Friday, February 27, 2009

Andrew J. May: war crimes

Andrew Jackson May, at right, with Dwight D. Eisenhower (center) and Chester Nimitz (left). Image from

As head of a military committee during World War II, Andrew Jackson May found himself in a position of significant influence. Unfortunately, a jury decided after the war ended that May had not responsibly used that influence.

Born in Floyd County in Kentucky in 1875, May worked as a teacher before graduating from the Southern Normal Law University and entering that field. In addition to being involved in agriculture, coal mining, and banking, he served as the county attorney for Floyd County and special judge of circuit court for Johnson and Martin counties for two years.

After losing his first attempt in 1928, May was elected to Congress as a Democrat in 1930. He was returned to office in the next seven elections. In 1938, as war loomed closer in Europe and Asia, he became chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs and held the post throughout the entire war and until he left Congress.

Following a tour of the Pacific theater in the summer of 1943, May gave a press conference in which he reassured reporters that American submarines were surviving well because the Japanese were setting their depth charges to explode at too shallow a depth. Some newspapers printed the information; Admiral Charles Lockwood later said that the Japanese took account of the deficiency and that the blunder may have cost the Navy up to ten submarines and 800 sailors. However, author Mike Otlund theorizes that the Japanese may have been experimenting with deeper charges some months prior to May's press conference.

In 1946, accusations surfaced that May had wrongfully used his influence to help build the munitions combine of brothers Murray and Henry Garsson in New York. Time reported that the brothers had ties to the mob and had previously been charged, but not convicted, of crimes ranging from bribery to evasion of corporation laws. The magazine said their company had been "paper-built" in 1942 to provide 4.2-inch shells and quickly won a contract from the government before the company even existed. By the war's end, the combine had done some $78 million in business. While the shells were initially rumored to be highly defective, investigators later found that only 63 misfirings out of every 4 million caused the deaths of 38 men and injuries to 127 others; moreover, the defect rested in the fuses, not in the shells themselves.

May himself was charged with accepting bribes from the brothers, while the Garssons were accused of conspiracy to defraud the government of May's services. Joseph F. Freeman, the Garssons' Washington agent, was also implicated in the crimes but later cleared. In the midst of this turmoil, May lost his re-election bid in 1946 to the Republican candidate, W. Howes Meade.

During an 11-week trial, May was charged with using his sway in Congress to pressure government officials to award contracts to the Garssons, unfreeze their funds, look into a cut-back contract for truck bodies manufactured by the bodies, and seeking draft furloughs or deferments for friends of the Garssons. In return for these favors, May was alleged to have received significant bribes from the brothers. Some of these were in the form of checks or the Garssons depositing money into May's account or paying off notes. By far the largest was money paid to the Cumberland Lumber Company, conveniently located in May's hometown of Prestonburg. The Garssons bought up the company and May served as their agent; prosecutors charged that the company made for a handy front for bribes, as over $50,000 paid by the Garssons went for lumber which they never received.

May said his funding of the Garssons was a way of assisting the war efforts and equated the money to campaign contributions. However, he later admitted that his personal funds had become intermixed with those of Cumberland Lumber. Henry Garsson said the combine had tried to offer May compensation for his work on their behalf, but that he had refused.

The jury returned a remarkably speedy verdict in July of 1947, finding May and the Garssons guilty of three counts of bribery conspiracy after only one hour and 50 minutes of deliberation. May was found to have taken some $53,000 in bribes, but was not required to pay any fine. All three men were sentenced to serve between eight months and two years in prison, and all unsuccessfully appealed the verdict.

May spent nine months in prison in 1950 and was able to return to law work. President Harry Truman granted him a pardon in 1952, and he died in Prestonburg in 1959.

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, The Political Graveyard, "Murray Garsson's Suckers" in Time on Aug. 12 1946, "Garsson Sequel" in Time on Sept. 16 1946, "Judge Denies May, Garsson Plea, Frees One" in the Deseret News on May 14 1947, "Garsson Testifies 'Compensation' Offered Andrew J. May Was Refused" in the Deseret News on June 3 1947, "Handy Andy" in Time on June 9 1947, "May, Garssons Guilty in Bribe Conspiracy Case" in the St. Petersburg Times on July 4 1947, "Garssons and May Ordered to Prison" in the New York Times on Dec. 2 1949, The Pacific Campaign: World War II, the U.S.-Japanese Naval War, 1941-1945 by Dan Van der Vat, Find 'em, Chase 'em, Sink 'em: The Mysterious Loss of the WWII Submarine 'USS Gudgeon' by Mike Ostlund

Saturday, February 21, 2009

William Hull: dodging a bullet

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Though the case of William Hull is more of a matter of military debacle than political scandal, the man and the incident that defamed him have enough political elements to fall into that category as well.

Born in Derby, Connecticut in 1753, Hull graduated from Yale at the age of 19. He briefly taught school before joining the Eighth Massachusetts Regiment in 1775 as the American Revolution began. Hull served throughout the war, helping to liberate Boston and establish a defense north of New York City. He saw action at White Plains (where he was wounded), Trenton, Princeton, Forts Ticonderoga and Stanwix, Saratoga, Monmouth, and Stony Point. After the last engagement, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He declined an invitation to become one of George Washington's aides and remained in the military until his regiment disbanded in 1786, whereupon he settled down in Newton, Massachusetts to practice law.

A Jeffersonian Republican, Hull served as judge in the Massachusetts court of common pleas as well as the state senate. He went on two diplomatic missions to Canada, aiming to secure the evacuation of British troops from western forts they were supposed to have turned over at the end of the war and a treaty to stop Native American attacks in the northwestern portion of the fledgling United States. Neither effort was successful. Hull's military career was far from over. He helped suppress Shay's Rebellion and was major general of the Massachusetts militia from 1798 until 1805.

In 1805, President Thomas Jefferson appointed Hull to be Governor of the Michigan Territory. Boasting only about 5,000 white settlers, the main duty of the post was to secure land from Native Americans there. In 1807, Hull negotiated the Treaty of Detroit with four tribes, acquiring the southeastern portion of modern day Michigan for $10,000 and a $2,400 annuity. Relations between the United States and the Native American tribes did not improve significantly under Hull's governorship, however, and the latter still enjoyed support from the British in Canada in an effort to undermine the new nation.

At the start of the War of 1812, Hull accepted an appointment to command the Army of the Northwest while retaining position of Governor. In the days leading up to the conflict, he initially pushing for a strong naval force on Lake Erie, but later fell behind General Henry Dearborn's strategy of a three-pronged attack on Canada from Detroit, Niagara, and New England. In addition to regular troops, Hull recruited militiamen from Ohio and Kentucky and marched them to Detroit. He felt that the presence of a strong army in Detroit might force the evacuation of British troops from the Canadian territory across the Detroit River.

Unfortunately for Hull, word of the war's declaration was slow to arrive. As the column proceeded to Michigan, Hull sent a schooner of invalid men, supplies, and documents up to Detroit to help speed the march. The vessel was captured at Fort Malden by British troops who had received word of the war before Hull, and the captured documents spoiled any chance for surprise the general may have had. In addition, 200 Ohio militiamen refused to serve outside U.S. territory by crossing the river.

Despite these missteps, Hull's invasion of Canada met with initial success. His forces outnumbered the defenders and a proclamation Hull issued caused significant numbers of the opposing forces to desert. However, Hull appears to have been deathly afraid of the Native American factor of the defense. He worried that his supply lines were vulnerable to attack, and, upon hearing that the U.S. outpost at Mackinac had fallen, feared that it would open the way to Native American attacks. These fears were justified to some degree; a garrison from Fort Dearborn (present day Chicago) was attacked and largely killed by Native Americans after Hull called for its evacuation on the belief that its position was not tenable after the fall of Mackinac.

Hull ordered a retreat to Detroit, a decision so unpopular that his junior officers contemplated removing him from command. Hull considered dropping back to Ohio, but was dissuaded after his officers convinced him that his disgruntled army would disintegrate if he ordered it.

Meanwhile, the British forces were reinforced after Dearborn's attack in the east failed to materialize. General Isaac Brock led these forces, bolstered by Native Americans, on Detroit in August of 1812 and put the fort under siege. Though Hull's forces outnumbered Brock's, the morale of the general and the men was low, and Brock knew it thanks to captured papers. Playing off Hull's fear of the Native Americans, Brock sent a document to the fort suggesting (falsely) that a large contingent of Native Americans was standing by to attack the fort.

Despairing of his ability to protect the fort and its civilians, including his own daughter, Hull swiftly surrendered Detroit. Though Hull would later claim a shortage of supplies as a factor in the capitulation, the British found some 30 cannon, 5,000 pounds of gunpowder, and 2,500 muskets in the fort. Brock allowed the militiamen, about 1,600 in all, to go, while Hull and 582 regulars were sent to Montreal for imprisonment.

Hull was later released as part of an exchange, and promptly arrested and brought before a court-martial board. Dearborn headed the board, and future President Martin Van Buren served as its judge advocate. Hull was accused of treason, cowardice, and neglect of duty. Defenders of Hull say he was deprived of counsel and made a scapegoat for the failings of Dearborn and the government. Others argue that Hull's failing at Detroit opened up the northwest to attack, although Detroit had been recaptured by the time Hull appeared before the board in 1814 and 1815.

Ultimately, the board dismissed the treason charge (based on the capture of the schooner) as "unsupported and insupportable." Hull was found guilty of the other charges against him and sentenced to death by firing squad. This never happened, as the board also recommended that President James Madison grant him a reprieve due to his Revolutionary War service and advanced age. Madison did so, but Hull remains the only U.S. general condemned to death.

Hull retired to Newton after the conviction and took up farming. He published tracts in 1814 and 1824 defending his experience during the War of 1812 and died in 1825.

Sources: The National Park Service, Ohio History Central, Great American Lawyers: An Encyclopedia by John R. Vile, Memoir of Gen. William Hull by Samuel Clarke, Encyclopedia of the War of 1812 by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler, The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922 by Clarence Monroe Burton and William Stocking and Gordon K. Miller, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict by Donald R. Hickey

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Michael K. Deaver: drunk with power

Michael Deaver's unflattering Time cover shot. From

Renowned as a public relations guru, Michael Keith Deaver was a successful advocate of Ronald Reagan. However, he had a serious misstep not long after leaving the White House behind.

Born in California in 1938, Deaver graduated from San Jose State University and went to work on the campaign of one of Ronald Reagan's competitors for the Republican nomination for Governor of California. Deaver switched teams after Reagan's nomination and worked with him during his two terms as Governor, starting in 1967. It was the start of a longtime friendship with Reagan and his wife, Nancy. After Reagan left office, Deaver continued to do public relations work on his attempts to reach the White House. He was also credited for rescuing Reagan from choking on a peanut in 1976 by administering the Heimlich maneuver.

After Reagan was elected President in 1980, Deaver joined his staff as Deputy Chief of Staff. He was largely credited with setting up several successful photo ops for the President, including one atop the Great Wall of China and one where Reagan helped fill sandbags in the aftermath of a Louisiana flood. In 1985, Deaver gave May 15 as his final day of White House service, saying he intended to go on to found his own lobbying firm.

Unfortunately, his reputation as an image-maker suffered a blow only weeks before his departure when he arranged for Reagan to take a trip to a military cemetery in Bitburg, Germany during a tour of Europe. The 2,000 or so graves in the cemetery included 49 members of the infamous Nazi SS and the visit provoked anger in the Jewish community. The incident did not shake the relationship between Deaver and Reagan. "I have never found any fault with anything he is doing, with his loyalty, with his friendship, and with the common sense he has always used," said Reagan. "And that extends to the arrangements for this trip, and the part that he has played in the arranging of this trip." He likened Deaver's resignation to an "amputation."

Deaver's firm was met with almost instant success. His clients included CBS, Trans-World Airlines, and Philip Morris. He negotiated a $1.7 million contract with the South Korean government and associated businesses, as well as a $1.5 million contract with the Saudi Arabian government. He also lobbied for the Canadian government on the issue of acid rain. The firm collected some $3.2 million in fees in its first year, and a London-based firm offered to buy it out for $18 million. The deal never went through, as accusations about Deaver's practices started to fly.

In 1986, Time published an article accusing Deaver of using his connections to the White House to boost his own success. It was revealed that Deaver retained a White House pass, as well as tennis privileges, and still received the President's confidential daily schedule (he later gave up these perks). Specifically, he was accused of violating the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, which forbids senior government officials from influencing the government where they had worked until two years after they left. Congressman John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, called for an independent counsel investigation into Deaver's practices. Deaver readily complied, and denied any wrongdoing before Congress and a grand jury. As the investigation progressed and an indictment looked more likely, Deaver tried to get an injunction by contesting the constitutionality of the Ethics in Government Act. It didn't work, and in March of 1987 Deaver was indicted on five counts of perjury. These charged him with lying about not contacting any government officials on behalf of the Canadian and South Korean governments as well as TWA, Smith Barney Harris Upham & Company, and Puerto Rican interests.

During a seven-week trial, Deaver revealed that he suffered from alcoholism and suggested that it may have blurred his memory enough to make him forget making calls to government officials. Believing the state did not have a solid case, Deaver's lawyers called none of over 200 potential witnesses they had. The gambit backfired, as the judge ruled that Deaver's alcoholism defense could not be used without backing from expert witnesses.

After 27 hours of deliberation, the jury found Deaver guilty in December of 1987 on three counts of perjury (specifically, the charges related to TWA, South Korea, and Puerto Rico, where Deaver was charged with approaching Reagan's Security Adviser and trying to secure a tax break for the island). He was sentenced in 1988 to three years of probation and a $100,000 fine, and also ordered to do 1,500 hours of community service.

Deaver sought to appeal the conviction, but was dealt a blow later in the year when the Supreme Court ruled 7-1 that the appointment of special prosecutors was not unconstitutional. In 1989, he dropped his attempts at appeal. Though barred from lobbying for three years after his conviction, Deaver returned to global public relations work in 1992 when he joined Edelman International. He remained close to the Reagans, even helping to coordinate the former President's funeral in 2004. For 16 years, he served on the board of the Washington substance abuse treatment center Clean and Sober Streets. He died of pancreatic cancer in 2007.

Sources: Historical Encyclopedia of U.S. Independent Counsel Investigations by Gerald S. Greenberg, Civic Repentance by Amitai Etzioni, "Deaver to Leave May 15" in the New York Times on March 27 1985, "Reagan Praises Aide Deaver, Who is Leaving" in the St. Petersburg Times on May 11 1985, "Topics; Boasts and Insults; Strange Loyalty" in the New York Times on May 18 1986, "Deaver is Indicted by U.S. Grand Jury on Perjury Counts" in the New York Times on March 19 1987, "Deaver Found Guilty of Lying 3 Times Under Oath" in the New York Times on Dec. 17 1987, "Supreme Court Upholds Law on Special Prosecutors" in the New York Times on June 30 1988, "Deaver Abandons Appeals on Convictions for Perjury" in the New York Times on Feb. 14 1989, "Michael Deaver, 69, Dies" in the New York Times on Aug. 19 2007, "Reagan Image-Maker Changed American Politics" in the Washington Post on Aug. 19 2007

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Leonard Ray Blanton: pardons for a price

Photo from

Though he dodged criminal charges while in office, Leonard Ray Blanton hardly retired in good standing and his wrongdoing as Governor of Tennessee eventually caught up with him.

Born in Hardin County in 1930, Blanton graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1951 and went on to work as a teacher and co-found a construction company. He was elected to the Tennessee house of representatives in 1964, then as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives in 1966. He continued in that capacity in 1972, when he unsuccessfully ran for a Senate seat.

In 1974, Blanton captured the Democratic nomination for Governor of Tennessee out of a field of 12 candidates. Using the recent Watergate scandal to his advantage, he criticized his Republican opponent, Lamar Alexander, for working with the Nixon Administration (Alexander had been an executive aide to the White House congressional liaison). The tactic worked, and Blanton won the election. During his time in office, he was praised for creating the first Department of Tourism in the country and encouraging foreign investment in the state.

Those achievements, however, were overshadowed by much shadier dealings. In August of 1977, Blanton fired Marie Ragghianti, the chair of the Tennessee Board of Pardons and Paroles. The termination was ostensibly due to Ragghianti missing board meetings and overcharging the state for overtime. Ragghianti argued it was because she exposed the Governor's office for accepting bribes in exchange for prisoner clemency. Ragghianti retained attorney Fred Thompson in the matter, and in 1978 won a $38,000 settlement from the state.

Blanton announced later in the year that he would not seek re-election, and Alexander returned to win the gubernatorial race. In December, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the capitol following an investigation into Ragghianti's allegations that the Governor's administration was accepting bribes to reduce or commute prison sentences. Undercover agents, testing how far the administration would go, met with a bodyguard and asked how much it would take to secure the release of James Earl Ray, who had murdered civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. The bodyguard responded that Ray was too high-profile a prisoner for clemency, but it was possible that he could be allowed to escape for the right price (incidentally, Ray did escape in 1977 along with a handful of other inmates; it was unlikely to be a Blanton administration plot, however, since Blanton promptly called in the troops and Ray and his fellow fugitives were recaptured within days).

The FBI arrested T. Edward Fisk, Blanton's legal counsel, as well as extradition officer Charles Benson and Charles Frederick Taylor, a member of the security personnel. Blanton himself was called to testify before the grand jury, where he declared his innocence. Benson was later acquitted, and Fisk and Taylor were found guilty of conspiracy and sentenced to serve five years in prison.

Blanton was never charged in the clemency scandal, but made the ill-advised decision on January 15, 1979 to pardon three prisoners and reduce the sentences of 49 others, including 24 convicted murderers. Receiving the most attention was Roger Humphreys, who had murdered his ex-wife and her lover in 1973 and was not up for parole until 1984. Blanton commuted his sentence to time served. Humphreys, the son of a Blanton campaign manager, had already been subject to cushy treatment, including working as a photographer for the state. Blanton summoned Tennessee Secretary of State Gentry Crowell to his office to witness the process and, commenting on the mass clemency, said, "This takes guts." Crowell is said to have bitterly replied, "Yeah, well, some people have more guts than brains."

Blanton claimed that the pardons and commutations were meant only to reduce the prison population, but they provoked outrage. Suspecting that Blanton would pardon prisoners related to the bribery scandal, the FBI collaborated with state government officials to control the damage and have Alexander sworn into office on Jan. 17, three days ahead of schedule. Alexander said he did not think there was anything he could do about the eleventh-hour clemencies, and a state court of criminal appeals later upheld all of them.

The clemency scandal was not the only accusation facing Blanton. In the time leading up to his ignominious exit from office, he had been accused of selling used state vehicles to family and friends for a fraction of their value, rigging bids for road projects, putting his girlfriend on the payroll of a regional commission, and using the state's Lear jet for travel instead of selling it as promised.

Blanton was also accused of granting 12 licenses to liquor stores run by political allies during his time as Governor in exchange for a kickback of a portion of their income. That charge stuck. In June 1981, he was convicted of conspiracy, extortion, and mail fraud. Blanton was sentenced to serve three years in prison and pay an $11,000 fine. The conviction was overturned on appeal in 1983, but reinstated the same year. Blanton began serving his prison sentence in 1984. While behind bars, the movie Marie premiered. Based on a book detailing Marie Ragghianti's exposure of corruption in Blanton's government, it starred Fred Thompson as himself and marked his first role as an actor. Thompson later went on to become a U.S. Senator for Tennessee.

Released after 22 months, Blanton began working as a radio commentator and used car salesman. His citizenship rights were restored in 1987, and in 1988 he made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination to replace a retiring Congressman. Fighting to clear his name in the courts, he was successful in getting a federal court to overturn the mail fraud charges in 1988.

Blanton died of kidney disease in 1996. Alexander became the first Tennessee Governor to be elected to a second four-year term in 1982, then went on to be a Secretary of Education under George H.W. Bush. In 2002, he was elected to the U.S. Senate (replacing Thompson) and is currently serving in that capacity.

Sources: National Governors Association, the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, "A Story of Pardons" in the Evening Independent on Jan. 18 1979, "New Tenn. Governor Tries to Block Stormy Pardons" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Jan. 19 1979, "Blanton's Pardons Upheld" in the Washington Post on April 11 1979, "Ex-Tennessee Governor Sentenced to 3 Years" in the New York Times on August 15 1981, "Ex-Gov. Blanton's Comeback Derailed in Tennessee Race" in the Washington Post on Aug. 5 1988, "Blanton Verdict in Tennessee Upset" in the New York Times on Feb. 12, 1983, "Conviction is Reinstated for Ex-Gov. Blanton" in the New York Times on April 8, 1983, "Blanton Starts Jail Term" in the New York Times on July 4 1984, "At the Movies" in the New York Times on Sept. 27 1985, "Blanton's Rights Restored" in the New York Times on Oct. 22 1987, "Mail Fraud Conviction of Blanton Dismissed" in the New York Times on Jan. 31 1988, "Ray Blanton, 66, Ex-Governor Ousted in a Tennessee Scandal" in the New York Times on Nov. 23 1996, "Bringing Down the Corrupt" in the Concord Monitor on Dec. 12 2007, The Rise of the States: Evolution of American State Government by John C. Teaford,

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Victor L. Berger: the comeback kid

Image from

Of the politicians I've written about so far, several have demonstrated their popularity by winning re-election even in the face of scandal or criminal proceedings. Victor Luitpold Berger, a Wisconsin congressman, showed that he had backing enough to do so twice in as many months.

Born in Austria-Hungary in 1860, Berger emigrated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1878 with his family. After working as a metal polisher and teacher, he became the editor and publisher of several newspapers, including Wahrheit and the Social Democratic Herald (which he later converted to the Milwaukee Leader). He was one organizer of Social Democracy in 1897 and the Social Democratic Party in 1898, which became the Socialist Party after 1900. After an unsuccessful 1904 bid for Congress, Berger was elected to represent Wisconsin's Fifth District in 1910 and served one term before he was defeated for re-election.

Returning to his work in journalism, Berger vociferously opposed American entry into the First World War. He published several editorials and made numerous speeches to that effect, arguing that entry into the war would only be justified if the United States was invaded, that commercial interests run by non-fighting plutocrats would be the main benefactors, and that labor movements would not benefit because any strikes would be denounced as treasonous during wartime. After the United States entered the war in April of 1917, Berger signed a proclamation denouncing the declaration of war as a crime against the people of the U.S. and the world.

After the declaration of war, Congress passed the Espionage Act to curb activities that were supposedly detrimental to the war effort. It included a punishment of imprisonment for anyone "making false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces," and allowed the post office to block any mail "advocating or urging treason, insurrection, or forcible resistance to any law of the United States." The Leader was promptly hit by the latter provision when the Postmaster General stripped the paper of its second-class mailing privileges and blocked all first-class mail going to it.

After an unsuccessful bid for the Socialist nomination to Senate, Berger was indicted on federal charges of violation of the Espionage Act in February of 1918. Despite the indictment and pending trial, Berger was elected in November (a matter of days before the war's conclusion) to once again represent the Fifth District. A year after his indictment, Berger and four co-defendants accused of antiwar activities unrelated to Berger's were found guilty of violating the Espionage Act and sentenced to serve 20 years in prison.

All appealed the verdict and were freed on bail. Berger said he would not retract any of his arguments, maintaining that the war had been a capitalist one and that a "verdict like the one rendered in this court would be impossible in any other civilized country today, with the possible exception of Japan." He added that antiwar suppression would only lead to an "ill-natured, secretive, and dangerous movement" and criticized the newly formed League of Nations as a "thin screen behind which the capitalistic classes of the winning side are dividing the spoils."

Despite the conviction, Berger maintained that he was entitled to his seat in Congress. A special committee was formed and recommended that Berger should not be seated. In November of 1919, the House voted 309 to 1 to follow the recommendation on the argument that Berger had violated a section of the Fourteenth Amendment barring the seating of government representatives who had previously taken an oath of office and later engaged in rebellion or provided comfort to an enemy. The sole dissenter was Edward Voight, a Wisconsin Republican. Berger defended his actions, saying he had not inhibited the war effort in any way.

The Governor of Wisconsin, Emanuel L. Philipp, called a special election for December to fill the vacancy. Berger was once again nominated as the Socialist candidate, facing Henry H. Bodenstab, a candidate chosen by a caucus of Republicans, Democrats, and the Good Government League. Philipp urged voters to support Bodenstab, believing Congress would simply not seat Berger again if he were re-elected. Instead, Berger gained about 8,000 votes over the November election.

When he showed up to claim his seat again in January of 1920, Berger gained some support from both Democrats and Republicans, but not nearly enough. James R. Mann, an Illinois Republican, said Berger deserved the seat due to the back-to-back elections from his district. "Has it come to the point that a man who believes certain things cannot be heard?" he asked. Joe Eagle, a Texas Democrat, denounced Mann's argument. He said that it would allow any candidate to be seated if elected, even if they did not meet constitutional requirements. Expanding his distaste for Berger to the Fifth District, Eagle said, "Under Mr. Mann's argument, because Berger has constituents un-American enough that they approve his infamy, you must allow to sit in your company a man who, at the time the nation's destiny was at stake, struck, in the interest of the Central Empires, treacherously against the flag which protected him."

The vote not to seat Berger passed 328 to 6. The Socialist Party defiantly nominated Berger for a third go-round but Philipp, declaring that another special election would be too costly, said the district would go without a congressman until one was chosen in the 1920 election. Zechariah Chafee, a Harvard University law professor, wrote in that year that the argument that Berger was not qualified to serve under the Fourteenth Amendment didn't hold water, and that the denial of mail services was "confusing opposition to the war with wishing the enemy to win." However, Chafee also assured readers that he "thoroughly detest[ed] the attitude of Berger," seeing him as using the war as "an impersonal step in an economic argument." Perhaps to save another hassle, voters chose Republican candidate William H. Stafford over Berger in the 1920 election.

In 1921, the Supreme Court found that Berger and his co-defendants were entitled to a new trial. The justices determined that the judge in the case, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, should have excused himself from the matter due to prior inflammatory statements he had made against German immigrants, Socialists, and radicals. In 1923, all cases against Berger were dropped.

Berger won the 1922 election to Congress, and was seated without issue. He went on to win the next two elections before again losing to Stafford in 1928. Returning to newspaper work, Berger died in 1929 of injuries sustained after he was struck by a streetcar. Time recalled that his proposals in Congress included advocating the replacement of the Senate with a nationwide referendum, repealing Prohibition, establishing an old age pension bill and unemployment insurance, and nationalizing railroads, telegraphs, and telephones.

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "Berger Sentenced to 20-Year Term" in the New York Times on Feb. 20 1919, "House Refuses to Seat Berger" in the New York Times on Nov. 11 1919 "Berger Elected by 4,806 Majority" in the New York Times on Dec. 20 1919, "House Again Denies Berger His Seat" in the New York Times on Jan. 21 1920, "Berger Conviction Reversed by Court" in the New York Times on Feb. 1 1921, "Burgher Berger" in Time on Aug. 19 1929, Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism by Geoffrey R. Stone, From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A History of the Fight for Free Speech in America by Christopher M. Finan, Freedom of Speech by Zechariah Chafee Jr., The Political Graveyard