euphoria of a hostage release would have rolled over the land like a tidal wave. Carter would have been a hero, and many of the complaints against him forgotten. He would have won."
According to Barbara Honegger, a researcher and policy analyst with the 1980 Reagan/Bush campaign, William J. Casey and other representatives of the Reagan presidential campaign made a deal at two sets of meetings in July and August at the Ritz Hotel in Madrid with Iranians to delay the release of Americans held hostage in Iran until after the November 1980 presidential elections. Reagan’s aides promised that they would get a better deal if they waited until Carter was defeated.
On 22nd September, 1980, Iraq invaded Iran. The Iranian government was now in desperate need of spare parts and equipment for its armed forces. Jimmy Carter proposed that the US would be willing to hand over supplies in return for the hostages.
Once again, the Central Intelligence Agency leaked this information to Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. This attempted deal was also passed to the media. On 11th October, the Washington Post reported rumors of a “secret deal that would see the hostages released in exchange for the American made military spare parts Iran needs to continue its fight against Iraq”.
A couple of days before the election Barry Goldwater was reported as saying that he had information that “two air force C-5 transports were being loaded with spare parts for Iran”. This was not true. However, this publicity had made it impossible for Carter to do a deal. Ronald Reagan on the other hand, had promised the Iranian government that he would arrange for them to get all the arms they needed in exchange for the hostages. According to Mansur Rafizadeh, the former U.S. station chief of SAVAK, the Iranian secret police, CIA agents had persuaded Khomeini not to release the American hostages until Reagan was sworn in. In fact, they were released twenty minutes after his inaugural address.
Reagan appointed William J. Casey as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In this position he was able to arrange the delivery of arms to Iran. These were delivered via Israel. By the end of 1982 all Regan’s promises to Iran had been made. With the deal completed, Iran was free to resort to acts of terrorism against the United States. In 1983, Iranian-backed terrorists blew up 241 marines in the CIA Middle-East headquarters.
After his election as president, Ronald Reagan, appointed Deaver as Deputy White House Chief of Staff under James Baker III. He took up his post in January 1981. Soon afterwards, Deaver's clients, Guatemala, Taiwan and Argentina, began to receive their payback. On 19th March, 1981, Reagan asked Congress to lift the embargo on arms sales to Argentina. General Roberto Viola, one of the junta members responsible for the death squads, was invited to Washington. In return, the Argentine government agreed to expand its support and training for the Contras. According to John Ranelagh (The Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA): "Aid and training were provided to the Contras through the Argentinean defence forces in exchange for other forms of aid from the U.S. to Argentina."
Reagan had more difficulty persuading Congress to provide arms to Guatemala. During a 4th May, 1981, session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it was announced that the Guatemalan death squads had murdered 76 leaders of the moderate Christian Democratic Party including its leader, Alberto Fuentes Mohr. As Peter Dale Scott pointed out in the Iran-Contra Connection: "When Congress balked at certifying that Guatemala was not violating human rights, the administration acted unilaterally, by simply taking the items Guatemala wanted off the restricted list."
Reagan and Deaver also helped Guatemala in other ways. Alejandro Dabat and Luis Lorenzano (Argentina: The Malvinas and the End of Military Rule) pointed out that the Ronald Reagan administration arranged for "the training of more than 200 Guatemalan officers in interrogation techniques (torture) and repressive methods".
Reagan's first Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, resigned on 25th June, 1982, as a result of the administration's foreign policy. He also complained that his attempts to help Britain in its conflict with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, was being undermined by Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick and some above her in the White House. In his book, Gambling With History: Ronald Reagan in the White House, Laurence I. Barrett argued that this person from the White House was Michael Deaver: "At an NSC session... Haig had observed Kirkpatrick passing Deaver a note. Concluding that Kirkpatrick was using Deaver to prime Reagan... Haig told Clark that a 'conspiracy' was afoot to outflank him."
Another of Deaver's clients, Taiwan, benefited from Reagan's support. Although George H. W. Bush promised China in August, 1982, that the United States would reduce its weapons sales to Taiwan, the reverse happened. Arms sales to Taiwan in fact increased to $530m in 1983 and $1,085 million in 1984.
Deaver officially worked primarily on media management. One of his great successes was the presentation of the Grenada invasion. As Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber pointed out in their book Toxic Sludge is Good For You (1995): "Following their (Michael Deaver and Craig Fuller) advice, Reagan ordered a complete press blackout surrounding the Grenada invasion. By the time reporters were allowed on the scene, soldiers were engaged in "mop-up" actions, and the American public was treated to an antiseptic military victory minus any scenes of killing, destruction or incompetence." Later, it was discovered that of the 18 American servicemen killed during the operation, 14 died in friendly fire or in accidents."
As well as Guatemala, Taiwan and Argentina, Deaver also worked closely with South Korea. He arranged for President Chun Doo Hwan to meet Reagan in the White House. It was Deaver's involvement with the Ambassador in Seoul, Richard L. Walker, a member of the World Anti-Communist League (WACL) that eventually led to his demise. Deaver resigned from the White House staff in May 1985 under investigation for corruption. It seems that Deaver had charged the Taiwan government $150,000 for arranging the meeting with Reagan. Deaver was eventually charged with perjury rather than violations of the 1978 Ethics in Government Act and was fined $100,000.
Books by Michael Deaver include Disarming Iraq: Monitoring Power and Resistance (2001) and Why I Am a Reagan Conservative (2005). He also helped Nancy Reagan write two books, A Different Drummer: My Thirty Years with Ronald Reagan (2001) and Nancy: A Portrait of My Years (2004).
Michael Deaver served as International Vice Chairman for Edelman Worldwide and manages public affairs programs for corporations such as United Parcel Services, Bacardi and Fujifilm. As Director of Corporate Affairs for Edelman's Washington office and provides strategic counsel to Nike, CSX, Nissan and Microsoft. He also oversaw United States based image problems for the governments of Portugal, India, and Chile.
Michael Deaver died of pancreatic cancer on 18th August, 2007 at his home in Bethesda, Maryland.