It wasn't until September 1972, 10 months after the Senate confirmed Powell to the Supreme Court, that the public first found out about the Powell Memo (the actual written document had the word "Confidential" stamped on it -- a sign that Powell himself hoped it would never see daylight outside of the rarified circles of his rich friends). Although by then, however, it had already found its way to the desks of CEOs all across the nation and was, with millions in corporate and billionaire money, already being turned into real actions, policies, and institutions.
During its investigation into Powell as part of the nomination process, the FBI never found the memo, but investigative journalist Jack Anderson did, and he exposed it in a September 28th, 1972, column titled, "Powell's Lesson to Business Aired."
Anderson wrote, "Shortly before his appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. urged business leaders in a confidential memo to use the courts as a 'social, economic, and political' instrument."
Pointing out that how the memo wasn't discovered until after Powell was confirmed by the Senate, Anderson wrote, "Senators...never got a chance to ask Powell whether he might use his position on the Supreme Court to put his ideas into practice and to influence the court in behalf of business interests."
This was an explosive charge being leveled at the nation's rookie Supreme Court Justice, a man entrusted with interpreting the nation's laws with complete impartiality.
But Jack Anderson was no stranger to taking on American authority, and no stranger to the consequences of his journalism. He'd exposed scandals from the Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, and later the Reagan administrations. He was a true investigative journalist.
In his report on the memo, Anderson wrote, "[Powell] recommended a militant political action program, ranging from the courts to the campuses."
Back in 1936, Franklin Roosevelt had declared war on his generation's Economic Royalists and booted the worst of them out of the nation's political, economic, and cultural institutions. But now, two generations later, Lewis Powell was speaking of another war.
Powell's memo was both a direct response to Roosevelt's battle cry decades earlier, and a response to the tumult of the 1960's.
He wrote, "No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack."
When Sydnor and the Chamber received the Powell Memo, corporations were growing tired of their second-class status in America.
Even though the previous 40 years had been a time of great growth and strength for the American economy and America's middle-class workers -- and a time of sure and steady growth and increases of profits for corporations -- CEOs felt something was missing.
If only they could find a way to wiggle back into the people's minds (who were just beginning to forget the Royalists' previous exploits of the 1920s), then they could get their tax cuts back; they could trash the "burdensome" regulations that were keeping the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat safe; and the banksters among them could inflate another massive economic bubble to make themselves all mind-bogglingly rich. It could, if done right, be a return to the "Roaring 20s."
But how could they do this? How could they convince Americans to take another shot at what was widely considered a dangerous free-market ideology and economic framework and that Americans once knew preceded each Great Crash and war?
Lewis Powell had an answer, and he reached out to the Chamber of Commerce -- the hub of corporate power in America -- to lay out a strategy to reclaim their power with a strategy.
As Powell wrote, "Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations." Thus, Powell said, "The role of the National Chamber of Commerce is therefore vital."
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).