Thursday, April 9, 2009

Daniel J. Flood: the dapper briber

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An expert at bringing federal money into his district, Daniel John Flood's longstanding career was shattered when he ended up getting ahold of those funds the wrong way.

Flood was born in 1903 in Hazleton, Pennsylvania and graduated from Syracuse University in New York in 1924. He initially made his career as a Shakespearean actor; in his later troubles, news reports found it irresistible to comment on this aspect of his life, along with his distinctive waxed mustache. Flood went on to attend Harvard University and the Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1929. He was admitted to the bar the next year.

In the following years, Flood held numerous Pennsylvania state positions. He was the deputy attorney general and counsel to the Liquor Control Board from 1935 to 1939, and director of the Bureau of Public Assistance Disbursements and executive assistant to the state treasurer from 1941 to 1944.

In 1944, Flood was elected to Congress as a Democrat. He lost the next election, won two after that, lost again in 1952, and was re-elected in 1954 in the first of 13 returns to office. From 1967 to 1979, he chaired the subcommittee on Labor, Health, Education, and Welfare, part of the House Appropriations Committee.

Hailing from a depressed anthracite-producing region, Flood's popularity in his district was likely due to his ability to secure federal funds for a variety of projects. After Hurricane Agnes flooded parts of northeastern Pennsylvania in 1972, Flood was able to facilitate about $100 million in direct aid. He was also able to pressure the U.S. Army to accept coal from his district to heat their European bases. He encouraged federal loans and guarantees for industries to come to the area, military contracts during the Vietnam War, and the rerouting of a highway to run through the district. Other federal funding went toward an elementary school, rural health center, industrial park, and elderly center, all of which were named for Flood.

In 1978, a former aide of "Dapper Dan" brought into question the way the funds were obtained. Steve Elko, who had started working for Flood in 1970, left that role in 1976 after he was convicted of accepting kickbacks from favors from constituents and others who were seeking federal money. Elko was sentenced to serve two years in prison. In 1978, he began to cooperate with federal investigators, saying some of the money had gone to Flood. He quoted Flood as saying, "This is a business. Get all you can while you can get it." The state's Crime Commission suggested that Flood may have helped out a local contractor with ties to Russell Bufalino, head of a Mafia family. The scandal also roped in Joshua Eilberg, Democratic congressman from Philadelphia, to whom Flood had directed administrators of Hahnemann Medical College when they were looking to secure federal construction money. Eilberg was later convicted of his own set of crimes.

Flood was indicted in September 1978 on charges of bribery and perjury during the period Elko worked for him. He was accused of taking at least $50,000 in illegal payments and lying about the payments while under oath. While the indictment dented his momentum in the election year, Flood still won that year's election against Republican candidate Robert P. Hudock with 58 percent of the vote. The approach of criminal proceedings did lead Flood to give up his chairmanship of the HEW subcommittee in 1979.

During a 13-day trial in early 1979, several witnesses took the stand on behalf of the prosecution. Of the 21 witnesses called by the prosecution, three businessmen, a lobbyist, and a rabbi said they had paid bribes to Flood; another witness said he had given Flood 100 shares of bank stock. The defense called 37 witnesses, but Flood never took the stand.

The case took a surprising twist when the jury deadlocked with a single juror refusing to find Flood guilty of the five counts of bribery and three counts of perjury. The sole dissenter, retired Navy cook William Cash, said that he had heard from independent sources that Elko and three prosecution witnesses took $176,000 from Flood and were guiltier than the congressman. Indeed, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported during the trial that the rabbi was imprisoned, the lobbyist was living under a new identity after winning immunity from prosecution, one businessman had done two years for tax fraud and bribery, and another had been the subject of a fraud investigation and testified under the condition of immunity. Of the witnesses the Gazette listed that said they had given bribes to Flood, only banker and retired state legislator T. Newell Wood did not have a qualifier noting a criminal history.

Cash should not have been hearing anything from "independent sources," however, and he was subject to a jury tampering investigation immediately after a mistrial was declared. He failed two polygraph tests during the investigation, but it was determined that Cash had not deliberately tried to throw the verdict. Meanwhile, a second trial was delayed as Flood was hospitalized several times. In November of 1979, he announced that he would resign from Congress at the end of January 1980, citing the strain the criminal proceedings were having on his health.

Flood's lawyers said that he had become addicted to barbiturates, but he was found competent to stand a second trial in December 1979. In February of 1980, Flood pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate federal campaign laws by taking payoffs from the five accusers. He said he was entering the plea because he felt a jury could find him guilty. In April, a special election to fill the vacancy in the Congress chose Democratic state legislator Raphael Musto to fill the remainder of Flood's term.

Following the conviction, Flood disappeared into relative obscurity. He died in 1994 of pneumonia.

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "Theatrical Flood: Curtain Closing?" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Feb. 27 1978, "Flood's Election May Be His Last Hurrah" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Oct. 28 1978, "Flood to Testify in Bribery Trial" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Jan. 29 1979, "Defense Rests Case Without Calling on Flood" in the Daily Collegian on Feb. 1 1979,"Flood Jury Retires, No Verdict Issued" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Feb. 2 1979, "The Twelfth Man Hangs a Jury" in Time on Feb. 19 1979, "Flood Juror Fails 2 Polygraph Tests" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on June 4 1979, "Rep. Flood Resigns from House" in the Daily Collegian on Nov. 8 1979, "Doctors Judge Flood Competent for Retrial" in the Daily Collegian on Dec. 4 1979, "Flood Pleads Guilty in Conspiracy, Judge Gives Him Year's Probation" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Feb. 27 1980, "Democrat Wins Election to Rest of Flood's Term" in the New York Times on April 10 1980, "Daniel Flood, 90, Who Quit Congress in Disgrace, Is Dead" in the New York Times on May 29 1994, Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth by Randall M. Miller and William Pencak, Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment, Volume 3 edited by David Levinson

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