Once the tour of death row was completed Cianci would head back to D.C to start defining his administration. The first order of business was government matters as a competent administration is key to leaving your mark on American history. For Vice President he knew he needed a conservative to appeal to the Reaganite base and balance out the administration. His shortlist included Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Pete Domenici of New Mexico, Bill Janklow of South Dakota, and Guy Vander Jagt of Michigan. He personally liked Cochran, Janklow, and Vander Jagt for numerous reasons. Cochran was from the South, and he felt like he would be a perfect balance. But with a razor thin tie in the senate and a Democratic governor being the one to appoint Cochran’s successor he rejected Cochran. Janklow was like Cianci in many ways. He was an energetic governor who was known for his bombastic personality. Cianci was concerned though about him outshining himself and for his lack of concern for the environment. He figured Janklow would be quite divisive and unpopular, and he’d be right as when he proposed the list to Tip O’Neill, he flat out rejected Janklow as his least favorite. Usually, Cianci would just ignore O’Neill but in this case, he figured unity would be important. Vander Jagt, he determined was the best option. He was an establishment figure to contrast with his pseudo-populism and a staunch conservative from Michigan. He’d prefer a southerner, but Vander Jagt was still a good choice. Cianci figured he’d be the best of the pair to handle bureaucratic measures while he was away on a foreign trip or playing the media game. When he interviewed Vander Jagt, he stood out to Cianci as a Vice President he would enjoy working with compared to a firebrand Reaganite like Phil Crane or Robert Bauman. Who proved to be concerned with pushing his own ideological agenda on Cianci.
On May 20th Vander Jagt was nominated by Cianci for the Vice Presidency. He was a fairly uncontroversial pick amongst the public and Washington. He was a well-liked man in the House, so he passed with nearly all 435 members voting for his confirmation. In the senate it was once again a near unanimous vote in favor of Vander Jagt. Only two senators (Stennis and Durenberger) didn’t vote for Vander Jagt because they were sick and stayed home. Vander Jagt became the 45th vice president and deep down he knew he was going to become president. He didn’t like to admit nor want to. He had a superstitious feeling that Nixon’s curse would take Cianci but if only he could imagine the firestorm instead of a bullet that ended Cianci’s career.
Guy Vander Jagt answering a question during the confirmation hearing.
Cianci would get his chance to make his mark early on with the retirement of Potter Stewart in July. The vacancy provided an opportunity for him to prove his conservative credentials to the supreme court. The Reaganites still didn’t trust him with him appointing Pete du Pont as Secretary of the Treasury who was on the moderate end of the Republican Party. Furthermore, Cianci refused to touch the public option and wasn’t the one to go on some grand moral crusade for the agitated social conservative faction of the Republican Party. During his term as governor, he tried to remain neutral on the issue of abortion. The state legislature though had other ideas and passed a bill funding Planned Parenthood for the next three years. He had the opportunity to veto it, but he personally didn't care very much about abortion. He cared more about keeping his approval ratings high, so he signed the bill. While the bill was popular in Rhode Island it was unpopular amongst conservatives. Every day the Crane brothers and Pete Domenici tried to pressure him to oppose abortion. When the vacancy came up, he was concerned with getting the conservatives in line for the remainder of his term, so he asked his staff to come up with a supreme court justice who would do exactly that. Bork was at the top of the list, so he picked him on a whim. At that point Cianci wanted to get the conservatives in the GOP to shut up and let him do his own thing rather than complain endlessly about abortion. He nominated Robert Bork the Supreme Court to replace Stewart on July 24th. He was controversial but Cianci was known for his moderate views which helped convince a decent number of Democrats to support the nomination. Begrudgingly the senate would give the green light to Bork as Cianci had a sky-high approval rating due to the assassination of Paul Laxalt. Despite opposition from Ted Kennedy and the liberals of the senate due to Bork’s reactionary views, he would be approved 53-47. James Exon, John C. Stennis, Ernest Hollings, , Bill Schulz, Dennis DeConcini, Wendell Ford, and Walter D. Huddleston voted for Bork. Edward Brooke, Lowell Weicker, and John Chafee voted against the Bork nomination. The Senate didn't want to have a partisan battle until the effects of the Laxalt assassination wore off. The American people supported Bork's nomination due to liking Cianci. Any attempt to quash the nomination would've surely backfired on the Democrats. The Senate confirming Bork by only four votes sent a clear message that another Bork would not be tolerated. It was also just one supreme court justice, Cianci was the man they viewed as reasonable enough to appoint a moderate if another vacancy came up.
Bork getting into a heated exchange with Senator Mondale.
Cianci had now gotten the Reaganites to shut up and could pursue his true agenda. Crime. The first act of the Cianci administration was the Safe American Streets Act or SAS Act. The SAS Act sharply increased the federal budget to fight drug use through mass incarceration. Millions would be set aside to fund new prison contracts to hold these prisoners who for doing drugs would be sent to prison for around ten years on average. Those selling drugs would face up to twenty years. Billions more would be set aside to aid police departments across the country and hire 80,000 new police officers. The SAS Act would pass swiftly 83-16 as very few senators or representatives would dare vote against a bill that would supposedly decrease crime. Of course, it would mainly lead to mass incarceration as drug abusers and small-time sellers clogged up the prison system, ruining tens of thousands of lives for minor offenses. Cianci celebrated the incarceration rate however as evidence that criminals were finally being punished for their sins against society. With crime being cracked down upon at an unprecedented rate Cianci was content with his first year domestically.
Hezbollah militiamen in Qom (2011).
In Iran, the situation only became bloodier. The weapons being sent to Iran only ramped up in 1981 as Cianci viewed winning the Iranian Civil War as the top priority for the United States. Thousands of guns and artillery pieces soon enough found their way into the more radical Islamist factions. The Army of God (Hezbollah) was formed by the radical Mohammad-Javad Bahonar. Hezbollah acted as a militia and a political faction within the National Green Party. After its formation in 1981, it quickly became notorious for numerous crimes against humanity, with them executing hundreds of suspected communist guerrilla fighters without trial or evidence. On the battlefield, they were notorious for not taking prisoners, whether Iraqi or communist. Most importantly though the inability of the National Green Party to condemn Hezbollah for their crimes against humanity alienated the large liberal population of Iran. While the liberal militias fought on the same side as the Islamists, they still didn’t have much trust for them, fearing they would be purged once the civil war ended. Hezbollah didn’t do wonders for the coalition with their death squads running around the country. Cianci attempted to correct the divisions within the anti-communist coalition at a conference in Muscat. The Muscat Conference was aimed at uniting the Islamist and liberal factions. Ali Khamenei represented the Islamists, Abolhassan Banisadr represented the liberals, and Mohammad-Javad Bahonar was the representative of the radicals. The Muscat Conference stands as one of the greatest foreign policy blunders in US history. At first Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld tried to lead the three warring factions in the right direction by emphasizing their collective hatred of communism. This started the meeting out well with Banisadr and Khamenei telling each other how much they appreciated their alliance against the communists. Then Banisadr went on about how much the liberals and the Islamists had in common. Both wanted the same market reforms and to kick out the tyranny of communism.
Unfortunately, as the meeting went on Mohammad-Javad Bahonar grew more agitated with the negotiations. In his view, the liberals were just as bad as the communists due to their secularism and their stark differences in the role of religion in society. As the Muscat Conference quickly turned into a flurry of insults and white-hot rage. Bahonar and Khamenei were staunchly in favor of a theocratic government while Banisadr was in favor of a staunchly secular government. It was these fundamental disagreements that prevented total victory in the Iranian Civil War. Cianci at the last minute cut his tour of the UK short shortly after meeting with Prime Minister Jenkins. As Khamenei and Banisadr were in an intense argument over whether the latter was a traitor to the revolution Cianci burst into the room, with a stoic face and quiet yet threatening tone. He sat between Khamenei and Bahonar and at first, was quiet. Once the arguments started up again, he snapped.
“Listen you son of a bitches. You have two choices here. One, you refuse to work together and allow a godless communist to steamroll your country and kill your families. Or two, you guys put your petty differences aside and win a great victory for liberty against the most tyrannical ideology in human history. You got that?”
The room was stunned by Cianci’s interruption. They had all heard that he could be brash and energetic, but his tone sounded like a mob boss more than a president. Khamenei and Banisadr were silent as they feared angering the man that they owed their country to. Bahonar on the other hand, whether because of his lack of intelligence or bravery spoke up first.
“Mr. President, you’re a religious man, correct?”
“Yes,” said Cianci, sounding more annoyed as each letter came out of his mouth.
“Well, then you’d understand that we must not compromise on the issue of religion in our society. Mr. Banisadr over there is another godless atheist who seeks to destroy the religion that brought the end to the Shah. How the hell are we supposed to work with a godless and sinful man who opposes the fundamental values of Islam!”
Cianci had enough and sprung out of his chair and right into the face of Bahonar. “Are fucking joking? Your party won the election of 1981 and your scared of that man over there? Last time I checked Rajavi and the PIF have the capital under their control and have their boots on the necks of Tehran’s residents and you’re worried about him? The US is the single biggest contributor to Hezbollah, so I’d suggest you’d shut up and get in line! Or your organization will be lacking some necessary funds.”
Bahonar didn’t know how to react to the new president. Cianci was the kind of man who didn’t take shit from anyone and wasn’t willing to go home with a broken anti-communist coalition over some religious disagreements. Bahonar apparently didn’t know this and made the greatest mistake of his life. Bahonar shot back “I will not yield to tools of Zionism and imperialism for your money that you stole in 1953!”
Cianci snapped further and got within an inch of Bahonar’s face and screamed “then enjoy being slaughtered by a bunch of commie bastards you dense asshole! If you think for one minute that I need you, you’re mistaken. You’re the one who needs me.”
“Then why did you call this meeting?” Bahonar screamed back.
Before Cianci could think of a response or punch him in the face the secret service separated the two, thus marking the end of US support for Hezbollah and the radical militias. But the damage was done. Officially the Muscat Conference would end with the liberals and the Islamists officially agreeing that communism was the greatest threat to Iran, not theocracy or secularism. But the agreement they made provided no framework for a joint military as both feared the other side would dominate it and later purge the other side in a military coup.
After the disastrous Muscat Conference Cianci’s approval ratings dipped slightly to around 57% on average. Most Americans hadn’t heard of the Muscat Conference and were happy with a president that had a no-nonsense approach to politics. When the public heard about how he berated Bahonar they ate it up. Seeing their president stand up for what he believed was right during such a tough time always put a smile on their face. After he returned from Muscat, he began to craft a new bill that would begin the end of his downfall. The bill was a $5 billion dollar infrastructure bill that aimed to create an energy-independent United States by developing the oil and gas industry in Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado and building ten new nuclear power plants. The bill itself was rather uncontroversial (minus amongst anti-nuclear groups) as politicians liked it for creating jobs and giving the economy a shot of adrenaline, giving them something they could brag about for their re-election campaign. The bill easily passed and was received very positively by the public. So, what was so bad about the bill? It wasn’t so much the bill but the implementation. Cianci used the bill as a way to reap immense profit as the federal government decided which contracts went to which companies. To keep his name off the records he would give insider information on what companies would get a government contract. In exchange, the friends and family would pay Cianci 20-40% of the profit they made from the stock. The insider trading would go unnoticed for a decent amount of time as Congress didn’t want to investigate another president unless they had hard evidence of wrongdoing. Especially one whose whole appeal was his anti-corruption. Without, wiretapping Cianci’s relatives and friends Congress wouldn’t even have enough evidence to start an investigation, making any attempt to bring Cianci to justice look like a Democratic witch hunt.
For the time being Cianci raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars from stock increases alone as no one in Congress dared to investigate the friend of the martyred Laxalt. But after around a month with not a peep from Congress, he proceeded to look for a new way to benefit from the energy bill. First, he wanted to give back to the state that contributed the most to his rise to the presidency. One of the ten nuclear power plants was set to be built near Cumberland due to heavy pressure by Cianci. The city wasn’t chosen at random though, just like all the projects he had something to gain. This time he used his friends in Rhode Island to find the best way to rake in the cash. Cumberland was designated as the building place for the nuclear power plant due to it being an unassuming town that would serve as a great place for embezzling money. Cianci had won the city in his 1978 run for the governorship and was very popular there, allowing him to get away with a few funds going missing. The construction of the Diamondhill Power Plant was notoriously slow and expensive as the project kept running over budget. The state government would be in charge of constructing the plant. Governor Claudine Schneider originally planned to use a local construction company for the project but at the behest of Cianci and his Chief of Staff Edward D. DiPrete, she would give the state government control over the construction. At the time she didn’t know why Cianci and DiPrete wanted to have the state government-run the construction process but later she would find out the true reason. Cianci during his time as governor stacked the state government to the brim with his goons that would be more than happy to launder him some money when the time came for a little bit of influence or cash themselves. The folks in charge of the Construction Commission were all in Cianci’s pockets and as the construction went on more and more money was unaccounted for unless you were Buddy Cianci and Edward DiPrete of course. Schneider attempted to crack down on the theft, but Cianci and his goons sabotaged the investigation from the start.
The Diamondhill Power Plant, the most corrupt construction project in US history.
Witnesses with the help of allies in the Cumberland Police Department and FBI were intimidated, threatened with their careers being ruined, or threatened to frame them for stealing the money. All of the witnesses promised secrecy as they feared the police and FBI’s ability to ruin their lives. If anyone had the resources and credibility to ruin their lives it was the local police who everyone trusted and the FBI, who had the full power of the federal government behind them. They didn’t know at the time the president was behind the intimidations, but the police and FBI agents knew full well Cianci was their boss. They respected him for increasing their salaries during his time as governor for the former and during his time as president for the latter. Furthermore, several police officers and FBI agents would extort some money from the witnesses to earn some extra cash on the side. The Cianci crime circle would see countless FBI agents abuse their authority to seize tens of thousands of dollars in cash from those who threatened Cianci’s power. Some tried to go the media, and most were ignored until Cianci’s reign of terror was exposed and impeachment proceedings began. Unfortunately, the Diamondhill Power Plant would be the first and not the last of Cianci’s crimes.