Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ricardo J. Bordallo: trouble in paradise

Image from guampedia.com

The tiny island of Guam might seem like an unlikely contributor to political corruption in the United States, and any incident causes less of a stir in the country than federal or state matters. Guam is located 3,700 miles west of Hawaii, or three-quarters of the way to the Philippines, and is across the International Date Line. The 212-square-mile island was captured by the United States in 1898 during the Spanish-American War, lost to Japan in 1941 during World War II, and retaken in 1944 during the same war.

Important as a site of strategic military bases, Guam was previously under control the U.S. Naval Administration before the Guam Organic Act transferred administrative duties to the Department of the Interior. As a territory of the United States, the inhabitants of the island, made up mostly of the indigenous Chamorro population, have a government that can be viewed as either quasi-independent or lacking in certain rights. Guam residents were declared U.S. citizens in the Guam Organic Act, and they can vote in presidential primaries but not the election itself; later, a nonvoting delegate would be able to represent the island in the House of Representatives. Important to the case of Ricardo Jermone Bordallo, Guam's residents began electing their own governors in 1970, ending the practice of the presidential appointments to the office. Also important in Bordallo's history is the fact that the U.S. federal district court system can try cases related to Guam.

Bordallo was born in 1927 in Agana, the island's capital. He was attending high school when Japanese forces invaded in 1941, forcing the school to shut down. Following the war, Bordallo attended San Francisco University, but returned after three years to work for Bordallo Incorporated, the family business. Eventually, Bordallo came to own a successful automobile company and became involved in business pursuits in several fields, including tourism, finance, real estate, housing, and publishing. Less successful was an attempt to start a tourist resort in Chalan Pago/Yona during the 1970s. After two Japanese corporations pulled out of the deal, Bordallo was left owing millions in land investments.

When he was 24, Bordallo ran for a seat in the territorial legislature during the 1952 election. Although the minimum age to serve in the body was 25, he was able to argue that his campaign was still legitimate because he would be of age by the time he took office if he was elected. He was unsuccessful in that year, as well as 1954, but was elected in 1956. He was re-elected in the next seven contests.

Bordallo was a member of the Popular Party, and chaired the party for one year after it was reorganized as the Guam Democratic Party in 1960. In 1968, the Elective Governorship Act allowed Guam citizens to choose their own governors. The governor and lieutenant governor would run on the same ticket for a four-year term, and could serve two consecutive terms; after that, the ticket would have to sit out an election period before it would be allowed to run again. In 1970, the first year the new election took place, Bordallo was nominated to run with Richard Taitano, another legislator. However, the duo lost to the Republican ticket of Carlos Camacho, the appointed Governor, and running mate Kurt Moylan. However, the presence of two Republican contenders in 1974 allowed Bordallo and running mate Rudolph Sablan to assume office.

Bordallo was immediately confronted with economic problems from the oil embargo and a slump in tourism. Adding to the difficulties were super typhoon Pamela, which devastated the island in 1976, and the influx of some 100,000 refugees from the Vietnam War. These last two factors both served to heighten Bordallo's concern with the island's infrastructure; the refugees, using Guam as a staging area if not a permanent new home, represented a dramatic increase in population, which stood at about 85,000 in 1970. Following the typhoon, Bordallo managed to secure $367 million for recovery and infrastructure, which went toward transportation and sewer projects, constructing a hospital, and tourism developments at Tumon Bay. Despite these efforts, Bordallo lost the 1978 election, where he ran with Dr. Pedro Sanchez, an educator and historian.

Four years later, Bordallo was once again back in office after a successful bid with Edward Diego Reyes, an Air Force Colonel. In this term, Bordallo pushed for improved education, including the accreditation of the University of Guam. He also invested $1.2 million to create the Adelup administrative facility, which is now named in his honor. Bordallo was also a strong proponent of commonwealth status for Guam, which would increase the degree of self-government on the island. He helped draft the Guam Commonwealth Act in 1986; the document was presented to Congress in 1988, but ultimately drifted through the next eight years with no result.

In September of 1986, three days before the Democratic primary, Bordallo was dealt a blow when he was indicted on 11 criminal corruption charges, along with his assistant chief of staff. The Governor was charged with selling his influence in exchange for government contracts or approvals. Bordallo suggested that a Republican conspiracy was at work, but also that the investigation "reeks of colonialism and even racism." Expanding on the idea, he said, "When the United States Attorney decides to call together the grand jury to indict the leader of the territory on the eve of an election, it is a direct challenge to our people's right to govern themselves."

The indictment came too late to affect the primary, which Bordallo won. He asked that the trial on the charges be delayed until after the election, but the court refused and set a date for October, 13 days before the contest. The trial did end up getting pushed back, but not for a reason that favored Bordallo: further investigation was needed regarding a $300 million municipal bond issue. When November came, Bordallo lost to Joseph Ada and his running mate, Frank Blas.

Shortly after the defeat, a superseding indictment was handed down against Bordallo charging him with six additional criminal counts related to the bond issue. All told, he was accused of extortion, bribery, wire fraud, witness tampering, attempted extortion, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and conspiracy to commit extortion and bribery. The new charges were a result of a plea agreement by John D. Gilliam, Bordallo's economic adviser, who had provided evidence as part of his guilty plea to wire fraud. The bond, which aimed to support low-cost housing, was essentially backed by fake firms and con men and bilked Guamanians out of $14-20 million in tax dollars. Meanwhile, one of the banking firms in the project had sent $70,000 to support Bordallo's re-election campaign.

The other incidents alleged contributions to Bordallo's campaign in exchange for government favors. The largest involved $60,000, funneled through the owner of an engineering firm who supported Bordallo, for the approval of a scrap metal plant. There was also a $10,000 gift from a businessman, a contribution Bordallo acknowledged (perhaps accidentally) at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon. In a third matter, the head of the Guam Telephone Authority, related to Bordallo by marriage, was charged with directing a $9,600 debt payment to a private telephone company to go to Bordallo's re-election fund. Finally, Bordallo was accused of awarding a government contract for a $103,000 project to another engineering firm on the condition that it hired his campaign manager.

In February of 1987, a jury found Bordallo not guilty of the charges related to the faulty bond. However, he was found guilty on 10 of the counts, charging bribery, extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and witness tampering. He was sentenced to serve nine years in prison with five years of probation, pay a $35,000 fine, and pay the full $79,600 in corrupt campaign contributions as restitution.

Bordallo appealed the conviction, and won some reprieve. In August of 1988, his convictions on all but two of the counts were overturned after he challenged the jury selection, instructions to the jury, evidentiary hearings, and sufficiency of the evidence. The bribery charges were thrown out in part because the court determined that the statute used in the conviction specifically mentioned state officials and did not apply to Guam's territorial government. However, the court found that there was sufficient evidence to convict Bordallo on the conspiracy to obstruct justice and witness tampering charges, where the Governor had been accused of instructing a witness to lie to the grand jury.

Despite these troubles, Bordallo continued to do political work. He spearheaded a group of delegates attending the 1988 Democratic National Convention, where he said there was sympathy among the group for Jesse Jackson due to Jackson's support of self-determination for the United States territories. Bordallo also continued to push the commonwealth bill and speak against casino gambling in Guam.

Meanwhile, Bordallo continued his attempts to purge the last two charges against him, but without success. He was unable to appeal the matter to the Supreme Court. Though his 1988 appeal had succeeded in reducing his sentence, he was still facing four years in prison and was scheduled to depart for a federal prison in California on January 31, 1990.

Instead, Bordallo chose to emulate R. Budd Dwyer, who had chosen his own future just weeks before Bordallo's conviction in 1987. About three hours before his flight, the former Governor drove to a busy intersection in Agana. He chained himself to a statue of Kepuha (or Quipuha), the first indigenous chief to adopt Christianity. He also placed four placards around him, as well as Guam's flag (though some accounts say he wrapped himself in the banner). Bordallo then shot himself in the head with a .38-caliber revolver, dying soon after of massive brain trauma at a hospital. The placards contained different statements lamenting the loss of Chamorro control of the island and proclaiming Bordallo's own love for Guam. One read, "I regret that I only have one life to give to my island."

Bordallo's widow, Madeline, whom he had married in 1953, ran unsuccessfully for Governor in the same year of her husband's death. She was later elected Lieutenant Governor and currently serves as Guam's delegate to the House of Representatives.

Sources: The Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook, The Department of the Interior Office of Insular Affairs, The United States Census Bureau, "100,000th Refugee Is Honored" in the St. Petersburg Times on May 14 1975, "Guam Governor Indicted On Bribery Charges" in The Free-Lance Star on Sept. 3 1986, "Guam's Governor Indicted On Bribery Charges" in the Mohave Daily Miner on Sept. 3 1986, "Indicted Democrat Defeated In Bid To Be Guam Governor" in the New York Times on Nov. 7 1986, "Guam Lobbies Convention For Self-Rule Status" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Jul. 21 1988, "Ex-Guam Governor Kills Himself On Eve of Jailing For Corruption" in the New York Times on Feb. 1 1990, "Governor Commits Suicide" in the Manila Standard on Feb. 1 1990, "Nation: Guam Governor Wins Re-Election" in the Los Angeles Times on Nov. 6 1990, United States of America v. Ricardo Bordallo, Destiny's Landfall: A History of Guam by Robert F. Rogers, "Governor Ricardo J. Bordallo" by Nicholas Quinata in Guampedia

Sunday, June 28, 2009

William Lorimer: the fall of the "blond boss"


Image from bioguide.congress.gov

William Lorimer had served about a year in the United States Senate before he was put on the defensive. Openly referred to as the "blond boss" of Chicago, Lorimer maintained his innocence through three inquiries into whether he had been fairly appointed to his seat. Though he had always been popular in his home district, perhaps by enforced methods, it did little to help him on the national stage.

Lorimer was born in Manchester, England in 1861 and came to the United States with his parents when he was five years old. The family moved to Chicago in 1870, and Lorimer entered a variety of low-level jobs. Most sources say he worked as a newsboy, a bootblack, and in the city's packing houses. Others include titles as laundry solicitor and department store cash-boy in the list.

Lorimer was able to lift himself into city politics when he was still very young. After landing a job as a streetcar conductor, he organized the Street Railways Employees' Benevolent Association and was elected constable in 1886. Dabbing in real estate and construction work, he was named assistant superintendent of water main construction the next year and superintendent of the water department soon after. His first stab at elected office, a race for a superior court clerk's position, was met with failure in 1892.

Two years later, Lorimer set his sights higher and ran as a Republican for the House of Representatives. The Chicago Journal did not spare words in their opinion of the burgeoning boss's fitness for office: "His only demonstrated qualification of any kind is a 'pull' in Democratic wards," the paper stated. "He knows considerable about carrying primaries, but he knows no more about political, industrial, or social subjects than does a hole in the ground which doesn't care what goes down it." Lorimer's working class background and lack of serious education may have been seen as drawbacks. But his political machine, which exploited the largely illiterate immigrant population, organized wards in the city and Cook County, and promised rewards of public grants and contracts, probably helped with his election to the House.

Lorimer was returned to the House in 1896. The New York Times quoted him as saying in the month after the election that he would "quit politics for good" after casting a vote for Speaker of the House and a tariff bill. There was also speculation that he would run for mayor of Chicago. Neither turned out to be true, as Lorimer went on to win re-election in 1898 with the help of a circus-like campaign, where large tents were set up with music and political jokes. In 1900, Lorimer failed to win re-election, but came back in 1902. In a glimpse of things to come, his Democratic opponent charged that questionable tactics had been used in the race; however, Lorimer was able to keep the seat and win the next four elections.

In January of 1909, the Illinois legislature took up deliberations to choose a Senator, as the term of Republican Senator Albert Jarvis Hopkins was set to expire in March of that year. The matter soon became a protracted battle, as Hopkins was able to come within 20 to 30 votes of confirmation but never achieved the majority needed to break the deadlock. Lorimer's name was not introduced into the process until much later, when a single vote in favor of him on one ballot hinted that he might be under consideration. On the legislature's 95th ballot, Lorimer was appointed Senator after 108 members (55 Republicans and 53 Democrats) voted in favor of him. Ninety legislators were opposed.

The confirmation was not without incident; U.S. District Attorney and former Illinois Lieutenant Governor William A. Northcott was escorted from the floor by policemen after lobbying on behalf of Hopkins. Democratic state representative Lee O'Neil Browne took offense when another legislator insinuated that improper means had been used to attain the result. "I do not know what the gentleman means, but if he means that improper influences have been used then he is a liar," said Browne. "I hope he did not mean it. But if he did and will repeat his words to me outside of this hall I will pledge you that one of us will never make those remarks again."

When the vote was taken, the New York Times referred to Lorimer as an "ex-boss," since his ally-turned-rival Charles S. Deneen had brought together enough factions to win the state's gubernatorial race in 1904. However, the paper also mentioned that he remained strong in his own district. During the 61st Congress, which stretched through the deliberations of the Illinois legislature, Lorimer chaired the Committee on Expenditures in the Department of the Navy. Entering the Senate in June of 1909, he chaired the Committees on Mines and Mining as well as the Pacific Islands and Puerto Rico.

In April of 1910, the Chicago Tribune published a confession by Democratic state representative Charles A. White that he'd received $1,000 to vote for Lorimer during the Illinois legislature's debate. White said he'd also gotten $900 out of a "jackpot" used to influence the nomination process once the legislature had closed its session. Over the course of the next month, two more Democratic representatives said they had also been bribed, and a state senator said he'd received $2,500 for his vote. Though the confessors charged two other legislators in the matter as well, they all agreed that one man was the principal actor in the scandal: Browne, the Democratic leader of the lower house who had so pugnaciously denied any wrongdoing the previous year.

Lorimer, of course, denied the accusations and said they were part of an attempt to undermine the La Salle Street Trust and Savings Bank, which he had started in 1910. The Tribune reported in July that a vote-buying scandal may have been playing out on both sides: another plan had allegedly been in the works to buy 17 Democratic votes for Hopkins at $2,000 a pop, but the plot was had been aborted by the Speaker of the Illinois legislature and the state's Democratic National Committeeman. Both men denied there had ever been such a scheme. In September, Browne was acquitted on bribery charges after two trials.

Lending a boost to the scandal's publicity was a very high-level snub of Lorimer in September of 1910. Ex-President Theodore Roosevelt, noting that Lorimer was to be a guest of honor at a dinner of the Hamilton Club in Freeport, Illinois, said he would not attend if the accused Senator would be there. Lorimer's invitation was immediately withdrawn, and Roosevelt's speech at the dinner blasted government corruption. In the Lorimer case, he implicitly expressed his belief that Lorimer was not entitled to the seat by saying, "I defy any honest man of intelligence not to come to the conclusion that the Legislature whose doings have been exposed was guilty of the foulest and basest corruption and, therefore, of the most infamous treason to American institutions."

The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee investigated the matter in September and October, and in December issued the determination that the bribery was not enough to take away Lorimer's majority in the legislature's vote, and thus he had been fairly elected. A minority report in January of 1911 said the Senator was not entitled to his seat, and Republican Senator Elihu Root of New York criticized the majority conclusion as faulty. It didn't matter that Lorimer was not personally involved in the bribery, said Root, and it was not the committee's job to determine whether the Tribune had made a solid enough case; in the end, the election was fraudulent and Lorimer did not have the right to be in the Senate.

Root was not able to outshine Lorimer's memorable three-hour speech, which he made in the Senate in his own defense that same month. Lorimer recalled his poor upbringing, and credited the numerous relationships he had forged in Chicago over the years as the reason for his popularity among Democratic state legislators. He had helped one legislator get an appointment so he could care for his sick wife, he said; another was an associate of a former newsboy whom Lorimer had befriended in his youth. Democrats also supported his efforts to create a waterway from Chicago to the Mississippi River, he argued. When the Senate took up the issue in March, they voted 46-40 that Lorimer had been duly elected.

Meanwhile, the Illinois state senate had begun its own investigation in January of 1911. The biggest revelation of this effort was the discovery of more information on the "jackpot" fund that was used to elect Lorimer. Clarence S. Funk, general manager of the International Harvester Company, said Chicago lumber magnate Edward Hines had asked him to chip in $10,000 toward a $100,000 fund set up for Lorimer's appointment. The senate concluded in a 39-10 vote in May that Lorimer had not been fairly elected, and in June the legislature sent a resolution to the Senate asking for the investigation to be reopened.

Some members of the Senate had been keeping an eye on the Illinois legislature's work, and had already gotten that idea. In April, before the legislature had even issued their conclusion, Republican Senator Robert La Follette asked for the case to be reopened. In June, a select committee of eight Senators from the Committee on Privileges and Elections was appointed to look into the 1909 appointment.

Cyrus McCormick, President of the International Harvester Company, confirmed Funk's story to the committee. The members also heard accusations that Hines had bragged about getting Lorimer elected as a way of keeping a high tariff on lumber. Hines was alleged to have said that the appointment "cost us a lot of money, but he is well worth it to all of us." Edward Tilden, President of the National Packing Company and a bank director, was accused of collecting contributions to recoup the Lorimer backers. Hines, in his testimony before the committee, threw some blame on President Howard Taft, saying he had urged support of Lorimer in order to have his vote in favor of the Aldrich-Payne Tariff Bill; Taft issued a denial of the accusation.

When the investigation concluded in February of 1912, five members of the committee concluded that Lorimer could keep his seat, while three were against it. Despite this finding, Lorimer was on much shakier ground following this third investigation. The alleged corrupt vote count from the legislature's 1909 action was up to 10: enough to have affected the final tally. Vice President James Sherman even asked him to resign, saying it would spare the Republican Party serious ill effect before the presidential election later in the year. Lorimer refused. "I was elected to the United States Senate honestly, and I would rather stand up and be counted out by my colleagues than to yield to any pressure to resign under fire," he said.

The Senate debate on the issue took place in June and July to allow the primaries to take place during the spring. Lorimer went on the offense while speaking on his own behalf in July, criticizing Senators who had been seeking his resignation and accusing the Chicago newspapers of turning public opinion against him. The "trust press," he said, did not pay their fair share of taxes. He charged Governor Deneen with taking more in fees than he deserved. He said Taft had treated him poorly, though the President apparently only said that he hoped the Senate would vote on the side of honesty and decency in the matter. Recalling Teddy Roosevelt's statements in 1910, Lorimer said, "He wants to get rid of the bosses. He doesn't want them on his side--especially if the people know him."

Soon after, the Senate voted 55-28 that "corrupt methods and practices were employed in [Lorimer's] election, and that the election, therefore, was invalid." Thus expelled, Illlinois went on with one Senator until March of 1913, when Republican and former Illinois Lieutenant Governor Lawrence Yates Sherman was elected to replace him.

Lorimer's troubles were not quite over. In 1914, the La Salle Street Bank and Trust failed, and Lorimer and other bank officials were indicted on charges that they misappropriated funds. Of the hundreds of thousands of dollars lost in the collapse, Lorimer was accused of making off with $70,000. He was acquitted after a trial, but the bank's vice president, William B. Munday, was convicted and served part of a prison sentence. In 1923, the indictments against both men were withdrawn.

Though he expressed interest in returning to Congress in 1916 and 1919, Lorimer's time in government was over. He returned to private business, getting involved in the timber industry and representing an American syndicate advocating railroad concessions to South America between 1921 and 1924. He did go to Washington again in 1927 to speak on behalf of the waterways issue he had consistently advocated, and in 1928 appeared in Congress on a flood control issue. He was met with some hostility by Congressman John Schafer, a Wisconsin Republican, who said Lorimer had been expelled from Congress and that his lumber company owned land in the area where the government could potentially buy up floodplains. Lorimer said he owned 1,000 acres in the area, but would be willing to give up the land rather than sell it.

In 1934, Lorimer collapsed in a Chicago railroad station, dead of a heart condition.

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "A Republican Nominee for Congress" in the New York Times on Aug. 13 1894, "Intends to Quit Congress" in the New York Times on Dec. 9 1896, "The Jesters of Chicago" in the New York Times on Oct. 2 1898, "To Contest An Election" in the New York Times on Dec. 21 1902, "Lorimer A Senator" in the New York Times on May 27 1909, "Tells of Bribes to Elect Lorimer" in the New York Times on May 1 1910, "Lies, Cries Lorimer; Another Confesses" in the New York Times on May 29 1910, "Tried to Bribe Democrats" in the New York Times on Jul. 29 1910, "Roosevelt Ban Put on Lorimer" in the New York Times on Sept. 9 1910, "Root Tells Senate Lorimer Must Go" in the New York Times on Feb. 4 1911, "Issue Taft Denial of Aid to Lorimer" in the New York Times on Mar. 30 1911, "The Lorimer Case Again Before The Senate" in the New York Times on Apr. 7 1911, "Says Hines Boasted He Elected Lorimer" in the New York Times on Apr. 14 1911, "Refused to Give $10,000 For Lorimer" in the New York Times on Jun. 21 1911, "The Lorimer Case" in Volume XLV (April to September 1911) of Munsey's Magazine, "Lorimer Rejects Plea to Resign" in the New York Times on May 26 1912, "Lorimer at Bay" in the New York Times on Jul. 12 1912, "William Lorimer Indicted" in the New York Times on Oct. 9 1914, "National Affairs: Old Blond Boss" in Time on Apr. 30 1928, "Ex-Senator Lorimer Dies in Rail Depot" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Sept. 14 1934, History of the Republican Party in Illinois 1854-1912 by Charles A. Church, The Case of Frank L. Smith: A Study in Representative Government by Carroll Hill Wooddy, Compilation of Senate Election Cases from 1789 to 1913

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Stevenson Archer: defaulted defalcation

Image from comp.state.md.us

Along with a plea of guilty to embezzlement, Stevenson Archer submitted a written statement to the court in 1890 that sought to put the crime in context. Though the note may have given some reassurance as to the moral character of Maryland's treasurer, it might also have dashed any hopes that the state would recover the funds. "No part of the State's money or securities was ever used by me in gambling, stock speculation, or for political purposes;" Archer wrote, "nor have I at this time one dollar left."

Born near Churchville, Maryland in 1827, Archer was the third generation member of a well-known political family. Both his grandfather, John Archer, and his father, Stevenson Archer Sr., served in the state legislature and in the House of Representatives. John Archer fought in the Revolutionary War, and Stevenson Archer Sr. was also a judge in the state's supreme court and court of appeals.

Archer attended the Bel Air Academy and, following in his father's footsteps, attended Princeton University. He graduated in 1848, the same year his father died, and was admitted to the bar in 1850. Continuing in the well-worn path his family had set, Archer was elected as a Democrat to the state's house of delegates in 1854 and, in 1866, to the House of Representatives. He won another three elections to retain that seat, but failed to earn his party's nomination in 1874. A review of Princeton alumni reported that Archer was also a special judge in Cecil County in 1867.

After leaving the House, Archer returned to legal work in Bel Air, Maryland, but later became chairman of the state Democratic Party. He returned to public office in 1886, when he was elected treasurer of Maryland. He was re-elected in 1888, and by that time oversight of his position was becoming more lax. State law held that Archer was to have taken an oath and given a bond after each election. He did so after his first election, but not after the 1888 election. It wasn't until 1889 that he gave a $200,000 bond.

In March of 1890, Democratic Governor Elihu Jackson surprised the state legislature with an announcement: the state auditor, Jackson said, had determined that Archer had misapplied public securities. An investigative committee was formed and found that $127,000 of $572,000 in funds that were supposed to have been deposited by Archer in Baltimore banks were missing. The committee later finalized the stolen amount at $132,401.25.

The main transaction in question was Archer's purchase of railroad bonds for the state in 1889 amounting to a $473,000 sinking fund with a $20,000 premium. The committee found that out of the 140 bonds in this sale, Archer had kept 33 for personal use, with four more unaccounted for that may have also been kept by the treasurer. The exact use that Archer put the funds to is unclear, though it was determined that he had not used the money for political purposes, as had been suspected at first. The New York Times reported that it was thought that he may have been using the money to pay deficiencies on trust estates and hoping to make up for the theft with speculations, which failed. Elihu S. Riley says in A History of the General Assembly of Maryland that legislators felt Archer fell victim to temptations to use state money to pay off a private debt of about $100,000.

The incident brought criticism to Governor Jackson for his failure to oversee the oaths and bonds of the treasurer's office. The legislature was accused of being too lenient in their investigation and letting important witnesses off too easily. The New York Times said Archer was not likely to get a prison sentence in the matter, since "the law is so vaguely drawn that he can escape through loopholes." Though the comment held some truth, it later turned out to be a very poor estimate.

Archer, for his part, continued to enjoy strong support despite the incident. Prior to the revelation of the theft, state comptroller L. Victor Baughman was resolute in his belief that the scandal should be made public, but said he would offer to put $25,000 toward the defalcation; Democrat Thomas M. Lanahan said he would be willing to give $10,000. Though an auction was held to sell off Archer's personal property, neighbors bought up the items and refused to take them away. "His humiliation was a State sorrow," writes Riley. "His gentleness, his courtesy, his everpresent kindheartedness had made him invulnerable to enmity; foes he had none, friends were legion."

It wasn't an easy time for Archer, however. He tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide, and also offered his resignation to Jackson, who refused to accept it. In April of 1890, Archer was charged with embezzlement and his arrest ordered. When he did not show up in court, instead sending a letter saying his physical condition prevented his appearance, he was removed from office and replaced by Edwin H. Brown, a lawyer and brother of a state senator. Archer also vacated his chairmanship of the state Democratic Party.

It seems that the Times was accurate in saying that Archer would try to escape through loopholes, as his lawyers argued that the statute on embezzlement did not cover misappropriation by the treasurer. There was also the question of whether his first bond could pay off the money stolen in his second term, or if the later bond could be used if the theft occurred before it was given. In July, the state's supreme court ruled that the statute was broad enough to try Archer on the charge. Instead, he opted to plead guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison.

The embezzlement proved a heavy blow for the state, as it didn't get much of the money back. In December of 1890, the court ordered Archer's bondsmen liable to reimburse the state for the stolen money. After a legal battle, during which it was argued that paying the full amount would ruin the bondsmen, they were ordered to pay $60,000. However, also citing the possible ruination of the bondsmen, the legislature passed a bill in March of 1892 that had the state pick up $37,000 of that amount. The legislature also passed a bill not long after the theft became known that drastically increased protections of the state funds and securities. The treasurer was no longer allowed to visit the vaults alone, but had to be accompanied by the comptroller. Each was to have a key, and both would be needed to access the vaults; in addition, they were both to record in separate public records the amount of the securities in the vaults.

In 1892, an effort to secure a pardon for Archer due to his failing health was underway. After being given what the New York Times called "one of the strongest [petitions] ever presented to the Executive" 1894, Democratic Governor Frank Brown pardoned Archer. The action shaved a year off the former treasurer's sentence, but Archer's poor health continued for the next several years. In 1898, he died after a year of confinement in a Baltimore hospital.

Sources: The Political Graveyard, The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "State Treasurer Archer Removed" in the New York Times on April 16 1890, "Treasurer Archer's Crime" in the New York Times on Jun. 6 1890, "The Sureties Responsible" in the New York Times on Dec. 30 1890, "Stevenson Archer's Bondsmen" in the New York Times on Mar. 23 1892, "A Bold Lobby Defeated" in the New York Times on Apr. 4 1892, "Seeking Archer's Pardon" in the New York Times on Dec. 16 1892, "Treasurer Archer Pardoned" in the New York Times on May 10 1894, "Stevenson Archer Dead" in the New York Times on Aug. 3 1898, Appletons' Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events of the Year 1890, A History of the General Assembly of Maryland 1625-1904 by Elihu S. Riley, General Catalogue of Princeton University 1746-1906, Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Court of Appeals of Maryland by J. Shaaff Stockett

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thomas J. Dodd: dined and downed

Dodd and son, Chris, in 1946. Image from newsweek.com

In the midst of corruption allegations, Thomas Joseph Dodd declared, "My conscience is clear...I do not believe that anybody can look me in the eye and say I did wrong." With a solid background in legal work, including the prosecution of war criminals, the statement may have seemed accurate. But when an ethics committee determined that Dodd had indeed done wrong, he was buried by a nearly unanimous avalanche of votes in the Senate advocating punishment.

A native of Norwich, Connecticut, Dodd was born in 1907 and went on to graduate from St. Anselm's Preparatory School in 1926, Providence College in 1930, and Yale University's law school in 1933. His first brush with political affairs came at Yale, where he organized a group in support of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal programs. It would be almost two decades before Dodd truly re-entered that field, however. He served as a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation between 1933 and 1934 and state director for the National Youth Administration, an agency seeking to create educational and employment opportunities for young people during the Great Depression, from 1935 to 1938. From 1938 until 1945, he served as an assistant to five Attorneys General in the Justice Department. Here, he helped create a civil rights division and prosecute cases against the Ku Klux Klan and on behalf of labor unions. During World War II, Dodd also handled espionage, sabotage, and industrial fraud cases.

At the end of the war, Dodd became vice-chairman of the Board of Review, and later executive trial counsel for the Office of the United States Chief Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality: the U.S. team in the Nuremberg Trials of 1945 and 1946. Dodd was able to contribute directly to the prosecution of Nazi war criminals, focusing on proving the charge that German political, military, and industrial leaders had conspired to wage an aggressive war. He also determined that the will of Paul von Hindenburg, late President of the Weimar Republic, had been falsified by the Nazis to make it appear to support the rise of the National Socialist government. Among his other tactics, Dodd caused a bit of a stir by displaying the shrunken head of a concentration camp victim at the proceedings.

For his service at Nuremberg, Dodd received a Presidential Citation, U.S. Medal of Freedom, and Czechoslovakian Order of the White Lion. The greatest effect of the proceedings, however, was to inculcate a strong sense of anti-Communism in him. Dodd saw the Soviet government and its tactics as similar to those of the Nazis, namely in their domination of Eastern European countries following the war. When the Soviet-controlled Polish government also tried to present Dodd an award for his service, he refused to accept it. He was later given the Commander of the Order of the Merit award by the President of Italy for his counsel on preventing the spread of Communism there. Nevertheless, Dodd was not so virulently anti-Communist to go along with McCarthyism, and campaigned for Connecticut Senator Brien McMahon as Joe McCarthy tried to uproot him.

After Nuremberg, Dodd returned to Connecticut and practiced law between 1947 and 1953. He contemplated running for Governor in 1948, but never officially did so and later rejected an offer to be Lieutenant Governor. In 1952, Dodd turned his attention to the federal government and was elected as a Democrat to the House of Representatives. He was re-elected in 1954, but lost a 1956 attempt to unseat Republican Senator Prescott S. Bush (father of future President George H.W. Bush). During this time in Congress, Dodd served on the Government Operations and Foreign Affairs Committees and the Select Committee to Investigate Communist Aggression. In 1958, he again ran for a Senate seat and successfully defeated Republican incumbent William A. Purtell. He was re-elected in 1964.

While in the Senate, Dodd served on the Foreign Relations, Judiciary, and Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committees. He also co-chaired a subcommittee on internal security and chaired another one on juvenile delinquency. He displayed a mix of beliefs, including support for civil and voting rights, limiting violence of television, stopping the flow of illegal drugs, and the United Nations (though his support for the organization later waned, as he believed it was becoming dominated by poorer nations).

Dodd continued to be a fervent anti-Communist while in Congress. In 1959, he opposed a visit by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to the United States, saying such a visit would be seen as an acceptance of Soviet domination of Warsaw Pact countries. "What would the Senate and the country have thought if in 1939 President Roosevelt had invited Adolf Hitler to a barnstorming tour of the U.S., fresh from conquest of Czechoslovakia, Austria and Poland and in the midst of his extermination of millions of Jews?" asked Dodd. The Senator was also criticized the John F. Kennedy Administration as not doing enough to remove Fidel Castro from Cuba. Most notably, Dodd was a stalwart supporter of the Vietnam War; when he learned that the U.N. Secretary-General was opposed to the war, Dodd called for his resignation. While this made him a good friend of President Lyndon B. Johnson (who even considered Dodd as a Vice Presidential candidate for the 1964 election), it created some tension within the Democratic Party. Dodd's support for the war was enough to merit his inclusion in "The Draft Dodger Rag," a protest song by Phil Ochs, that included the lyrics, "I'm just a typical American boy from a typical American town / I believe in God and Senator Dodd and keeping old Castro down."

Dodd was also well-known for his attempts to secure gun control legislation. In 1963, he co-sponsored legislation that would increase requirements for gun dealers and ban mail-order pistols. When President Kennedy was assassinated by a sniper with a mail-order weapon in November of that year, Dodd expanded his proposal to include a ban on mail-order rifles and shotguns as well. The bill died in committee in 1964, but was reintroduced by Dodd in 1965. The bill finally passed as the Gun Control Act in 1968. Though more watered-down than its original intent, the legislation still effectively banned mail-order firearms sales; added an age limits for gun sales and prohibited certain people, such as criminals, from purchasing them; raised the dealer fee to restrict gun traffic to legitimate sellers; and restricted the marketing of heavy-hitting weapons such as bazookas and mortars.

When the first accusations began flying at Dodd, they were fired from the newspaper pages. In January of 1966, investigative columnists Jack Anderson and Drew Pearson began blasting Dodd and did not let up for another 17 months. Thanks to four whistleblowers who had been on Dodd's staff, the columnists had managed to copy thousands of documents from the Senator's office. They accused Dodd of getting paid by Julius Klein, a lobbyist for West German interests, to fly to Germany to reassure his clients. He was also charged with receiving untaxed contributions and gifts from several companies, including firearms companies opposed to his gun control legislation.

Enraged, Dodd filed a libel lawsuit against Anderson and Pearson and invited an investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Standards and Conduct, the first time the committee would conduct an investigation since it was founded in 1964. Dodd said the visit to Germany was a legitimate trip related to business on the internal security subcommittee, and he was cleared of wrongdoing in that matter in June of 1966. In March of 1967, the committee began reviewing accusations of financial misconduct on Dodd's part. On those counts, he was not so fortunate.

In April of 1967, the committee recommended that Dodd should be censured. They found that Dodd had accepted free use of a vehicle from a constituent for 21 months, accepted $8,000 from International Latex Corporation, and billed the Senate for $1,763 in trips that had already been paid for by private organizations. Receiving the most attention was the charge by the committee that Dodd had diverted about $116,000 out of $450,000 in campaign funds to personal use. The money had not been reported or taxed, and it had mostly been raised by testimonial dinners between 1961 and 1965.

In his defense, Dodd said that the people who attended the dinners knew that he was not a wealthy person and that the money could be used on personal matters. He said the double-billing of trips was simply a matter of bad bookkeeping. Going on the offensive, Dodd also said the pressure was a result of "dishonorable and vindictive ex-employees" and a press hostile to his attitude on the Vietnam War.

Perhaps even more in favor of Dodd's exoneration than the man himself was Democratic Senator Russell B. Long of Louisiana, who persistently defended Dodd during the proceedings. Long said half the members of the ethics committee would not come away unscathed if they were given the same treatment as Dodd, and that Dodd had spent his own money on the campaign and deserved to recoup some of the funds through what he raised. A son of Louisiana Governor Huey Long, there was some speculation that Russell Long's support was due to his father's impeachment proceedings in 1929 or Dodd's support of Long during a debate over Long's presidential campaign fund in 1966.

Whatever the reason, Long attempted to introduce a resolution that would admonish Dodd rather than censure him. The proposal was overwhelmingly defeated in a 92-2 vote. A suggestion by Republican Senator John G. Tower of Texas to reduce the punishment to a reprimand was met with more support, but still failed 87-9. When the vote was finally called, the Senate decided 92-5 to censure Dodd, the sixth such punishment it had ever given. The Senate also decided 51-45 against any action on the double-billing accusation.

No penalties were imposed, and Dodd was allowed to keep his seniority. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., under fire in Congress at the same time, said he would "accept with reluctance" the same punishment meted out to Dodd. The Senator had some degree of vindication after the incident. The Senate committee also rebuked the staffers, saying the unauthorized removal of documents was "reprehensible," "a threat to the orderly conduct of business of a public office," and "constitutes a breach in the relationship of trust between a senator and his staff." His libel charge against the two columnist fell through, but a judge found that he was entitled to collect damages for theft. In the year after the scandal, the Senate adopted a formal code of conduct that allowed members to accept funds from political events for personal use.

Dodd was also investigated for potential tax evasion in the years between 1961 and 1965, but not charged. However, this investigation and the censure likely contributed to Dodd's loss of the Democratic nomination for the 1970 Senate race. In that year, the party offered the nomination to Joseph D. Duffey for a race against Republican Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. Dodd nevertheless entered as an independent candidate, and though his hawkish views probably siphoned votes from Weicker as well as Duffey, the split race allowed Weicker to win the election. In 1971, about five months after leaving Congress and a week after telling a former press aide, "I'm not going to live very long," Dodd died of a heart attack.

A stadium in Dodd's hometown is named for him. His son, Christopher, followed in his footsteps and is currently a Senator from Connecticut and another son, Thomas Jr., served as the U.S. ambassador to Uruguay and Costa Rica. In 1995, both sons and President Bill Clinton were present at the dedication of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut. According to the center's website, a prize named for Dodd is biannually awarded to a group or individual who has made significant strides in furthering international justice and human rights, ideals they say the late Senator championed.

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, The Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, The U.S. Embassy, "Minority View" in Time on Aug. 24 1959, "Private Lives" in Time on Jul. 1 1966, "The Undoing of Dodd" in Time on May 5 1967, "Senate Refuses, 92-2 To Admonish Dodd" in the St. Petersburg Times on Jun. 22 1967, "Senate Again Rejects Easing Dodd Censure" in the St. Petersburg Times on Jun. 23 1967, "Dodd Censured by Senate" in the Spokesman-Review on Jun. 24 1967, "Powell Would 'Reluctantly' Accept Censure" in the Rome News-Tribune on Jun. 28 1967, "Not Libel, Theft" in Time on Jan. 26 1968, "U.S. Drops Tax Probe of Sen. Dodd" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Dec. 24 1969, "Thomas Dodd Dead At 64" in the Evening Independent on May 24 1971, "Once a Disgraced Senator, Dodd Gets a Presidential Salute" in the New York Times on Oct. 16 1995, Legacy to Power: Senator Russell Long of Louisiana by Russell T. Mann, The Whistleblowers: Exposing Corruption in Government and Industry by Myron Peretz Glazer and Penina Migdal Glazer, On Capitol Hill: The Struggle to Reform Congress and its Consequences 1948-2000 by Julian E. Zelizer, Gun Violence in America: The Struggle for Control by Alexander DeConde

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jon C. Hinson: southern exposure

Image from The Ledger

With a little luck on his side, Jon Clifton Hinson was able to win a second term in Congress despite admitting that he'd visited a couple of homosexual hangouts. It was only a matter of months, however, before he was once again caught with his pants down.

Hinson was born in Tylertown, Mississippi in 1942. After graduating from the University of Mississippi in 1964, he served as an aide to Mississippi congressmen Charles Griffin from 1968 to 1973 and Thad Cochran from 1973 to 1977. From 1964 to 1970, he was also a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

In 1978, Cochran moved on to the Senate and Hinson was chosen to run for his seat. His conservative platform included support of lowering taxes and increased military growth, as well as opposition to affirmative action, socialized medicine, deficit spending, and the ceding of the Panama Canal to Panama. Running as a Republican, he successfully took over for his former boss.

The first scandals befell Hinson in his run-up to the 1980 elections. In a press conference in August of 1980, he admitted that he'd been arrested in September of 1976 on a charge of committing an obscene act near the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington, D.C. He later pleaded to a reduced charge of creating a public nuisance and was fined $100. Hinson also revealed that he had been in Cinema Follies, a pornographic theater, in October of 1977 when a devastating fire broke out. Nine people died in the blaze, and Hinson, one of four survivors, was rescued from beneath a pile of bodies. Both the memorial and the theater were known sites of homosexual activity.

Hinson said he'd given the information as a preemptive measure against any attempt by political opponents to use the incidents against him. He had recently given a deposition to lawyers handling civil suits related to the theater fire, and his involvement could easily have been discovered. He argued that he had not committed an obscene act at the memorial, and that his innocence on that charge was demonstrated by his ability to plead to a reduced charge. A friend said the incidents were a result of emotional problems Hinson had been having, and that he had resolved those issues by 1978.

Media reports after Hinson's revelations unearthed more details than Hinson had been willing to admit. The arrest at the memorial had occurred after Hinson had exposed himself to an undercover agent and allegedly tried to get the agent to perform oral sex on him. He failed to show up at court on the charge on multiple occasions until the threat of a second arrest. Reporters also found out that the theater had 22,000 members and multiple uses, including empty rooms where members could have sex. Hinson had also managed to delay giving his deposition until after the Republican primaries.

Nevertheless, Hinson maintained that he was straight. "I am not, never have been, and never will be a homosexual," he said at a news conference with his wife of one year. Whether or not his constituents believed him, Hinson was re-elected in the 1980 election. Some analysts said that the Mississippi voters simply preferred a conservative in Congress, no matter what his sexuality was. However, Hinson was also helped by a three-way contest, in which independent candidate and Jackson State University professor Les McLemore outperformed Democratic candidate Britt Singletary. Hinson came away with 39 percent of the vote for the victory.

Hinson had barely returned to office when he blew any chance of a quiet second term. In February of 1981, Capitol Police had a busy night at the Longworth Building, a House of Representatives office building on Capitol Hill. Tipped off that a bathroom in the building was being used for homosexual activities, police staked out the location. They arrested a consultant and a member of the Democratic Study Group on charges of sodomy. Two hours later, they arrested another two men engaged in oral sex: Hinson and Harold Moore, a black Library of Congress clerk 10 years his junior.

Hinson was originally charged with felony sodomy, which was punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The charge was reduced to a misdemeanor, with the prosecuting attorney saying consensual homosexual acts could be prosecuted as such. Hinson pleaded innocent to the charge and, following the lead of Walter Jenkins, checked himself into the hospital "in order to have the benefit of professional care, counseling, and treatment," according to a statement from his office. The statement blustered on that the care was "necessitated by the onset of an episode which he termed a dissociative reaction attributed to a two-year period of intense emotional and physical exertion." He remained hospitalized for two months.

Hinson immediately faced calls to resign from Mississippi and Republican Party leaders. "I think we gave him the benefit of the doubt on the other charges," said Clarke Reed, national Republican committeeman from Mississippi. "I feel strongly he should resign if found guilty on the charges." Mike Retzer, the Mississippi GOP chairman, said he thought the party had been fooled into supporting Hinson in the 1980 election and added, "It's unfortunate Jon has serious, substantial problems that are ongoing." Hinson agreed to resign, and later pleaded no contest to attempted oral sodomy. He was given a suspended 30-day jail sentence and one year of probation. In April of 1981, he resigned, saying it was "the most painful and difficult decision" he had ever made.

Democrat Wayne Dowdy, the mayor of McComb, was chosen to face off against Republican businessman and strong supporter of President Ronald Reagan, Liles Williams. Though Williams had the majority of the vote in these selections, it was not enough to forgo a special election. In an upset, Dowdy, who had spent one-third as much on his campaign as Williams, narrowly won Hinson's seat. He credited a strong turnout in black voters, though some saw it as a repudiation of Reagan.

Hinson later admitted that he was gay. In an article he wrote shortly before his death, he said that he was "still closeted and into heavy denial" when he was first elected. He and his wife separated in 1987, and divorced in 1989. In a tragic parallel to Hinson's miraculous escape from death in 1977, his parents were killed in 1984 when their house was destroyed by fire.

Remaining in the Washington, D.C. area, Hinson became active in gay rights issues. He opposed a ban on gay servicemen in the military and was a founder of the Fairfax Lesbian and Gay Citizens Association in Fairfax County, Virginia. In 1994, he attended a fund-raising event for a gay community center in Biloxi in his home state. The next year, Hinson died of respiratory failure from AIDS.

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "Rep. Hinson Facing New Sex Charge" in The Bulletin on Feb. 5 1981, "Hinson Pleads Innocent; Congressman Faces Charge of Sodomy" in the Eugene Register Guard on Feb. 5 1981, "Lawmaker is Facing Sex Charge" in the Rome News-Tribune on Feb. 5 1981, "Hinson Enters Plea; Admitted to Hospital" in The Ledger on Feb. 6 1981, "Lawmaker Pleads Innocent to Sex Charge" in the Sunday Star-News on Feb. 6 1981, "Aide Says Hinson Planning to Quit" in The Bulletin on Feb. 9 1981, "Businessman, Mayor Win Mississippi Runoff Spots" in the St. Petersburg Times on Jun. 24 1981, "Mississippi Democrat Says Blacks Helped" in the Ellensburg Daily Record on Jul. 8 1981, "Democrat Wins Mississippi Race" in the St. Petersburg Times on Jul. 8 1981, "Jon Hinson, 53, Congressman And Then Gay-Rights Advocate" in the New York Times on Jul. 26 1995, Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2006 by Jere Nash and Andy Taggart, Men Like That: A Southern Queer History by John Howard