Saturday, November 14, 2015

Ted Stevens: you wouldn't like him when he's angry

The crash of a Learjet as it attempted to land in Anchorage, Alaska, would link to many important parts of Senator Ted Stevens' life. Stevens was one of two people to survive the accident, which occurred on December 4, 1978. The jet lost control in crosswind conditions as it arrived from Juneau, breaking apart as it came down between two runways.

Stevens' wife of 26 years, Ann Cherrington, and four others were killed in the crash. As he recovered, Stevens said the incident would not discourage him from flying. He had served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, continued to hold a commercial pilot's license, and occasionally flew "just for the hell of it" (though he wasn't piloting the plane in the Anchorage crash). Stevens even parlayed the incident into a pitch for more funding at the airport, saying it was the second such crash in the past year and that a crosswinds runway was necessary at Anchorage.

Despite his nonchalant statements after the near-death experience, including the remark that frequent flying was necessary to get between Alaska and Washington, D.C., some of Stevens' colleagues in the United States Senate said he had been worried about this mode of travel. He had mentioned a premonition that he might die in a plane crash, and made frequent references to the 1972 disappearance of a plane traveling from Anchorage to Juneau, the opposite flight path of the ill-fated Learjet. Representative Nick Begich of Alaska, House Majority Leader Hale Boggs of Louisiana, and two others had presumably been killed when the plane went down in the remote wilderness, although the plane and its occupants were never found.

Two years after the crash, Stevens would marry Catherine Chandler, a lawyer from a well-known Democratic family. The airport where he lost his first wife would be renamed in his honor in 2000, the same year the state legislature named him the "Alaskan of the Century." He would face Nick Begich's son in a tight race in 2008, defined largely by questionable home renovations which he said his second wife had overseen. And while his premonition would not hold true in 1978, it would be fulfilled more than three decades later.

Stevens was born Theodore Fulton Stevens in Indianapolis on November 18, 1923. Early in his childhood, he moved with his family to Chicago. In the wake of the stock market crash of 1929, Stevens' father lost his job as an accountant. Stevens subsequently took a job as a newsboy to help support his parents and three siblings. Following the divorce of his parents and the death of his father, he moved to Manhattan Beach, California, to live with an aunt.

After graduating from high school, Stevens began attending Oregon State College. He was there for only one semester, in 1942, before deciding to join the war effort. He enrolled at Montana State College for cadet training in the Army Air Corps in 1943, and began flying supply missions the next year. Stevens was part of the "Flying Tigers," piloting C-46 and C-47 planes over the Himalayas from India to China. When he concluded his service in 1946, he had been awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Air Medals, and the Yuan Hai Medal from the Republic of China.

Ted Stevens during his service in World War II (Source)

After the war, Stevens returned to college. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1947 with a degree in political science. After a stint as a research assistant with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, he attended Harvard Law School and graduated in 1950. He was admitted to the bar in California in the same year, but got the his first job at a law firm in Washington, D.C.

Stevens' long association with Alaska began in 1953, when he drove across the country to take a job at a law firm in Fairbanks. He became the U.S. Attorney in the city a year later. Stevens would later recall that two newspaper publishers were responsible for his first foray into politics, encouraging him to return to the nation's capital to work in the Eisenhower Administration and push for Alaska statehood. He became the legislative counsel for the Department of the Interior in 1956, working his way up to Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior in 1958 and Solicitor of the department in 1960. Alaska became a state in January 1959.

Stevens again returned to Alaska, opening a law firm in Anchorage in 1961. He would soon make another stab at national politics, earning the Republican nomination for Senate in 1962. He lost the race to the incumbent, Ernest Gruening. However, he was successful in a 1964 bid for the state house of representatives and was reelected two years later, serving as the speaker pro tempore and majority leader. Another attempt at the U.S. Senate in 1968 also fell short as Stevens lost the GOP primary to Anchorage mayor Elmer Rasmuson; Rasmuson subsequently lost the general election to Democratic candidate Mike Gravel.

But just months after this election, Stevens learned he would be going to the Senate after all. One of Alaska's seats in the Senate became vacant on December 11, 1968, when Democratic Senator E.L. Bartlett died during heart surgery. Governor Walter Hickel, a Republican, appointed Stevens to the post on Christmas Eve. In a special election in November of 1970, Stevens was elected in his own right to serve the remaining two years of Bartlett's term.

Stevens would remain in the Senate for almost four more decades, winning seven general elections. He chaired his first committee during the Ninety-fourth Congress, leading the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee between 1975 and 1977. He would serve as the chairman of five additional committees during his career, including those related to appropriations, ethics, governmental affairs, and commerce, science, and transportation.

Between 1977 and 1985, Stevens held the position of Republican whip, or leader of the party within the Senate. He sought to become the majority leader in 1984, but lost to Bob Dole of Kansas by three votes. Stevens was president pro tempore of the Senate from 2003 to 2007, the third person in the line of presidential succession behind the Vice President and Speaker of the House.

Throughout his career, Stevens became well-known in Alaska for his efforts to improve the state's standing in the nation. He fought for Hickel's appointment as Secretary of the Interior in 1969; the former governor's new role made him the first Alaskan to serve in a presidential cabinet. He backed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971 to resolve land claims by indigenous residents in Alaska, many of which had not been addressed since Alaska became a state. This legislation also helped clear some barriers to the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, an 800-mile project completed in 1977 to carry oil from the Prudhoe Bay fields to the port of Valdez.

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline met with plenty of objection from environmentalists, and Stevens had a mixed record when it came to the issue of conservation. He expressed opposition to "extreme environmentalists" and supported proposals to drill for oil in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge, but he was particularly committed to marine environmental efforts. He co-authored the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 1976 to set a 200-mile economic exclusion zone from U.S. shores to regulate foreign fishing vessels and protect fisheries in this area. Stevens kept a close eye on this legislation in the ensuing years, contributing to the amendments and follow-ups made to it over the years. After the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Stevens led efforts to improve oil tanker designs to prevent a similar incident. In 2006, he voted against a proposed open pit mine to extract gold, molybdenum, and copper on the grounds that it would potentially threaten the salmon population in Bristol Bay.

Although formerly critical of the idea that human activities were a significant contributor to climate change, Stevens surprised environmentalists in February of 2007 by introducing a bill to improve fuel efficiency in new vehicles. Stevens said he still considered that other factors had more of an impact on the climate than humans, but he was now convinced that human activity was part of the problem. He said the altered climate was particularly noticeable in Alaska in the erosion of shorelines from rising sea levels, the disruption of salmon spawning grounds due to warmer waters, melting permafrost, and shrinking hunting grounds for polar bears and walruses.

Stevens was generally conservative in his positions, but he also had a record of more centrist or bipartisan positions as well. In June of 1971, he sponsored a bill to withdraw American troops from Vietnam within nine months; the Senate approved it on the condition that North Vietnam first free all remaining U.S. prisoners of war. He helped develop the Amateur Sports Act in 1978, which established the United States Olympic Committee as the national representative agency for the competition and set up national governing bodies and protections for individual athletes in each sport. Stevens was pro-choice in the sense that he did not believe government should intervene in the subject of abortion, saying in 1979 that it was a decision to be made by the couple and their doctor rather than "something 99 men fight over 30 times a year." Stevens also supported a ban on smoking in federal buildings, supported federal spending for public radio and Title IX legislation giving women equal opportunities in places receiving federal aid, and questioned the level of President Ronald Reagan's military spending.

The last objection was somewhat ironic, as Stevens' ability to funnel vast amounts of federal funding to Alaska became legendary. These allocations went to a variety of projects, from infrastructure to military bases to small businesses. His supporters in the state nicknamed him "Uncle Ted" for his ability to bring this money to Alaska, while critics charged him with wasting huge sums on pork-barrel projects. One out of every three jobs in Alaska was said to rely on federal funding in 2008. Taxpayers for Common Sense charged that Stevens directly sponsored or had a role in earmarks to legislation that directed $3.2 billion in federal funding to his home state between 2004 and 2008, resulting in a per capita total of $4,872 per resident of Alaska - more than 18 times the national average.

Stevens offered several defenses for his efforts to bring federal monies to Alaska. He said much of the state was federally owned anyway, and that it needed to catch up with the rest of the nation since it was one of the newer states and had spent many years as an impoverished territory. He also argued that Alaska deserved more funding due to its harsh weather, the presence of natural resources such as oil and gas, and the state's strategic importance due to its proximity to Russia.

More than any other project, Stevens was ridiculed for his commitment to a pair of transportation initiatives in 2005. A highway bill in this year requested $452 million to go toward two bridges in Alaska. One proposal, the Knik Arm Bridge, sought to link Anchorage with rural Port MacKenzie, which had a single tenant and almost no population; the final price tag of the bridge was estimated to be nearly $2 billion. The more infamous proposal would connect the small community of Ketchikan with Gravina Island, which included the local airport but was home to only 50 residents. The proposed span would have to be taller than the Brooklyn Bridge to allow cruise ships to pass under it, measure only 20 feet shorter than the Golden Gate Bridge, require a convoluted detour to access, and replace a short and reliable ferry ride. Supporters argued that the projects would help spur economic development and improve domestic security, but the request for costly crossings to benefit a handful of citizens was quickly denounced as a "Bridge to Nowhere." Taxpayers for Common Sense gave the proposal the dubious honor of the Golden Fleece Award, presented to proposals considered to be a major waste of taxpayers' money.

Stevens vehemently opposed efforts to block funding for the projects. The bill came up for consideration not long after Hurricane Katrina had devastated the Gulf Coast, and Senator Tom Coburn of Louisiana (a Republican) sought to divert funding for the Alaska bridges to repair roads damaged by the storm. Stevens threatened to end his Senate career in protest if the amendment passed.

"I will put the Senate on notice, and I don't kid people: if the Senate decides to discriminate against our state, to take money only from our state, I'll resign from this body," he warned. "This is not the Senate I came to. This is not the Senate I've devoted 37 years to, if one senator can decide he'll take all the money from one state to solve the problem of another."

Coburn's proposal was voted down, with 82 senators opposed and 15 in favor. The compromise, struck a month later, removed the earmark which dedicated the money specifically to the bridges, but still allocated the money to Alaska for use on transportation projects. This stipulation meant the funding could still potentially be used for the bridges. The envisioned spans remained controversial, however, as the "Bridge to Nowhere" came to symbolize uncontrolled federal spending and spurred efforts to rein in earmarks. While the Knik Arm Bridge remains under consideration, the Gravina Island proposal was recently scrapped. Lew Williams III, the mayor of Ketchikan, said it was more economically feasible to improve the ferry services and terminals than to build and maintain a bridge.

The debate over the bridges gave national exposure to Stevens' rancorous temper, but he had been regarded as a curmudgeon for many years by his colleagues in the Senate. "I am a mean, miserable S.O.B.," he once declared. However, Stevens still showed a sense of humor and camaraderie. He considered Daniel Inouye, the long-serving Democratic senator from the other young state of Hawaii, to be a close friend and the two worked together on a number of bipartisan efforts. Whenever he expected a tough fight on a bill, Stevens donned an Incredible Hulk tie.

Stevens, wearing an Incredible Hulk tie, poses with a figure of the superhero in 2003 (Source)

Stevens' cantankerous nature helped make him in inadvertent Internet meme after remarks he made before the Commerce Committee, which he chaired. Arguing against an amendment to prohibit Internet service providers from charging higher fees to companies that generated more traffic, Stevens said, "The Internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a big truck; it's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand, those tubes can be filled, and if they're filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line, it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material." Stevens also referred to an e-mail sent by his staff as "an Internet" and complained that it had been delayed by getting "tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially."

The description of the Internet as a "series of tubes" soon became the subject of a number of parodies. Some commentaries suggested that the remarks exposed the 82-year-old Stevens as being hopelessly out of touch with the subject of net neutrality, despite being the head of the committee charged with overseeing the issue. Stevens' defenders argued that he had been speaking metaphorically in trying to illustrate his concerns.

Not long after these remarks, Stevens became the longest serving Republican in the Senate. He reached this milestone in April of 2007 and was lauded by his fellow senators for his service and bipartisanship. Inouye nicknamed him "The Strom Thurmond of the Arctic Circle," a reference to the fact that Thurmond would have held the honor if he hadn't spent two terms as a Democrat before switching parties. Stevens thanked his family and staff for their support, noting how he once flew back and forth between Alaska and the nation's capital 35 times in a single year. "I am surrounded by friends on both sides of the aisle, and I am still very honored to be here," he said.

By this time, Stevens had been accused of a number of conflicts of interest during his many years in office. He was criticized for advocating a lease deal with Boeing after they hired his wife's law firm in 2003, and for helping groups that hired his son Ben as a consultant. Investigators would later look into federal funding that had been directed to Ben's company to promote efforts to trim Alaska's crab and salmon fishing fleets as well as monies that supported the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board, of which Ben was the first chairman. There had even been calls for Stevens to resign after the Los Angeles Times detailed how he had become a millionaire by investing in companies after he had secured government contracts for them. Stevens responded, "If they think I'm going to resign because of a story in the newspaper, they're crazy."

The FBI opened "Operation Polar Pen," the investigation which would eventually lead to criminal charges against Stevens, in 2004. Two years later, Governor Frank Murkowski announced that negotiations with Alaska's three main oil producers had resulted in an agreement for these companies to build a gas pipeline if the state would modify the way the producers were taxed. The VECO Corporation, an oil services engineering and construction company which was also a major financial supporter of Republican candidates in Alaska, stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars from this pipeline. Stevens was an associate of VECO's founder and chief executive officer, Bill Allen. The two men sometimes dined together, and they were part of a group of investors who owned a racehorse named So Long Birdie.

The investigation targeted VECO for its scheme to influence state legislators and other Alaska officials on matters related to the pipeline. The company sought to bribe legislators with incentives such as cash, services, and promises of future employment in exchange for votes on legislation favorable to VECO, including the construction of the pipeline, the adoption of its favored oil tax formula, and the rejection of efforts to increase this tax. Several VECO executives and Alaska legislators were charged with involvement in this corruption, and the FBI began making arrests in the spring of 2007.

In May, Allen and VECO vice president Rick Smith pleaded guilty to bribing state legislators. Allen agreed to testify against other defendants in the probe. He admitted that he had paid $243,250 to Ben Stevens, then the president of the Alaska state senate, between 2002 and 2006. Allen said the payments were ostensibly for consulting work, but were actually meant for "giving advice, lobbying colleagues, and taking official acts in matters before the Legislature." Several other witnesses said Ben had received illegal payments from Allen, but the senator's son was never charged with a crime.

At the September trial of Pete Kott, the former speaker of the Alaska house of representatives, Allen directly implicated Stevens. He testified that he had used more than $400,000 to bribe state legislators and do favors for Stevens over the years. By this point, the FBI had already started to scrutinize Stevens' finances. Several people were called before a federal grand jury in the spring and summer of 2007, including Stevens' neighbor, a financial clerk of the Commerce Committee, and a businessman who was an associate of the senator. In July, Stevens filed a financial disclosure form after getting an extension to fix what he said were technical errors. At the end of the month, FBI agents raided his home in Girdwood.

On July 29, 2008, the federal grand jury indicted Stevens on seven felony counts of violating the Ethics in Government Act by making false statements on financial disclosure forms between 1999 and 2006. Prosecutors charged that he failed to report about $250,000 in favors provided by VECO and others. It was the first time a sitting senator had been indicted in 15 years, and the charges were handed down before the Republican primary. Stevens won the party's nomination despite the indictment. He had the option of stepping down to let the Republican State Central Committee choose a candidate, but opted not to do so.

Stevens' mugshot following his indictment (Source)

The bulk of the charges against Stevens stemmed from his relationship to Allen. In the year 2000, Stevens' home went through extensive renovations which more than doubled the size of the original two-bedroom structure. The house was put up on stilts to add a new first floor, and contractors also put in a sauna, wine cellar, and wraparound porch. The workers said they billed Allen for the work and received checks from Stevens. The senator had expressed concerns about the renovations in a phone call to Allen which was recorded by the FBI, but reassured himself, "[T]he worst that can happen to us is we round up a bunch of legal fees and might lose and we might have to pay a fine, might have to serve a little jail time."

Allen had given Stevens several gifts including a Land Rover, furniture, tools, a generator, and a gas grill. None of the gifts had been reported on his financial disclosure forms. He had also received a $2,695 massage chair, $3,200 stained glass window, and husky puppy from his friend Bob Penney without reporting them. The Kenai River Sport Fishing Association had given him a bronze fish statue valued at $29,000.

The indictment was issued a little more than three months away from Election Day, which was shaping up to be a pivotal contest. The Democrats had regained majorities in both the House of Representatives and Senate in 2006. In the 2008 election, they had the potential to pursue a robust legislative agenda if they managed to recapture the White House and get enough seats in the Senate for a filibuster-proof majority. Hoping to be tried and acquitted before Election Day, Stevens asked for a speedy trial. This request was granted, but he was unable to get the proceedings transferred from Washington, D.C., to Alaska.

During the lengthy trial, Stevens spent three days on the stand. He said his wife was in charge of the renovations at the Girdwood home and that he was unaware that Allen had aided the project in any way. Stevens said they had paid every bill they received with their own money, and that he assumed the $160,000 in expenditures had covered all costs. He did express some irritation with the billing process, saying he had sometimes never received an invoice even after requesting it. "Catherine paid for the work that was done at our house," he concluded. "She paid the bills, and that's all there is to it."

The prosecution and defense had different interpretations of an October 2002 letter Stevens wrote to Allen, asking for a bill. "When I think of the many ways in which you make my life easier and more enjoyable, I lose count!" the letter read. "Thanks for all the work on the Chalet. You owe me a bill - remember Torricelli, my friend. Friendship is one thing - compliance with the ethics rules entirely different. I asked Bob P to talk to you about this, so don't get PO'd at him - it's [sic] just has to be done right." In referencing Torricelli, Stevens was recalling a former colleague, Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli of New Jersey, whom the Senate had admonished for receiving illicit gifts from a campaign donor three months before the letter was written. Torricelli had been re-nominated by the party after the scandal, but dropped out of his race in September.

Allen alleged that the letter was simply a way for Stevens to cover his tracks, and that a friend of the senator had even urged him to ignore the request for a bill. During one exchange, Stevens testily asked prosecutor Brenda Morris, "If it was a gift, why did I ask for a bill?" Morris replied, "To cover your butt." Stevens' lawyers argued that the letter was nothing more than a friendly communication and effort to account for all costs related to the renovations.

Catherine also took the stand and testified that she had paid $160,000 to contractors other than VECO employees for the work. When it came to the unreported gifts, Stevens said he had never asked for them. The fish statue was supposedly destined for a library that would one day honor the senator. Stevens' daughter said that Allen sometimes used the Girdwood home when Stevens was in Washington, and that some of the gifts were for his own personal use as well. She also avowed that VECO had not unfairly rewarded the family; her son had been hired by the company, but subsequently fired for using drugs. Several witnesses called by the defense spoke to Stevens' character, including Inouye, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

On October 27, 2008, the jury found Stevens guilty of all seven charges against him. The verdict came down just eight days before the election, too late for the GOP to take him off the ballot and replace him with another candidate. However, Stevens was under no obligation to resign or withdraw from the race. Since there was no rule against convicted felons serving in Congress, he would be able to take his seat if he won another term and could only be removed by a two-thirds vote of the Senate.

Calls for Stevens' resignation came down from both major parties. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, declared, "It is clear that Senator Stevens has broken his trust with the American people and that he should now step down." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama also asked for Stevens to resign. Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska and McCain's running mate, did not specifically ask Stevens to step down but said she was confident he would "do the right thing for the state of Alaska." She suggested that if he decided to stay in the race and won, he should resign so a new candidate could be selected in a special election.

Had Stevens decided to resign after his conviction, Alaska rules would have required a special election to take place 60 to 90 days after he vacated his seat. But Stevens remained defiant, vowing to "fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have." He also said he was determined to remain in the race against Democratic candidate Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage. "I am not stepping down," Stevens said. "I'm going to run through and I'm going to win this election."

While Stevens had won easy victories against Democratic opponents in his previous races, his conviction appeared to have a significant impact on the election. Stevens was popular enough to win a large share of the nearly 300,000 votes cast in the Senate race. Nevertheless, he would be ousted in the contest; Begich won the seat by less than 1 percent, or about 2,300 votes. In a farewell speech on November 30, Stevens declared, "Working to help Alaska achieve its potential has been and will continue to be my life's work." He left the Senate on January 3, 2009, with his conviction still under appeal.

The Democratic victory in Alaska would contribute to a major shift of power in the nation's capital. In addition to winning the White House, the party took five Senate seats away from Republican incumbents. After Democratic candidate Al Franken was sworn in as the winner in a close race in Minnesota and Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania switched parties in April of 2009, the Democrats had a filibuster-proof share of 60 seats in the Senate. This supermajority would only last until January of 2010, when Republican candidate Scott Brown won an upset victory in a special election to succeed Ted Kennedy after the longstanding senator's death in August 2009. Yet the Senate was easily able to approve the Affordable Care Act in December 2009 without the support of a single Republican senator.

Soon after the election, cracks began to appear in the prosecution's case against Stevens. The judge had rebuked prosecutors several times during the trial, and Stevens' defense team planned to question their methods as part of their appeal. In November 2008, former VECO employee David Anderson wrote to the judge to admit that he had been lying when he made the sworn statement that he did not have an immunity deal with prosecutors. In fact, he said, prosecutors had helped coach him by leaving him alone in a room with confidential documents. The Justice Department denied the claims.

On December 2, 2008, FBI agent Chad Joy filed a whistleblower report questioning the conduct of the prosecutors. He said they had tried to hide one witness and intentionally withheld evidence that would have been beneficial to the defense. In particular, they had not disclosed that Allen had formerly told FBI agents that Stevens would have paid an invoice for the work on his home; Allen had made the exact opposite statement during the trial. The information had been made known to the defense during the trial, but the disclosure had taken place right before Allen's cross-examination.

Joy also accused prosecutors of knowingly using false VECO records to help establish the argument that Stevens received an improper benefit from Allen and failed to turn over information that would have undermined Allen's credibility. The former head of VECO had been investigated by police for allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute, and he had tried to get two witnesses to perjure themselves so they would not be able to testify against him. Joy's report also suggested that another FBI agent had had an inappropriate relationship with Allen.

On April 7, 2009, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan dismissed the verdict at the request of newly appointed Attorney General Eric Holder. The alleged misconduct by the prosecutors was the reason cited for the dismissal, and the government announced that it would not seek a retrial. Stevens' attorney was enraged by the revelations, deeming the prosecutors' behavior "stomach-churning corruption." Stevens said the decision had restored his faith in the justice system, but commented, "It is unfortunate that an election was affected by proceedings now recognized as unfair."

The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility began an internal inquiry into the prosecutors in Stevens' case. Sullivan also appointed a special prosecutor to look into the allegations of misconduct. The latter report was completed in March 2012, concluding that there was "systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence which would have independently corroborated Senator Stevens' defense and his testimony, and seriously damaged the testimony and credibility of the government's key witness."

The special prosecutor specifically targeted prosecutors Joseph Bottini and James Goeke, saying they "intentionally withheld and concealed" evidence. The report noted that prosecutors had been under pressure to quickly assemble a complex case to meet Stevens' request for a speedy trial, but did not conduct an effective search for potentially exculpatory evidence. Lower level prosecutors who worked on the case were essentially exonerated, though no conclusions were made with regard to a prosecutor who had worked closely on the case and committed suicide in September 2010.

The Justice Department issued its own report in May 2012. It differed from the special prosecutor's report mainly in its conclusion that the prosecutors had not intentionally withheld evidence, suggesting that this action was a result of the confusion of several attorneys working on the case and the efforts to quickly assemble evidence against Stevens to meet the request for a speedy trial. However, it did declare that Bottini and Goeke had engaged in "reckless professional conduct." The report did not recommend that either man be fired, but instead suspended Bottini without pay for 40 days and Goeke for 15 days. Stevens' lawyers were not satisfied, saying the Justice Department's punishment "demonstrated conclusively that it is not capable of disciplining its prosecutors."

By the time these conclusions had been issued, Stevens had died in Alaska. On August 9, 2010, he was one of eight people traveling on a float plane owned by the GCI Communication Corporation. The plane was scheduled to fly from a GCI-owned lodge on Lake Nerka to a sport fishing camp on the Nushagak River. The plane crashed northeast of Aleknagik, killing Stevens and three others on board.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the cause of the crash was unclear, determining only that pilot Terry Smith (one of those killed) became temporarily incapacitated. The NTSB theorized that Smith had fallen asleep, had a seizure, or otherwise become briefly unaware of the situation and was unable to reach a safe altitude before the plane hit a hillside. The report on the accident criticized the Federal Aviation Administration for re-certifying Smith's pilot's license two years before the crash, saying their medical review had not been thorough enough.

Stevens is buried at Arlington National Cemetery (Source)

Although the verdict against Stevens was dismissed, some were not convinced that the senator's relationship with Allen was not improper. The federal investigation in Alaska had found plenty of corruption in the state government; it ended in October 2011 after seven years with the convictions of 10 people, including six state legislators. One alternate juror in Stevens' case said the determination of prosecutorial misconduct was not quite enough for him to consider the former senator to be innocent. The report had only gone into the allegations of work at Stevens' home in Girdwood, not the gifts he had received but not declared on his financial disclosure forms. The former juror also felt that Stevens' lawyers had done more to defend the senator's character than explain Stevens' cozy relationship with Allen and his questionable e-mail record regarding the renovations.

Many continue to see Stevens in a positive light, however. The Ted Stevens Foundation, established in 2001, continues to "recognize [his] career and honor his legacy of public service by working to ensure a stable and vibrant Alaska for future generations." In 2011, the Alaska Legislature deemed the fourth Saturday of every July to be Ted Stevens Day and encouraged Alaskans to "get out and play" by enjoying the outdoors. In recognition of his legislation to protect Olympic athletes, Stevens was inducted into the Olympics Hall of Fame in 2012; two years later, the U.S. Olympic Committee named a training facility in Colorado Springs in his honor.

Sources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, The Ted Stevens Foundation, "Sponsor Withdrawal Proposal" in the Eugene Register-Guard on Jun. 23 1971, "Alaskan Jet Crash Kills Senator's Wife" in the Lodi News-Sentinel on Dec. 5 1978, "Crash Survivors Recovering" in the Bangor Daily News on Dec. 6 1978, "Despite Wife's Death in Crash, Senator Won't Give Up Flying" in the Eugene Register-Guard on Dec. 15 1978, "Clash Expected on Abortion Issue" in the Victoria Advocate on Nov. 14 1979, "Built With Steel, Perhaps, but Greased With Pork" in the New York Times on Apr. 10 2004, "Stevens Says He'll Quit if Bridge Fund Diverted" in the Anchorage Daily News on Oct. 21 2005, "Two 'Bridges to Nowhere' Tumble Down in Congress" in the New York Times on Nov. 17 2005, "Senator's New Views on Climate Surprise Foes" in the St. Petersburg Times on Feb. 24 2007, "Alaska Senator Part of Corruption Inquiry" in the Eugene Register-Guard on Jun. 8 2007, "Lawyer Says Senate Aide Testified on Stevens" in the Reading Eagle on Aug. 1 2007, "Firm Funded Work on Senator's House, Former CEO Says" in the Eugene Register-Guard on Sep. 15 2007, "FBI Investigating Ted Stevens' Fishing Bills" in the Juneau Empire on Oct. 31 2007, "Long-Serving Republican Senator Indicted" in the Herald-Journal on Jul. 30 2008, "Stevens' Indictment Deepens GOP's Woes" in The Day on Jul. 30 2008, "Alaskans Fret Loss of Stevens' Largesse" in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Jul. 31 2008, "Stevens' Trial To Be In D.C." in the Press Democrat on Aug. 21 2008, "Testimony Paints Stevens as 'Lion' of Senate" in the Bangor Daily News on Oct. 15 2008, "Ted Stevens Angrily Jousts With Prosecutor" in the Tuscaloosa News on Oct. 18 2008, "Defense Closes With Stevens' Testimony" in the Seattle Times on Oct. 21 2008, "Stevens Convicted, Says He'll Stay in Senate Race" on NBC News on Oct. 27 2008, "Sen. Stevens Guilty on All Counts" in the Victoria Advocate on Oct. 28 2008, "McCain Joins Those Urging Ted Stevens to Resign From Senate" in the Tuscaloosa News on Oct. 29 2008, "Republican Ted Stevens Loses Alaska Senate Race After Corruption Conviction" in the Lodi News-Sentinel on Nov. 19 2008, "A Cautionary Tale: The Ted Stevens Prosecution" in the Washington Lawyer in October 2009, "Ted Stevens, Longtime Alaska Senator, Dies at 86" in the New York Times on Aug. 10 2010, "As a Senator, 'Uncle Ted' Stevens Helped Move Sparsely Populated Alaska Into The Future" in the Times-Picayune on Aug. 10 2010, "Investigators Find No Clear Cause For Crash That Killed Ted Stevens" in the Alaska Dispatch News on May 24 2011, "Ben Stevens Told He Won't Face Federal Corruption Charges" in the Alaska Dispatch News on Aug. 10 2011, "Guilty Pleas End Alaska Corruption Probe" in the Alaska Dispatch News on Oct. 21 2011, "Report Details Inner Workings of Senator's Troubled Trial" in the New York Times on Mar. 15 2012, "Was Stevens Guilty? Question Likely Won't Be Answered" in the Alaska Dispatch News on Apr. 21 2012, "2 Prosecutors Face Penalty in '08 Trial of a Senator" in the New York Times on May 24 2012, "A Remembrance and Defense of Ted Stevens' 'Series of Tubes'" in PC Magazine on Jun. 5 2014, "Alaska's 'Bridge to Nowhere' Shelved" in the Columbus Dispatch, Congressional Record (Senate) Vol. 145, Congressional Record (Senate) Vol. 153

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Frank Boykin: conspiracy made for love

When Frank William Boykin first ran afoul of the law, he sought help from someone who had foiled a scheme to collect money from a railroad for dead cows. Livestock was one of the many interests Boykin had speculated in to make his fortune, and he was known to run cattle across the Mobile and Ohio Railroad even when trains were approaching. Whenever a locomotive ran down the animals, he would file a damage claim. The railroad always shelled out the money until their new attorney, Harry Hardy Smith, decided it was worth it to contest the claims in court; moreover, Smith had been winning these cases.

So when Boykin became one of 117 people indicted in December of 1923 in what would become known as Alabama's "Whiskey Trials," he called Smith and asked him to be his lawyer.

The defendants in these trials were charged in widespread corruption to violate the Prohibition laws. Businessmen, sheriffs, police chiefs, and legislators were among those caught up in the probe. Since U.S. Attorney Aubrey Boyles had accused many of the defendants of trying to bribe him, a special prosecutor had to be brought in. Hugo Black, a Birmingham lawyer who later became a U.S. senator and Supreme Court justice, was selected for the job.

Boykin was first brought to trial in April of 1924. Black argued that Boykin had portrayed himself as someone with influence in President Warren G. Harding's administration, and that bootleggers paid him $5 a shipment for protection. There had been some correspondence between Boykin and Jesse Smith, a friend of Attorney General Harry Daugherty; Boykin had also written to Mel Daugherty, the Attorney General's brother. To gullible rum runners, the alleged influence was enough to justify the expense. However, Black was soon forced to drop the charges after the correspondence was ruled inadmissible.

Black was able to go after Boykin again in February of 1925 after securing new witnesses who could testify to other misbehavior. This time, two whiskey dealers said Boykin had helped import bootleg liquor into the United States. Another witness said Boykin had helped smuggle liquor from Mobile to Chicago inside pine tar barrels. Despite the testimony, a jury acquitted the defendant of violating the Prohibition and tariff laws.

Just one day later, Black brought Boykin up on charges of bribing a federal agent. Boyles was called to the stand and said that Andrew Mellon, an industrialist who had been appointed Secretary of the Treasury, had loaned $2 million to the Republican Party. The money was to be repaid through the protection fees put up by bootleggers, with Jesse Smith assigned to collect these funds from district attorneys and other law enforcement officials. Boyles said Boykin had offered him $100,000 a year for tips on upcoming federal raids against bootleggers, along with a car to make him appear more dignified. Instead, Boyles had informed the federal authorities about the corruption.

Testifying in his own defense, Boykin denied any wrongdoing other than occasionally purchasing liquor from the rum runners. He also said Boyles had been the one who tried to involve him in a protection racket. The jury was not convinced, finding him guilty after 22 hours of deliberation. Though he was sentenced to two years in prison, the conviction was overturned less than a year later by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This court declared the indictment "fatally defective" because it did not give enough information for Boykin to form a proper defense.

Boykin was born in Bladon Springs, Alabama, on February 21, 1885. Five years later, his family of sharecroppers moved to Fairford to change professions. Boykin began working as a clerk in his father's store, which served the railroad and nearby industrial towns; he later became the manager of this establishment. Boykin also dropped out of school at the age of eight to work as a water boy on the railroad, later claiming that he worked his way up to a train dispatcher and conductor.

In 1905, at the age of 20, Boykin became the co-owner of a company that manufactured railroad cross ties and turpentine. Ten years later, he moved to Mobile. His business interests expanded to farming, livestock, timber, real estate, and naval stores in southern Alabama. The revenue from these concerns made Boykin a millionaire. During the First World War, he served as an official in Alabama shipbuilding companies; he later asserted that his companies had been responsible for 52 percent of all vessels produced on the Gulf Coast during the conflict.

Some of Boykin's business deals were less than honest. In one scheme, he and a partner named John Everett hired Choctaw Indians to work shares of the land they had traditionally settled and owned. When these workers ran up debts at commissaries owned by the duo or were unable to pay their property taxes, Boykin and Everett acquired their ownership of the land in exchange for covering the expenses. When Everett died in 1927, Boykin managed to acquire the interest in his estate for only $8,800. The deal was approved by Boykin's brother, who happened to be a probate judge.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, even as Boykin served in elected government, he continued to build up his personal fortune. In 1930, he purchased most of Dauphin Island and organized the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo; in 1953, he sold the rights to this event to the Mobile Chamber of Commerce for almost $1 million. He established businesses such as the Tensaw Land and Timber Company overseeing some 100,000 acres of forest, a company to mine a salt dome found on his property, and a chemical production concern.

In 1934, Boykin ran for the House of Representatives to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of John McDuffie, who had accepted a position on the U.S. District Court. The election had plenty of political maneuvering. McDuffie had been hostile to the New Deal, so President Franklin D. Roosevelt's appointment left room for a supporter to come in. Boykin was chosen by a group of Mobile businessmen and politicians who knew he would advocate for economic interests in the region. Critics pointed out how the candidate had been so apathetic about the electoral process that he hadn't cast a vote since 1920, forcing him to pay 14 back years of poll taxes just to vote for himself.

During the Democratic primary, Boykin faced two other opponents. No one earned a majority in the election, but the nomination went to Boykin when the candidate with the second highest vote count decided to drop out. There were suspicions that Boykin had paid him, off, but they were never investigated. He easily won the general election, since the Republicans did not field a candidate. When Representative Sam Hobbs died in 1952, Boykin became the longest serving member of the Alabama delegation.

Boykin was re-elected to the House 13 times, only seeking another office in 1946 when he unsuccessfully ran for a vacancy in the Senate caused by the death of John Bankhead II. He focused on promoting his district's attractions, securing federal monies for economic development projects, and inviting industries to set up shop in Alabama. Among the efforts he supported were the Bankhead Tunnel under the Mobile River, an expansion of the port of Mobile, and the establishment of an Air Force base which later became the Mobile airport. He opposed pro-labor legislation and took an isolationist stance in foreign affairs.

Many of Boykin's constituents recalled that he personally stood up for the people in his district. When a colorblind lawyer was rebuffed in his attempt to join the Navy during World War II, he traveled to the nation's capital to visit Boykin about the issue; the congressman took the lawyer to meet a Navy admiral the next day to persuade him to let the man join up.

As the civil rights activists became more vocal across the South, Boykin joined those opposing their efforts. He signed the Southern Manifesto, a declaration supported by 101 Southern congressmen to protest the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education ruling. However, Boykin never formally joined the conservative Dixiecrat movement and advocated for black constituents as well as white ones. A black community in Alabama was even named for him after he secured federal funding for it to supplement his own personal contributions.

Above all, Boykin was known for his folksy optimism. He suggested that a lighted cross could be placed at the rostrum of the Speaker of the House so that congressmen could remember the teachings of Jesus Christ and bicker less often. He occasionally hosted "harmony suppers" to promote cooperation between Democrats and Republicans. Boykin seemed to live by the motto "Everything is made for love," a phrase he frequently spoke or sang.

Despite his amiable nature, Boykin drew some criticism for his lackluster commitment to the duties of the office. He often missed votes, enough that he had the poorest attendance of the entire state delegation in the 1947-1948 congressional session. He sometimes pushed measures from which he stood to personally benefit, such as funding for a bridge to Dauphin Island. While other representatives or senators crafted bills designed to improve rural schools or secure better funding for public schools, Boykin never created legislation that would have a nationwide benefit. In almost 30 years of service in Congress, his only chairmanship was on the Committee on Patents between 1943 and 1947; this committee was deemed inconsequential enough that it was scrapped in a reorganization of the House in 1947.

Suspicions that Boykin's behavior may have passed into the realm of criminal malfeasance likely helped derail his chances at re-election in 1962. Three years earlier, a Miami-based savings and loan official named J. Kenneth Edlin had been indicted on mail fraud charges. Edlin pleaded no contest to the crime in December of 1961. He had previously been convicted of mail and securities fraud in 1944 and served four years in prison; this time, he spent five months behind bars. Soon after Edlin's new conviction, Boykin and another Democratic representative, Thomas F. Johnson of Maryland, were facing accusations that they had tried to get the Justice Department to delay Edlin's trial in exchange for special favors from him.

In an interview in January of 1962, Boykin said he had not acted unethically. He said he had suggested to President John F. Kennedy that Alan Shepard Jr., an astronaut who had become the first American to fly into space in May of 1961, should be granted a house in a Maryland development where both he and Edlin had an interest. Boykin said he had asked both Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and Governor J. Millard Tawes of Maryland to delay Edlin's trial, but claimed he had only done so in hopes of concluding a business deal with Edlin.

The accusations came at a point when Boykin was particularly vulnerable at the ballot box. As a result of the 1960 census, Alabama had lost one of its seats in the House of Representatives. Since the state legislature couldn't agree how to redraw the new boundaries for the districts, a "9-8 plan" emerged. Under this plan, primaries were to be held in all districts for the 1962 election and a second race would be held for the nine winning candidates to compete for the eight available seats.

Though Boykin won his primary, he finished last among the nine other winners. His long career in Congress had come to an end. Though observers noted that the suspicions about his dealings with Edlin may have affected the race, they also pointed out that Boykin was the only incumbent who had faced a serious challenge for his primary.

In October of 1962, Boykin and Johnson were indicted on conspiracy and conflict of interest charges. Edlin and his attorney, William L. Robinson, were also indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the government. The charges were handed down just two days before "Frank Boykin Day," a celebration scheduled by Mobile businessmen to honor Boykin's contributions to the local economy. In a sign of how little the accusations affected his popularity, the event took place as scheduled.

The basic allegation was that Edlin had made illegal payments to Boykin and Johnson in exchange for their efforts to get the Justice Department to dismiss Edlin's mail fraud charges. The money had been paid through four concerns controlled by Edlin: the First Colony Savings and Loan, First Continental Savings and Loan, Charles County Land Company, and Leisure City Land Company.

Boykin and Johnson both said the payments had been compensation for above board work. Boykin had received a $250,000 cashier's check, which his lawyers contended was a down payment for a mortgage on land owned by Boykin in Maryland and Virginia. Boykin had purchased 8,000 acres in Maryland and 5,000 acres in Virginia during the 1950s, selling the Maryland land to a development firm in 1958 for $6 million. When this firm began to struggle to make payments on the land, Johnson introduced Edlin to Boykin. Edlin offered to pay $9 million, with the $250,000 deposit made on two land tracts.

Johnson told investigators that Edlin had promised him $25,000 for services related to the land purchase, such as legal services for Edlin's savings and loan companies and title searches for his land companies. He said he had only received $14,000 for this work, though the indictment charged that he had actually been paid $17,550. Prosecutors said that the funds were not only meant to be compensation for Johnson's efforts to intercede with the Justice Department, but also to make a speech on the floor of the House defending savings and loan firms. Edlin had run off 50,000 copies of the speech.

The trial began on April 1, 1963. Boykin, Edlin, Johnson, and Robinson were all tried together and the proceedings would drag on for 11 weeks. The prosecution charged that Boykin and Johnson had personally visited the Justice Department on 11 separate occasions, with another 52 entreaties made by phone or mail. In one letter to Robert F. Kennedy, Boykin included 100 pounds of pecans for the Attorney General's children.

Louis D. Goldman, a Miami lawyer under indictment in a separate case who had agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, testified about incriminating statements he heard Boykin make. On one occasion, he said that Boykin told Edlin, "You get through this deal and don't worry about your personal problem. I'll take care of it." Goldman also claimed that Boykin had boasted about his personal connections with the Kennedys, declaring, "If Bobby is not going to do anything, I'll get Joe to talk to him."

RFK himself took the stand in what was thought to be the first courtroom appearance by an Attorney General since Levi Lincoln appeared in the arguments for the famous Marbury v. Madison Supreme Court case. RFK recalled that during a meeting with Boykin and Johnson in March of 1961, Johnson said the failure of the planned development would harm the Maryland economy and asked that the charges against Edlin be dropped.

Johnson himself conducted the cross-examination of the Attorney General. RFK admitted that congressmen often visited him to make requests on various matters. He drew a laugh from the court when he pointed out that few members of Congress had been in to see him since the indictments. Though he admitted that there had been nothing overtly improper about the requests by Boykin and Johnson, RFK maintained that they had been trying to pressure him to drop the case. "Congressman, can you tell my why you were so anxious to come and discuss it if you did not want us to dismiss it?" he asked.

Boykin took the stand in his own defense, claiming he had only gone to see the Attorney General to review the circumstances of Edlin's indictment. He also suggested that he wanted to help prosecutors get information on labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, who would be convicted of charges related to organized crime in 1964 and famously disappear in 1975. On several occasions, the 78-year-old Boykin complained that he was having trouble hearing the questions directed at him. One prosecutor later recalled that the deafness seemed to be selective, as Boykin raced from across the courtroom to congratulate him after he announced that his wife had just given birth.

Prosecutors grilled Boykin on the circumstances of his land deal with Edlin, particularly the differences between his grand jury testimony and trial testimony. In one letter, Edlin said he would be willing to give 15 percent of sales proceeds to Boykin; the congressman stood to make a huge profit on the deal. Boykin's lawyers maintained that it was a simple business transaction, with no special treatment expected in return for a sale. The prosecution countered a defense assertion that the land had been appraised at $11.3 million with testimony from another appraiser, who said the land was only worth $4 million. The insinuation was that Edlin was offering Boykin a generous deal in exchange for his help in making the criminal charges disappear.

After only three-and-a-half hours of deliberation, the jury found all four men guilty. They were sentenced in October of 1963, with Boykin receiving a suspended six-month sentence, six months of probation, and a $40,000 fine. Edlin was ordered to spend a year in prison and pay a $16,000 fine, while Robinson was given six months of imprisonment.

Johnson had been indicted just three weeks before the 1962 election, and the charges no doubt contributed to his loss to Republican candidate Rogers C.B. Morton. In his correspondence, an angered Boykin accused U.S. Attorney Joseph Tydings of trying to sabotage Johnson's campaign and said his own conviction was a result of vindictive black members of the grand jury and trial jury (though 10 of the jurors in the trial were white). Johnson appealed his sentence of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine and had it reversed on the argument that the speech he gave in the House could not be used as grounds for his indictment. However, he was convicted on retrial in 1968 and ultimately served three-and-a-half months of his sentence.

Following the trial, Boykin returned to his business activities. He remained a popular figure, and 37 members of Congress (mostly from the South) soon petitioned President Lyndon B. Johnson asking him to pardon Boykin. Johnson granted the request on December 17, 1965, issuing a full pardon for the former congressmen.

Curiously, RFK also supported a pardon for Boykin. In fact, this action was one of three favors he requested from the White House following his resignation as Attorney General in 1964. It may have been because Boykin had been a strong supporter of JFK's 1960 presidential bid, or because the former congressman was good friends with RFK's father.

Boykin died on congestive heart failure in Washington, D.C., on March 12, 1969.

Sources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Encyclopedia of Alabama, "Sheriff, Chief and Lawmakers Among Arrests" in the Miami News-Metropolis on Dec. 23 1923, "Says Mellon Was Paid By Rum Men" in the Lewiston Daily Sun on Apr. 29 1926, "Police Chief Hoover Commands Respect of American People" in the St. Petersburg Times on May 28 1949, "A Salute to Justice Black" in the St. Petersburg Times on Jun. 6 1952, "Publicity Surprises Rep. Frank Boykin" in the Tuscaloosa News on Jan. 16 1962, "Rep. Boykin is Defeated For Re-Election" in the Free Lance-Star on May 31 1962, "Reps. Johnson, Boykin Indicted by U.S. Jury" in the Palm Beach Post on Oct. 17 1962, "Heard Boykin Promise Help, Miamian Says" in the Tuscaloosa News on Apr. 16 1963, "Robert Kennedy Testifies Against Former Congressmen" in the Toledo Blade on Apr. 18 1963, "Edlin Named as Figure in Payments" in the Times Daily on May 24 1963, "Boykin Denies Miami Fraud Case Payoff" in the Sarasota Journal on Jun. 5 1963, "Boykin-Johnson Case Gets Closer to Jury" in the Tuscaloosa News on Jun. 6 1963, "Two Former Congressmen Found Guilty" in the Toledo Blade on Jun. 14 1963, "Arguments Set for Monday in Boykin Trial" in the Tuscaloosa News on Jun. 8 1963, "Ex-Congressmen Sentenced" in the St. Petersburg Times on Oct. 8 1963, "Bills Proposed to Repay Former Rep. Frank Boykin" in the St. Petersburg Times on May 19 1967, "Ex-Lawmaker Found Guilty" in the Toledo Blade on Jan. 27 1968, "Frank Boykin Dead at Age 84" in the Tuscaloosa News on Mar. 12 1969, "Legislator Can't Be Prosecuted For Actions" in The Dispatch on Oct. 10 1970, "Thomas Johnson, 78; Lost Post in Congress" in the New York Times on Feb. 3 1988, "Frank Boykin: The Politician" in the Huntsville Times on Dec. 17 2001, "Teflon Tycoon" in the Huntsville Times on Dec. 19 2001

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Truman H. Newberry: Senate for sale

Given the enormous amounts of money used to shore up one candidate or another in every modern federal election cycle, the uproar over Truman Handy Newberry's financing of a 1918 campaign almost seems quaint. While the total expenditures admitted by Newberry were the equivalent of about $2.76 million in today's dollars, there were suspicions that the campaign had shelled out more than six times this amount. Even this upper limit would not seem out of place in today's elections, where the average cost of a Senate campaign is $10.5 million.

Yet in Newberry's time, a new electoral system in the Senate and a nascent effort at campaign finance reform made voters suspicious of anyone who poured too much money into an election. The Seventeenth Amendment had taken the power of appointing senators out of the state legislatures, which were considered more vulnerable to corruption, and placed it in the hands of the electorate at large. The amendment had only been in effect for five years at the time of Newberry's election, and even members of his own party were horrified by the frenzied spending of his campaign.

The Newberry affair was one of the earlier examples of a candidate being accused of trying to buy his way into elected office. The case would also lead to a Supreme Court ruling that obliterated the early Progressive efforts to keep money from having too great an influence in politics.

Newberry was part of a wealthy family, with several businessmen among his relatives who had profited from timber and mining enterprises. He was born in Michigan (in Detroit, on November 5, 1864), but much of Newberry's childhood would be spent outside of the state. After attending the Michigan Military Academy, he went on to the Charlier Institute in New York City and L.F. Reid's Classical School in Lakeville, Connecticut. He remained in Connecticut to attend Yale University, graduating in 1885.

Newberry became the superintendent of construction, paymaster, and general freight and passenger agent for the Detroit, Bay City, and Alpena Railway. He was soon promoted to manager of this railroad, holding the position until 1887. Following his father's death, Newberry took over the family business and became president and treasurer of the Detroit Steel and Spring Company. He remained here until 1901 and concurrently served as a director of several other businesses including the Union Trust Company, Union Elevator Company, and Michigan State Telephone Company.

In 1893, Newberry organized a naval militia in the state known as the Michigan State Naval Brigade. When the United States went to war with Spain five years later, Newberry was commissioned as a lieutenant and served aboard the cruiser Yosemite off Cuba.

Soon after his return from military service, Newberry became involved in the automotive business. He and his brother-in-law, Henry Joy, were walking through New York City when a Packard automobile caught their eye. They were impressed when the driver was able to quickly start the vehicle and race off to a fire. Newberry and Joy subsequently invested in the Packard Motor Car Company and oversaw its relocation to Detroit. Newberry began serving as director of the company in 1903.

Newberry's first foray into politics in 1904 would help lead to the creation of Michigan's campaign financing law. He sought the Republican nomination for a House of Representatives seat but lost to Edwin Denby, who spent three terms in Congress and later became Secretary of the Navy under President Warren G. Harding. Newberry spent a good deal of money in the race, and one publication would describe his conduct as "not illegal, although contrary to public morals." Michigan subsequently limited candidates from spending more than $3,750 of their own money on a campaign. The Federal Corrupt Practices Act, passed in 1910, would limit the funds a candidate could personally put toward a campaign to $5,000 in House races and $10,000 in Senate races.

Despite the 1904 loss, Newberry found himself in a government office within a year. He was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to be Assistant Secretary of the Navy, taking over for Charles H. Darling after his resignation at the end of October of 1905. When Secretary of the Navy Victor H. Metcalf resigned in November of 1908, Newberry moved into this post. Since Roosevelt was not opting for a third term, Newberry was only Secretary of the Navy for seven months. He spent this time working to reorganize the Navy bureaucracy and improve the ability of the land-based portion of the service to respond to emergencies.

In September of 1911, Newberry was involved in a tragic incident in Narragansett, Rhode Island. A young girl named Helen Ellis from Milton, Massachusetts, had nearly finished crossing the street when her mother warned her of an approaching car. For some reason, the girl turned back into the street and stepped directly into the path of Newberry's vehicle. He was unable to stop, and Ellis was killed instantly. Though Newberry was briefly charged with manslaughter, the court soon dismissed the matter. Ellis's father said he did not blame Newberry for his daughter's death and prosecutors concluded that he was not criminally responsible in the accident.

When Republican campaigners tapped Newberry to run for political office in 1918, he said he would be willing to run for any position they thought he was suited for. In addition to the biennial House of Representatives race, Michigan voters would also choose a new U.S. senator to replace William A. Smith, a Republican who was retiring after 11 years in office. Newberry's supporters decided to run him in the Senate race.

Meanwhile, President Woodrow Wilson had personally urged Henry Ford to run for the same office. The renowned automaker had been a notable opponent of the decision of the United States to join the Allies in World War I, even sponsoring a much ridiculed expedition of a "Peace Ship" to Europe in 1915. Yet Wilson considered that Ford's aversion to the conflict would make him a guaranteed supporter of his postwar initiatives to avoid other major wars. Michigan state law permitted a candidate to enter both the Democratic and Republican primaries, and Ford accordingly did so in an effort to become the choice of both major parties.

Newberry was at a distinct disadvantage in the election. While Ford was a household name across Michigan and the United States as a whole, Newberry was relatively unknown. Moreover, he had returned to the Navy when the United States declared war on Germany in April of 1917. When he joined the race for the Republican primary, he was stationed in New York City as a lieutenant commander of the Navy Fleet Reserve and an assistant to the commandant of the Third Naval District of New York. With the war not yet over in the run-up to the 1918 election, Newberry was duty-bound to remain at his post and had no chance to hit the campaign trail in person.

While Ford ran an inexpensive and muted campaign, relying mostly on name recognition, Newberry's campaigners mounted a massive public relations effort to promote their candidate. His campaign manager, Paul King, oversaw a staff of about 20 people at the campaign headquarters. Field operatives and organization representatives were dispatched throughout the state to drum up support for Newberry. Publications were packed with advertisements lauding his character.

While some of the effort sought to promote the virtues of Newberry as a candidate, there was also a sustained smear campaign against Ford. His pacifist and anti-Semitic views were criticized, and his son Edsel was painted as a draft dodger. Ford had tried to get Edsel a deferment from military conscription so that he would be able to oversee the Ford company's munitions production, but the request was denied; however, Edsel was later exempted from service after the draft board declared him to be indispensable to the war effort. Capitalizing on the ongoing war fervor, Newberry's campaign contrasted their candidate (who, along with his two sons, had served in the military) with the Fords. Newberry even won endorsements from former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, with the former criticizing Edsel's deferment while praising the service of Newberry's sons.

Newberry's opponents soon began to question the unrestrained spending in his campaign. Though critics would later charge that Newberry must have known about, approved, and likely supplied the vast amounts of money that were being committed to the race, the candidate maintained that he was focused on his naval duties and had no knowledge of any wrongdoing. "The campaign for my nomination for senator has been voluntarily conducted by my friends in Michigan," he said on August 21. "I have taken no part in it whatever and no contributions or expenditures have been made with my knowledge or consent."

Six days later, Newberry won the Republican primary. The victory ensured that Ford, who won the Democratic primary, would not be uncontested in the general election. However, Newberry was already being pressured by some GOP colleagues to resign due to the allegations of excessive campaign financing. Lieutenant Governor Loren D. Dickinson wrote to him shortly before the primary, formally requesting that he withdraw from the race.

The campaigns were required to disclose how much they had spent on the primary, and Newberry's team reported an astonishingly high sum. The vast PR effort had cost $176,568.08, the modern day equivalent of almost $2.8 million. The official paperwork suggested that the funding had been above board, since Newberry had not contributed any of his own money. However, almost $150,000 of the total had come from the candidate's relatives. Newberry's opponents suspected that he had personally funded his campaign and exceeded the limits set by Michigan law and the Federal Corrupt Practices Act many times over. While a resolution was introduced in the Senate on September 17 to investigate the primary, this was later dismissed in committee.

In the general election, Newberry defeated Ford by 7,567 votes out of about half a million cast. It was an especially narrow victory, considering the Republican candidates in the races for governor and five other state offices won with majorities of more than 100,000. The Republicans had only a two-vote majority in the Senate after the 1918 election. Had Ford won in Michigan, the chamber would have been evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

While a New York grand jury voted 16-1 that Newberry had done nothing for which he could be indicted, the criticism of his campaign and challenges to his ability to hold office were only just beginning. Ten days after the election, Michigan resident Albert H. Fowler filed charges of corruption against Newberry.

Ford filed his own petition on January 6, 1919, demanding a recount. While the second tally reduced Newberry's plurality to 4,337 votes, it affirmed that he had still been the winner in the general election. Newberry took the oath of office on March 4, and Ford filed another petition a day later accusing the newly seated senator of unlawful expenditures and voter intimidation. The matter was sent to the Committee on Privileges and Elections.

Determined to prove that Newberry had not won the election fairly, Ford used some of his personal wealth to hire private investigators to look into the matter. Some of the information they gathered would be used by a federal grand jury, which on November 29 indicted Newberry and 134 associates who had worked on his campaign on charges of violating state and federal election laws. This development finally spurred the Senate to start its investigation into Newberry's eligibility; it adopted a resolution to look into the election in December.

Newberry maintained his innocence, suggesting that it was hypocritical for his opponent to criticize him for spending too much money on the election and then dedicating a large sum to investigating the campaign. "Such charges are lies made out of the whole cloth, and I believe the country will realize the political animus inspiring them," he said. Surprisingly, Ford said he did not hold Newberry personally responsible for any violations of election law; rather, he said the "big interests have simply victimized him."

The indictment charged that the Newberry campaign had ultimately spent between $500,000 and $1 million on the campaign leading up to the primary and general election. The modern day equivalent would be between $7.9 million and $15.7 million.

Several newspapers criticized the amount of spending in Newberry's campaign. Some suggested that the amount spent to win the Senate seat was unprecedented, noting that William Lorimer's slush fund only came to $100,000 while Isaac Stephenson (a former GOP senator from Wisconsin) had been criticized for a mere $107,793 in election spending. "The chair of a Michigan senator should be onyx and gold inlaid with glittering gems, if we may accept the findings of the federal grand jury," commented the Grand Rapids Press. The Brooklyn Citizen said that even if Newberry was innocent of personal malfeasance, he was still "the beneficiary of perhaps the very worst misuse of money ever made in an American election." The Raleigh News and Observer in North Carolina was especially harsh, saying Michigan had "defiled her political system and shamed the whole country."

The humorist Will Rogers would take a more tongue-in-cheek view. One joke he wrote to appear on theater screens before a show declared, "A senator in Michigan was convicted for buying his seat in the Senate. The law says you can buy your seat but you must not pay too much for it."

Some of the 135 people indicted in the matter would quickly admit guilt. Allie K. Moore, a former staffer at the Marquette Mining Journal, and printer William E. Rice each entered a plea three days after the indictment. Meanwhile, several witnesses testified to a variety of malfeasance in the election. One witness estimated that the election cost Newberry's campaign about $800,000, while another claimed that he had seen a pile of money in King's office that looked like it amounted to at least $1 million. Prosecutors alleged that Newberry's supporters had forged signatures on a petition supporting candidate James W. Helme in the Democratic primary against Ford. In one of the more sensational incidents, former Flint mayor Bill McKeighan said the Newberry campaign told him to swing his district for the GOP candidate or face the entirety of a two to 15-year sentence for his conviction of accessory to robbery and assault with deadly weapons; the district went for Newberry, and McKeighan's sentence was later reversed by the Michigan Supreme Court.

Along with 16 co-defendants, Newberry was found guilty on March 20, 1920. He was sentenced to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The Senate had again proved sluggish on pursuing an investigation. Spurred by the verdict, the Committee on Privileges and Elections directed a subcommittee to look into the 1918 election on April 9. It would not issue its findings for another 17 months.

In the time it took for the Senate committee to reach its conclusions, Newberry's case proceeded to the Supreme Court on appeal. The 5-4 decision in Newberry v. United States, issued on May 2, 1921, determined that the state had the authority and responsibility to regulate primary elections and party nominations. For this reason, the majority opinion declared, measures passed by Congress such as those in the Federal Corrupt Practices Act would "interfere with purely domestic affairs of the state and infringe upon liberties reserved to the people." The justices were also unanimous in finding that the judge in Newberry's case erred in his instructions to the jury.

Four months later, the Committee on Privileges and Elections finally reached its own conclusions regarding the 1918 election in Michigan. The majority report concluded that Newberry had been elected legally and that the charges of voter intimidation and fraud were unfounded. The findings reflected Newberry's own claims of innocence: the candidate had been in New York as a naval officer, the money in the race had been largely contributed by his family and friends, and he had not known about or solicited such campaign donations.

The majority report did express disapproval of the amount of money spent on the election, concluding that Newberry's campaign had used at least $195,000 to get their candidate elected. However, it found that "there was no concealment whatever...and it was spent entirely for legal and proper purposes." The report declared that Newberry was entitled to his seat and should continue to serve in the Senate.

The minority report was written by three Democrats on the committee. While it agreed with the majority in determining that Ford had not won the general election, it also concluded that Newberry had been fully aware that his campaign was breaking election laws and acquiesced to this behavior. The report concluded that Newberry was not entitled to hold his seat and that his office should be declared vacant.

Extensive debates on the issue took place between November of 1921 and January of 1922. Senator George W. Norris, a Progressive Republican from Nebraska, said that one of Michigan's seats in the Senate had essentially been up for "public sale" in the 1918 election. He argued that exonerating Newberry would lead to a Senate full of wealthy tycoons in future years, sarcastically commenting that this would "insure a high-class membership."

Newberry spoke in his own defense on January 9, 1922. He regretted that the spending in the 1918 election had reached the level it did, though he claimed to have no knowledge of how much money his campaign received, where it came from, or what the funds were used for. He said his lack of knowledge about the campaign was the reason he had opted not to appear before the investigating committee, but that he wanted to speak before the Senate as a whole to clear up any misunderstandings. "I did not solicit or spend, directly or indirectly, one single dollar in the campaign," he said. "Nor did I know of the contributions made until afterward."

There were three attempts to adopt the minority view and declare Newberry's seat vacant, but each one failed. Before a vote was taken on the majority report, it was amended with a statement that "severely condemned" the expenditures in Newberry's campaign as "harmful to the honor and dignity of the Senate and dangerous to the perpetuity of free government." Some senators were appalled by the amendment. William S. Kenyon, a Republican from Iowa, questioned how the Senate could vote on a measure that validated a member's eligibility while simultaneously claiming that their behavior had been injurious to the nation's principles. "My God!" Kenyon exclaimed. "You can never lessen the dignity of the Senate after today."

The amended majority report was approved in a 46-41 vote, which split largely along party lines. Nine Republicans joined 32 Democrats in opposing the decision to declare Newberry's election to be valid. While many observers thought that five Progressive Republicans would join the opposition, they unexpectedly swayed the result by casting their votes in favor of seating Newberry.

It would prove to be a Pyrrhic victory for the senator and his supporters. The exorbitant spending in Newberry's campaign had had been criticized from all quarters, and the practice was even nicknamed "Newberryism." Campaign spending became an issue in several elections in 1922, and Ford eagerly donated to candidates who were running against the senators who had voted in favor of Newberry.

One of the incumbents defeated in the 1922 election was the other senator from Michigan, Charles E. Townsend, who lost the general election to Democratic candidate Woodbridge N. Ferris. Though the GOP retained a majority in the Senate, it lost six seats to the Democrats. Since Newberry had retained his seat by only five votes, the shift was just enough to pose a new threat. Robert La Follette, the Progressive Republican senator from Wisconsin, promised to bring the issue of Newberry's election up again.

Soon after the election, Newberry announced that he would resign effective November 21. He cited Townsend's defeat as the reason for his departure, noting that the discontent over his campaign spending had probably played a role in this result. "[A] fair analysis of the vote in Michigan, and other votes where friends and political enemies alike have suffered defeat, will demonstrate that a general feeling of unrest was mainly responsible," he said.

Newberry maintained that he had been elected fairly, and suggested that he would continue to be "hampered by partisan political persecution" if he stayed in office. Cordell Hull, the chairman of the National Democratic Committee and future Secretary of State under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, interpreted Newberry's resignation differently. The senator's departure in the face of an altered Senate, he said, was "a confession of moral guilt of the offense charged."

Governor Alexander Groesbeck appointed James Couzens, the mayor of Detroit, to fill the remainder of Newberry's term. It was something of a belated victory for Ford; Couzens had worked as the automaker's business manager between 1903 and 1915. Couzens was re-elected in 1924 and 1930, but was not nominated in 1936.

The Newberry v. United States decision would endure for two decades, frustrating Progressive efforts to limit corruption in elections through campaign finance rules. A newly revised Federal Corrupt Practices Act, based on the Supreme Court ruling as well as the Teapot Dome scandal, was passed in 1925 to adjust the federal campaign finance law. While it repealed the disclosure requirements for primaries, it also declared that all committees operating in two or more states had to file quarterly reports for all contributors giving $100 or more. The law also raised the personal financing limit on Senate races in some states with large populations to $25,000.

Unfortunately, the new law proved easy to skirt and difficult to enforce. The Federal Corrupt Practices Act of 1925 would only exclude two people from office due to campaign violations, and both offenses occurred in 1927; though the law granted the authority to levy fines for these violations, no candidates were ever ordered to pay a penalty. It was finally replaced by the Federal Election Campaign Act in 1971.

In 1941, the Supreme Court reversed itself in United States v. Classic. This 4-3 decision determined that the Constitution gave Congress the ability to regulate primary elections.

After his resignation, Newberry returned to his work in manufacturing in Michigan. He died in Grosse Point on October 3, 1945.

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Historic Elmwood Cemetery and Foundation, The Miller Center, "Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses" by the United States Justice Department, "The Election Case of Truman H. Newberry of Michigan" at, "Newberry Car Kills Girl" in the Gazette Times on Sep. 6 1911, "No Prosecution Against Newberry" in the Lewiston Saturday Journal on Sep. 11 1911, "Lieutenant Governor Demands Withdrawl of Truman Newberry" in the Oswosso Argus-Press on Aug. 22 1918, "Two Confess Guilt in Newberry Scandal" in the Ludington Daily News on Dec. 2 1919, "Newberry Aide Had 'Money Pile'" in the Spokesman-Review on Feb. 13 1920, "Sensation Stirs Newberry Trial" in the Milwaukee Sentinel on Feb. 13 1920, "Ford-Newberry Contest Case Reported" in the Deseret News on Sept. 29 1921, "Newberry Spoke in Own Defense" in the Lawrence Journal-World on Jan. 9 1922, "Senate Seats Newberry; Censures Vast Spending" in The Day on Jan. 13 1922, "Newberryism Means Death to Democracy" in The Searchlight on Jan. 31 1922, "Newberry Resigns from U.S. Senate" in the Lawrence Journal-World on Nov. 20 1922, "Newberry Quitting Confession of Guilt, Chairman Hull Thinks" in the Schenectady Gazette on Nov. 21 1922, Successful Men of Michigan, Michigan Biographical Directory, The Literary Digest Vol. 63, Reforming the Electoral Process in America by Brian L. Fife, The Papers of Will Rogers edited by Steven K. Gragert and M. Jane Johannson, Drawing Conclusions on Henry Ford by Rudolph and Sonya Alvarado, Encyclopedia of American Political Parties and Elections by Larry J. Sabato and Howard R. Ernst, Making and Selling Cars: Innovation and Change in the U.S. Automotive Industry by James M. Rubenstein, The Power of Money in Congressional Campaigns, 1880-2006 by David C.W. Parker, The New International Yearbook: A Compendium of the World's Progress for the Year 1918 edited by Frank Moore Colby

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Marion Barry: up in smoke

The first brush Marion Barry Jr. had with the law was a dispute over a parking violation in 1969. After spotting two police officers ticketing vehicles, Barry said to one of them, "If you put a ticket on my car...I'll kill you." When the officer called Barry's bluff, he tore the ticket up and threw the pieces into the policeman's face. In the ensuing scuffle, he struck the other officer in the face and tore his shirt. Barry, charged with assault, could have been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Instead, his case ended with a hung jury and two co-defendants were acquitted.

Barry would get in hot water for much more serious charges over the years, none more sensational than a 1990 incident in which he was caught on videotape smoking crack cocaine. Nevertheless, he became such a popular local figure in Washington, D.C. that both his supporters and detractors referred to him as the "Mayor for Life." Going from the son of an impoverished black family in the South to a leadership role in the nation's capital proved to be an inspiring story for many of his constituents, even as Barry's transgressions continued to checker his record well into the 21st century.

The third of 10 children in a family of sharecroppers, Barry was born on March 6, 1936 in Itta Benna, Mississippi. After his father died when Barry was four years old, his mother moved the family to Memphis and eventually married a butcher. Barry worked several jobs in his youth to support the family including selling newspapers, picking cotton, inspecting soda bottles, and bagging groceries. He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1954, successfully becoming an Eagle Scout before doing so.

As the civil rights movement heated up, Barry joined the cause at a local level. He was the president of the student chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at LeMoyne-Owen College, and was nearly expelled for criticizing a member of the college's board of trustees for a racially insensitive remark. Graduating with a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1958, Barry went on to earn a master's degree in the subject at Fisk University two years later.

Since there was no NAACP chapter at this school, Barry formed one. He became a more noticeable civil rights figure, helping to organize lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville and participating in voter registration drives in several Southern states. He continued to pursue his studies, working for a year as a teaching assistant at the University of Kansas before transferring to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. There, he founded a newspaper on civil rights issues entitled the Knoxville Crusader and learned that he was barred from tutoring white students.

This discrimination likely influenced the decision which would prove to be a major turning point in Barry's life. Although he was only a few credits short from receiving a doctorate in chemistry, Barry quit his studies. He had been part of a group of black student leaders who met to form what would become the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In 1965, Barry moved to Washington, D.C. to begin full-time work as the organization's first national chairman.

By the time of Barry's arrival, "white flight" to the suburbs had transformed the city to one with a majority black population. Despite this demographic shift, whites continued to dominate city positions. This authority was rather restricted, however, given that the status of the city gave its residents rather limited representation. The District of Columbia had not even been allowed to vote in presidential elections prior to the 1964 election. It would not receive its own school board until 1968, and its representation in Congress was limited to a nonvoting delegate in the House of Representatives, a position not created until 1970.

"Home rule" for residents of Washington, D.C. became a major part of Barry's civil rights efforts in the capital. He organized the Free D.C. Movement and frequently wore a dashiki during his speeches. In January of 1966, he organized a one-day boycott of the city's transit system to protest a proposed fare hike. In 1967, he was successful in winning millions of dollars in federal grants to support jobs programs for poor blacks in the city. Two years later, he resigned from SNCC to turn his attention to this issue, founding an organization called Pride Inc. to find work for inner city youth.

Barry was elected to a string of municipal entities in the early 1970s, starting in February of 1970. He earned a spot on the Model Police Precinct, a board set up to improve relations between the police department and the people of Washington, D.C. He resigned a year later to run for the city's school board, defeating chairwoman Anita F. Allen for an at-large seat. He served until 1974, when he was elected to the City Council. At this point, he resigned from Pride Inc. to begin a full-time government career.

The City Council itself was a creation of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act of 1973. Though a mayor-commissioner and nine councilors had been responsible for managing the city since 1967, these positions were appointed by the President. The new legislation allowed the city to elect its own mayor and City Council in 1974, but Congress still had overarching authority in the district. Its members reviewed all of the Council's decisions, reserving the right to veto them, and retained the ability to set the city's budget and taxes.

In his first term, Barry worked to get a pay raise for the D.C. Metro Police and was instrumental in defeating a 1 percent gross receipts tax on city business. He was also an early supporter of gay and lesbian rights. Having built a base of support among numerous different groups and interests, he easily won re-election in 1976.

A year later, Barry was nearly killed in an incident that would help bolster his respect among the city's residents. On March 9, 1977, a dozen members of the Hanafi Muslims (a breakaway entity from the militant black group Nation of Islam) took almost 150 people hostage when they seized three buildings in the nation's capital. The group took over a Muslim religious center, the headquarters of a Jewish organization, and the District Building. They demanded that seven men convicted of murdering seven relatives of siege leader Hamaas Abdul Khaalis be presented for judgment before the Hanafi group. The hostage takers also demanded the destruction of all copies of "Mohammed, Messenger of God," a movie they considered sacrilegious to Islam.

Barry was on the fifth floor of the District Building, which functioned as the District of Columbia's city hall, when the gunmen took over the building. He heard two shots, which killed a radio journalist named Maurice Williams and injured a security guard who later died in the hospital of a heart attack. There was a third blast, and Barry realized he had been hit in the chest. One witness suggested that Barry had been a target; he said that when one gunman learned that he had shot Barry, he commented, "Oh good, we did get who we wanted to get."

Barry stumbled into the City Council chambers, where he was assisted by other people who had taken shelter in the room. He was later evacuated by firefighters who used an extension ladder to take him out through the window. Doctors found that a shotgun pellet had lodged less than an inch from Barry's heart, presumably after losing some of its speed in a ricochet. The slug was surgically removed, and Barry returned to work a week later.

When Barry ran for mayor in 1978, he received support from a variety of sources including the police, firefighters, young white professionals, and retirees. He was an early supporter of gay rights, working to prevent discrimination in housing and hiring, and he won acclaim among Hispanic voters by advocating for bilingual and adult education. The editorial board of the Washington Post named him as their choice for mayor. Though he won only 35 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, it was enough to defeat City Council chairman Sterling Tucker and Walter E. Washington, the city's first elected mayor. In the strongly Democratic city, Barry easily won the general election by defeating Arthur A. Fletcher, a Republican who had served in both the Nixon and Ford Administrations.

Barry took the oath of office on January 2, 1979, in a strongly symbolic ceremony. He was sworn in by Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice appointed to the Supreme Court. The Post would describe Barry as a "national symbol for self-governance for urban blacks," noting that he secured jobs for black citizens in middle and upper level positions that had been traditionally dominated by whites. He also appointed a number of women to these positions.

Though there were certain racial issues in the District of Columbia—a 1991 study reported that 42 percent of the city's black men between the ages of 18 and 35 were in jail, on probation or parole, or wanted by the police—the city was burdened by numerous other problems as well. Washington, D.C. had little in the way of tax base to rely on. There were few heavy industries, most government employees commuted from suburbs in Maryland or Virginia, and many of the federal buildings and other structures were tax-exempt. Unlike urban areas elsewhere in the United States, the city could not rely on contributions from a state for assistance. The fire department was so strapped that it could only respond to one two-alarm call at a time.

In his first term, Barry completed an audit of the city's budget and trimmed the payroll by 10 percent. Most of the cuts were through attrition, but there were also deep cuts to the city's police force; about 1,500 people working for the D.C. Metro Police lost their jobs.

Barry led an effort to encourage hotel and business development in the downtown area, personally working with developers to help get their building permits approved. The mayor also strove to help the populace as a whole, championing programs that provided summer jobs to the city's youth, helped middle class families purchase a home, and offered food assistance to seniors.

Although Barry could point to some successes in his first term, other problems worsened or remained unresolved. Drug use, homelessness, and unemployment were on the rise. The crime rate increased, and critics pointed to Barry's gutting of the police department as the cause of the problem. In advance of the 1982 election, Barry abandoned the fiscal restraint he had shown in his first term and poured more money into public programs, including $180 million for elderly assistance and job programs. He easily won the Democratic primary and general election, and these victories were repeated in 1986. Though he won more support among the city's more affluent districts in the 1978 election, this trend reversed itself in subsequent contests as he was lionized among poorer voters.

In his second and third terms, Barry was heavily criticized as he seemingly abandoned his earlier commitment to financial responsibility. A 1990 report noted that one out of every 13 citizens in the District of Columbia was employed by the city, and enemies charged that the mayor awarded jobs based on patronage rather than skill. Carl T. Rowan, Jr., a former FBI agent, complained eight years later that the D.C. bureaucracy was "a source of jobs for people whose main qualification was their eligibility to vote for Barry." When Barry's second wife, Mary Treadwell, was sent to prison for embezzling from Pride Inc., he secured her a city job when she was freed.

Over the course of these three terms, 11 city officials appointed by Barry would be involved in scandals. Ivanhoe Donaldson, a former deputy mayor, was convicted in December of 1985 of embezzling $190,000 in city funds during Barry's first and second terms.

When Barry traveled to California to attend the 1987 Super Bowl, he was heavily criticized for not returning to the District of Columbia to oversee emergency management after the city was pounded by two blizzards in a row. These junkets were not uncommon; he met with heads of state in Africa in his first term, was a regular presence at prize fights in Las Vegas, and led a delegation to the Virgin Islands in 1988. Many questioned why Barry was heading to the Caribbean to assist the local government with with overhauling their personnel system, pointing out that Washington, D.C.'s swollen payroll and debt hardly made it a model for this reform.

There were also persistent rumors that the mayor was a philanderer and drug user. The Post said that attractive women were "omnipresent" in Barry's company, and he had been married three times and divorced twice by his third term (he would ultimately be married four times). When he suffered chest pains in September of 1983, he blamed it on a hiatal hernia; a physician not associated his his opinion opined that he had suffered a drug overdose, although this report would not be made public for another six years. A similar incident occurred in January of 1987. A federal grand jury called Barry to testify in January of 1984 during an investigation into the alleged sale of cocaine to the mayor and other D.C. officials. Barry was also in a number of accidents with his municipal vehicle and was rumored to have taken cocaine at a lavish "100 days in office" party, sexually harassed a model, visited a topless club where cocaine was being sold.

The drug rumors would gain steam later in Barry's third term. In June of 1987, he publicly denied a television news report alleging that he used cocaine with a former city employee. An attempted sting operation to purchase drugs from a former city employee named Charles Lewis at a hotel room in December of 1988 was called off when police learned that Barry was present; trace of cocaine were later found in the room. A week later, U.S. Attorney Jay Stephens announced that the incident would be investigated further. Barry apologized for his "bad judgment" in visiting Lewis, but insisted that he had not taken drugs. In January of 1989, Lewis also claimed that he had never used drugs with the mayor.

Lewis changed his story later in the year. In April, he was convicted of four counts of drug possession in the Virgin Islands; a month later, he was indicted on 16 counts of drug possession and perjury in the United States. He accepted a plea bargain in November, pleading to two counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and claiming that he had purchased crack cocaine for Barry in 1988 and used drugs with the mayor on the Virgin Islands trip.

The event which would offer undeniable proof of Barry's drug use had its roots in 1985, when Barry met an unemployed model named Hazel Diane "Rasheeda" Moore. She would later claim that they engaged in a two-year affair. Moore was also the beneficiary of $180,000 in city funds over the course of three years, with the money going toward an "image consciousness" campaign aimed at city youth.

On January 18, 1990, Moore invited Barry to visit her at the Vista International Hotel in the northwestern part of the city. Unbeknownst to Barry, Moore was collaborating with the FBI and a surveillance camera was hidden in the room. The tape captured the mayor fondling Moore's breast and leg and inquiring about drugs. She provided him with a crack pipe, and Barry took two deep drags. FBI agents and D.C. police officers stormed the room, placing Barry under arrest.

"Bitch set me up," Barry grumbled as he was placed in custody. "I shouldn't have come up here. Goddamn bitch."

The FBI surveillance footage showing Barry smoking crack cocaine (Source)

The arrest occurred just three days before an event where Barry was scheduled to announce that he would be running for a fourth term as mayor. Some of his advisers had privately suggested to him that he would be better off if he quietly left politics and accepted a university teaching job. He faced more of an uphill battle, due to his past controversies and the possibility that he would face a more powerful challenger. There were rumors that civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who had recently moved from Chicago to Washington, D.C., would run for mayor; polls showed that he would easily defeat Barry in a mayoral race. 

Barry had been criticized for his remarks in a Los Angeles Times article, published on January 7, in which he was reported as saying, "Jesse don't wanna run nothing but his mouth. Besides, he'd be the laughingstock of America. He'd be run outta town if he ran against me." The article also said that Barry had boasted of his sexual prowess, threatened to punitive action against Jewish constituents who did not support him, and led schoolchildren in anti-drug pledges while denouncing rumors of his drug use as a "racist conspiracy."

There were suspicions that the government was using "selective prosecution" to target black leaders, an argument that gained a good deal of traction among Barry's supporters. They pointed out how the popular Harlem congressman Adam Clayton Powell had been expelled from the House of Representatives in 1967 for contempt of court, even though a House committee recommended that he be allowed to take his seat. "If they had accused Barry of stealing millions, creating a slush fund, awarding corrupt contracts, that would be one thing," said Benjamin Hooks, executive director of the NAACP. "But a personal habit that is bad, dangerous, lethal, that makes him a bad role model? There are 4 million people out there doing it. If there are 4 million, why did they pick out one and stick on his case for eight years?"

Barry's critics accused his supporters of trying to whitewash the crime. Some said that since prosecutors lacked the resources to go after every single offender, it made sense to arrest people whose behavior had compromised a position of public trust. Stephens said Barry's behavior was particularly egregious because he had been held up as a role model for black youth. In a column entitled "Don't Judge Black Politicians by Marion Barry," Mona Charen said there was no indication of racism or selective prosecution in Barry's case, since most of the politicians who had been ousted in recent years had been white. She denounced Barry as a hypocrite, adulterer, and lousy mayor who would be judged on these qualities rather than his race. "Most blacks do not use drugs, do not commit crimes, and do not philander," Charen concluded. "They work hard, pay taxes, and wash the car on weekends. It is no reflection on them that the mayor of Washington self-destructed. And it is no reflection on them that febrile leaders like Ben Hooks imply otherwise."

Three days after his arrest, Barry admitted that he had been wrestling with an addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs. He spent seven weeks at rehab in Florida and South Carolina before returning to Washington, D.C. During the jury selection for his June trial, he announced that he would not seek re-election. Sharon Pratt Kelly, who was working as vice president of public policy for the D.C. utility PEPCO and had been an active member of the Democratic National Committee, was later elected to succeed him.

Barry faced 12 drug possession charges, with one stemming from the hotel sting and the remainder from past instances in which witnesses said he had used cocaine. He had also been charged with three felony counts of perjury, which charged that he had given false testimony before the federal grand jury.

The trial lasted for two months. Lewis, who had started cooperating with prosecutors in exchange for a reduced sentence, claimed that he and Barry had used cocaine as far back as the 1986 trip to the Virgin Islands. Moore said she had agreed to help in the sting operation against Barry after a religious conversion and because she was worried about the mayor's health. The defense sought to discredit Moore as an unreliable crack cocaine addict, though they also argued that Barry's actions on the tape suggested that he had gone to the hotel in search of sex rather than drugs. Moore admitted that she had lied to a federal grand jury, since she had told the jurors—and the agents setting up the sting—that she had last taken cocaine in April of 1989; in fact, she had taken it in early January, even as she prepared for the sting.

In one dramatic moment on June 28, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan arrived at the court with about a dozen followers. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, declaring that their presence would prove disruptive to the trial and intimidating to the jury, declared Farrakhan to be persona non grata in the courtroom. Farrakhan complained that Barry's trial "demonstrates the wickedness of the United States government and the lengths to which this government will go when it targets a black leader to be discredited."

In their closing arguments, prosecutors said it was ludicrous to claim that Barry was the victim in a racist conspiracy. Ten witnesses had attested to the mayor's cocaine use, they said, and the only conspiracy was one of "silence and deceit" to ignore or tacitly accept his behavior. "Mr. Barry is asking you to shut your eyes, cover your ears, to close your mind," said U.S. Attorney Richard Roberts. "Really, he's asking you to insult your intelligence by forgetting the facts."

The defense admitted that Barry used cocaine occasionally, but denied that he used the drug as frequently as the prosecution alleged. If that were true, they contended, he could have easily been arrested much earlier in a more conventional method than a sting operation. In an autobiography published shortly before his death, Barry offered a similar opinion. "They desperately tried to paint my cocaine use into something much more than it ever was," he said. "I had never used cocaine as much as they tried to say I had."

The jury, which included 10 black members and two white members, mulled over the charges for eight days. Five days into these deliberations, Barry announced that he would run an independent campaign for an at-large position on the City Council.

On August 10, the jury found Barry guilty of one count of drug possession. Surprisingly, it was not related to the January sting where his drug use had been caught on camera; in fact, the jury had acquitted him on that charge. Rather, the jurors agreed that the prosecution had proved that Barry used cocaine with Alabama businesswoman and Democratic political consultant Doris Crenshaw at the Mayflower Hotel in November of 1989. The jury could not reach a verdict on the remaining 10 drug charges or perjury charges, leading to a mistrial on those counts. It was a small victory for Barry; if he had been found guilty of perjury, the felony conviction would have barred him from holding any elected office.

Before his sentencing, Barry acknowledged that he was a drug addict and said he was "deeply sorry for his actions." He asked for a light sentence of probation or community service. The prosecution sought the maximum punishment of one year in prison, saying Barry was not sorry for his actions but rather upset that he had been caught. Stephens said that Barry had admitted to prosecutors that he used cocaine on at least a dozen occasions. Prosecutors also argued that he had "seriously impugned the integrity" of the mayor's office, especially since he had urged the city's youth to not use drugs.

On October 26, Barry was sentenced to six months in federal prison and one year of probation. He was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine as well as the cost of his incarceration, with additional drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Jackson told Barry that he had "given aid, comfort, and encouragement to the drug culture" and set a bad example for the citizens of Washington, D.C. Although Barry told the judge that he was "truly remorseful," he continued to make claims of racial prejudice when talking to the press. "I understand that there are different standards for different people, and that's the American injustice system," he said after his sentencing.

In November, Barry experienced his first electoral loss when he finished third in the City Council race with only 20 percent of the vote. After his appeals were exhausted, he began his sentence at a minimum security facility in Virginia in October of 1991. He again claimed to be the victim of a "racist plot," accusing prosecutors of pursuing him while ignoring the malfeasance of white government officials. Barry was required to spend the entire six-month period behind bars, since sentences of under a year were not eligible for early release. Two months into his sentence, he was transferred to a medium security penitentiary in Pennsylvania after another inmate reported seeing a female visitor giving Barry fellatio in the prison's family reception room.

The drug conviction failed to put a dent in Barry's popularity. When he was released in April 1992, he was chauffeured home in a limousine and accompanied by six busloads of supporters. He immediately sought a Council seat to represent Ward 8, the poorest district in Washington, D.C. and the only one he had carried in the 1990 race. He won the Democratic primary with three times as many votes as incumbent Wilhelmina Rolark and was successful in the general election as well.

In May of 1994, Barry announced that he would seek a fourth term as mayor. "I'm in recovery and so is my city," he declared. He faced a three-way contest in the Democratic primary. Kelly had tried to reduce the city's debt, lobby the federal government for a higher budget, and reign in bureaucracy by eliminating about 6,000 jobs; she was not about to give up the office without an attempt at re-election. Councilor John Ray also entered the primary. Barry managed to defeat both of his opponents, earning 47 percent in the vote. Ray earned 37 percent of the vote, Kelly only 13 percent.

While the Democratic primary win typically guaranteed a victory in the general election in D.C., the Republicans had plenty of past scandals to use against Barry. The GOP chose Carol Schwartz, a city councilor who had unsuccessfully contested Barry in the 1986 election, for their candidate. Schwartz had run a hard campaign against Barry in that year, accusing him of incompetence and corruption during his first two terms; in the 1994 election, she could criticize him for his drug conviction as well. She suggested that Barry's cocaine use had played a part in the District of Columbia's increasing homicide rate.

Schwartz managed to keep the general election from becoming a runaway, but she only managed to take 42 percent of the vote. Barry came away with 56 percent. Despite the many charges of mismanagement and the infamous video of his drug use and arrest, he had been elected to a fourth term.

Washington, D.C. continued to be a city beset by serious problems. Several city agencies had been placed into receivership due to their appalling conditions. One judge described the conditions in a home for juvenile delinquents as "unacceptable for a civilized country." In a nursing home run by the city, some patients were found to have bedsores so severe that limbs needed to be amputated. The high rates of murder, high school dropouts, and infant mortality had not dropped significantly since Barry's first term, and the city was also dealing with high levels of crack cocaine addiction and AIDS infections.

Upon taking office in 1995, Barry appealed to Congress for a bailout to help shore up the city's finances and remedy its widespread problems. Instead, Congress established a financial control board to take over budgetary management from the local government amid allegations of extensive mismanagement and graft. Barry would feud with the board for the remainder of his term, decrying the loss of local level management as a "rape of democracy." He accused Congress, which had swung to the control of the Republican Party after the 1994 election, of trying to limit the home rule allowances which had been won two decades before.

In July of 1997, Congress passed a reform act which stripped Barry of much of his remaining power. Oversight of nine major departments was transferred to the financial control board, leaving only the parks and libraries under Barry's watch. He was essentially a mayor in name only. Barry announced in May of 1998 that he would not seek a fifth term, and he left office in January of 1999.

Barry left a polarizing legacy. He pointed to the revitalization of downtown areas as his signature achievement, including a decision to locate government offices in an area hard-hit by the 1968 race riots to help turn the neighborhood around. Supporters saw him as someone who had risen to success on his own initiative, who was committed to helping the city's youth and poor. Many thought that the frequent criticism directed at the mayor was part of a widespread effort to discredit him and roll back the power achieved by black residents of the District of Columbia. Critics said Barry had done more to harm the city then help it through persistent graft, moral bankruptcy, poor fiscal management, and his inability to stem crime or improve the schools.

Although Barry's fourth term as mayor would be his last, he was not out of politics for good. After working for a few years as an investment banker, he announced that he would run for City Council in March of 2002. However, he abandoned the bid after police found traces of cocaine and marijuana in his illegally parked car. Barry said he had been framed, and no charges were filed. Two years later, he was again elected to the Council from Ward 8. He would hold the position until his death.

A number of troubles continued to plague Barry in his later years. He was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of assault after a female janitor at the Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport accused him of exposing himself to her in an airport bathroom in 2000. Barry pleaded guilty to the charge and received a sentence of community service, and was later ordered to pay $35,000 when the woman filed a lawsuit against him.

At a court-ordered screening in 2005, Barry tested positive for cocaine and marijuana. Marion Christopher Barry, his son by his third wife Effi Barry, was convicted of drug possession six years later and received a suspended sentence. Polly Harris, Effi's mother, publicly blamed Barry for his son's drug use.

An audit discovered that Barry had failed to file federal or local income taxes for 1999, 2000, or 2004. He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges in October of 2005, and was sentenced to three years' probation in March of 2006. The punishment came without a fine, allowing Barry to start paying back $195,000 in missed federal taxes and $54,000 in D.C. taxes plus penalties. When he also failed to file his taxes in 2005 and 2007, Barry reached an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service to settle the accounts; he blamed poor health for missing the deadlines.

Even in the midst of these incidents, Barry continued to enjoy widespread support. In 2005, he joined local businesses and volunteers in starting a program to distribute 2,000 turkeys for the holidays. A year later, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators awarded him the Nation Builder Award, recognizing his work as a civil rights activist and politician.

However, Barry would also face some embarrassments in his later years on the City Council. He was arrested in July of 2009 after he was accused of stalking Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, who was described as an occasional girlfriend. Though the charges were dropped, Barry was censured, stripped of a committee chairmanship, and removed from another committee a year later after councilors learned that he had awarded $15,000 to Watts-Brighthaupt as a "personal service" contract. Since Watts-Brighthaupt owed him money, she had simply repaid him from the same funds which Barry had assigned in his capacity as a councilor. A similar incident occurred in September of 2013, when Barry was found to have accepted cash payments from city contractors; he was again censured and stripped of a chairmanship.

Like his first brush with the law, Barry's final controversy involved parking tickets. He was involved in a car accident in August of 2014 after driving on the wrong side of the road. After this smash-up, it was revealed that he had $2,800 in unpaid moving violation fines and parking violations. He promptly paid the outstanding sum to the city.

In June of 2014, Barry published an autobiography entitled "Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry Jr." He said that there were many who "judge me but don't really know me," arguing that he had completed a number of professional accomplishments in his life. "I always felt like I was two different people in politics; one as a personally religious man who was quiet with a lot of doubts and frustrations; and the other as the politician who had to be brave and courageous, while representing the desires of the people," he wrote. "I seemed to be brave enough to take on anything for the people. But deep down inside, I hurt like anybody else."

By this point, Barry had been suffering from a number of health problems. He had survived a bout with prostate cancer, received a kidney transplant in 2009, and suffered from diabetes. On November 23, 2014, he died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

Sources: Council of the District of Columbia, "Black Muslims Terrorize U.S. Capital; Reporter Killed, Many Hostages Held" in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Mar. 9 1977, "Bullet Stopped Short of Heart" in the Spokane Daily Chronicle on Mar. 10 1977, "Tale of Hanafi Moslem Terror is Related" in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Mar. 13 1977, "D.C. Coalition Leads 'Back to Cities' Move" in the Milwaukee Journal on Dec. 6 1978, "D.C. Mayor Denies Drug Involvement" in the Pittsburgh Press on Dec. 28 1988, "Marion Barry Keeps D.C. Guessing" in the Los Angeles Times on Jan. 7 1990, "Marion Barry Plans to Enter Race in Full Stride: 'I'll Win'" in the Free Lance-Star on Jan. 16 1990, "D.C. Mayor Arrested in Drug 'Sting,' Agents Say" in the Ocala Star-Banner on Jan. 19 1990, "Events in Marion Barry's Career" in the Star-News on Jan. 20 1990, "Don't Judge Black Politicians by Marion Barry" in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News on Feb. 5 1990, "Blacks Claim Barry Singled Out" in the Spokesman-Review on Jun. 9 1990, "Jurors View Videotape of Barry Drug Arrest" in the Washington Post on Jun. 29 1990, "Pained and Shamed, Barry Says" in the Pittsburgh Press on Aug. 3 1990, "Mayor Barry Guilty of Cocaine Charge" in the New Straits Times on Aug. 12 1990, "Marion Barry Seeks Probation" in the Argus-Press on Oct. 26 1990, "Barry Gets 6-Month Prison Term for Cocaine Possession" in the Boca Raton News on Oct. 27 1990, "Marion Barry Begins 6-Month Prison Term" in the News-Journal on Oct. 26 1991, "Ex-Mayor Marion Barry Trying to Make a Comeback" in the Star-News on May 22 1994, "Barry's Tenure Was a Roller Coaster Ride" in the Washington Post on May 22 1998, "Schwartz Launches Third Bid for Mayor" in the Washington Post on June 18 1998, "Tax Charges Net Marion Barry 3 Years' Probation" in the Free Lance-Star on Mar. 10 2006, "Some Things You Never Forget" in the Washington Post on Mar. 12 2007, "Barry Again Fails to File Tax Forms" in the Washington Post on Jan. 29 2009, "From the Archives: The Charmed Life of Marion Barry" in the Washingtonian on Feb. 19 2014, "Marion Barry Dies at 78" in the Washington Post on Nov. 23 2014, "Marion Barry, Washington's 'Mayor For Life,' Even After Prison, Dies at 78" in the New York Times on Nov. 23 2014, Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr. by Marion Barry Jr., Democratic Destiny and the District of Columbia: Federal Politics and Public Policy by Ronald Walters and Toni-Michelle C. Travis, African-Americans and Criminal Justice: An Encyclopedia by Delores D. Jones-Brown and Beverly D. Frazier and Marvie Brooks