Saturday, December 11, 2010

Richard T. Hanna: jumping the gun

Richard T. Hanna at the Miles Square Park groundbreaking. Image courtesy of the Orange County Archives.

Though Richard Thomas Hanna deserves credit for taking responsibility for his wrongdoing, it is ironic that this action may have left his reputation worse off than if he had fought the charges harder. Several politicians were implicated in the "Koreagate" scandal in the 1970s, but Hanna was the only one who was criminally convicted in the case.

Hanna was born in Kemmerer, Wyoming, in June of 1914. He eventually migrated to California, graduating from the Pasadena Junior College as well as the University of California with a bachelor's degree in law. He promptly began a private practice, though he served in the U.S. Navy Air Corps between 1942 and 1945. Beginning in 1956, he spent six years as a member of the California state assembly. In 1962, he bucked the trend in his traditionally conservative Orange County district by winning a seat in the House of Representatives after running as the Democratic nominee. Even more impressive, he held the seat in the next five elections. In March of 1974, however, Hanna announced that he would not seek re-election due to his wife's health. In November, Orange County decided to keep a Democrat in the House, electing Santa Ana city councilman Jerry M. Patterson over former Vietnam prisoner of war and GOP candidate David Rehmann.

The same month he announced he would resign for unrelated reasons, investigative journalist Jack Anderson described Hanna as "Capitol Hill's premier globe-trotter." Writing in the Washington Merry Go Round column and citing State Department cables, Anderson wrote that Hanna had been escorting South Korean businessman Tongsun Park on his quest to find oil deals. Anderson wrote that in January Hanna had been in Indonesia as a guest of the Pertamina Oil Company and flew to meet Park in Yemen. This column ultimately let Hanna off easy, describing him as a "likable liberal" and printing Hanna's insistence that he had promised capital investment in Yemen but had not made any business deals alongside Park, but only talked to officials at informal gatherings such as cocktail parties.

The same month, however, Anderson was a little tougher. He gave Hanna another nickname, "King of the Road," noting how he made three junketing trips in 1973 to the Soviet Union and Africa. Anderson accused Hanna of demanding red carpet treatment in Japan, including a military helicopter to fly him over Tokyo's persistent traffic jams. He said Hanna also escaped Egypt during the outbreak of war by taking a train to Alexandria and boarding a freighter to Greece. Altogether, Hanna had taken numerous trips to Asia, Europe, and South America, mostly on the taxpayers' expense.

It would be another two years before the Justice Department gathered enough evidence to attach criminal charges to Hanna's activities. In October of 1976, the Washington Post reported that the department was investigating the funneling of gifts and cash from the Korean government to U.S. congressmen, with over 20 past and current politicians under examination. The newspaper reported that President Park Chung Hee of South Korea was accused of personally guiding agents in the goal to create a legislative environment more favorable to that country, with Tongsun Park acting as the key lobbyist. Park said he made payments to Hanna and two other congressmen, former Democratic representatives Cornelius Gallagher of New Jersey and Edwin W. Edwards of Louisiana, then governor of that state. The Post said they'd also obtained copies of six checks, totaling $22,500, that Park had written to Hanna in 1973 and 1974. One source said Park gave Hanna about $4,000 to be used on his house.

Hanna admitted to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct that he had been involved as a silent partner in Park's import-export work, earning $60,000 to $70,000 over the course of three years. Hanna said he had never taken a political contribution from Park, and that Park had never tried to influence congressional legislation. However, he did say that he grew uncomfortable with the relationship due to the possibility of a conflict of interest, especially as Park pressed for introductions to other legislators. "I guess I was his original friend on Capitol Hill," said Hanna. "He often told me I was his oldest, dearest, closest, most valuable friend. Then he turned around and kicked me."

By this time, Hanna's travel was continuing on a smaller scale. The Orange County board of supervisors had considered him as a potential Washington lobbyist for local issues, but he withdrew his name from consideration in December of 1975. From there, he moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas and was living there in seclusion when a probe of Park's business named 27 current and former representatives and senators in September of 1977.

As a foreign national, Park was prohibited from making campaign contributions and had also failed to register as a foreign agent. Two former directors of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, named as unindicted co-conspirators, said U.S. rice dealers paid substantial amounts to Park as an agent for rice sales to Korea. Kim Hyung-Wook, one of the former directors, said Hanna and Park visited the Korean prime minister to discuss rice commissions and that Park had run lobbying efforts out of a club he owned in Washington, D.C. since 1966. Kim said Hanna wanted rice to be bought in California, and that it would be easiest to do so with Park as an agent since he could take care of payments to other congressmen to favor Korean causes. It was a rather lucrative business, since rice could be bought at subsidized prices and sold for four times the world average in Korea. Out of $9 million in rice subsidies, Park funneled $850,000 to congressmen. The misconduct led to 36 criminal corruption charges against Park, and Hanna was named as an unindicted co-conspirator for his advisory role to Park in the alleged scheme to determine which congressmen could be bought and at what price.

In October of 1977, Hanna was brought up on criminal charges of his own. An indictment charged him with three counts of bribery, one count of failing to register as a foreign agent, 35 counts of mail fraud, and one count of conspiracy. Park, as well as the two former Korean CIA directors, were named as unindicted co-conspirators in the indictment. The charges accused Hanna of getting a cut of commissions paid to Park by U.S. companies in exchange for influencing decisions related to Korea. Park admitted to giving Hanna $262,000 for his role in the scandal.

In March of 1978, most of the laundry list of charges was dismissed after Hanna pleaded guilty to the single conspiracy count, three days before he was scheduled to go to trial. "I apologize as a lawyer, as a person who held public office," he said at his sentencing. "I hope in some way to atone for what I have done, whatever years I have left." However, Hanna also thought Congress as a whole had gotten a "bad rap" from the affair and characterized the payments as campaign contributions rather than bribes. In April, Hanna was sentenced to serve six to 30 months in prison; he began the sentence the next month at the minimum security prison at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

Though Hanna was closer to the scandal than the other congressmen, he may still have had better luck if he had taken the case before a jury. Three other California Democrats were reprimanded by the House: Edward R. Roybal, Charles H. Wilson, and John J. McFall. Another former Democratic representative, Otto Passman of Louisiana, was indicted on bribery and conspiracy charges on the accusation that he took as much as $213,000 from Park. Hanna was named as a witness at the trial, but Passman was found not guilty. The indictment against Park, who had spent at least some of his time following his indictment in Seoul, was dismissed in August of 1979 as part of an immunity deal for his giving investigators 31 names in the scandal. Hanna, the only person convicted in the entire Koreagate uproar, was released from prison after serving a little more than one year of his sentence.

Hanna resigned from the bar in September of 1982 and spent the rest of his days out of the spotlight. He died in June of 2001 in Tryon, North Carolina.

Sources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "Rep. Hanna Won't Seek Re-election" in the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 13 1974, "Traveling Companions" in The Dispatch on Mar. 28 1974, "The Washington Globetrotters" in The Dispatch on Apr. 12 1974, "Brown Leads Democratic Sweep" in the Press-Courier on Nov. 6 1974, "Hanna To Quit As Prospect For Lobbyist Post" in the Los Angeles Times on Dec. 23 1975, "Gifts, Contributions From South Korea Under Investigation" in the Argus-Press on Oct. 26 1976, "Park Surrenders Bank Records" in the Lakeland Ledger on Oct. 27 1976, "Lawmaker Admits Korean Ties" in the Daytona Beach Morning Journal on Nov. 10 1976, "27 Present, Ex-Members Of Congress Linked To Park In Grand Jury Indictments" in the Toledo Blade on Sep. 7 1977, "Government Unveils Indictments Against Park" in the Rome News-Tribune on Sep. 7 1977, "Korea Probes Indict Former Lawmaker" in the Milwaukee Journal on Oct. 14 1977, "Koreagate Shadow Hits Hanna" in the Palm Beach Post on Oct. 15 1977, "Korean Agent Ties Hanna To Bribe Plot" in the Modesto Bee on Oct. 22 1977, "Korean Says Hanna Set Up Bribe Scheme" in the Anchorage Daily News on Oct. 22 1977, "Hanna Pleads Guilty In Korea Influence Buying Conspiracy" in the Lodi News-Sentinel on Mar. 18 1978, "Hanna Sentenced In Bribery Case" in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Apr. 25 1978, "Park Admits Handing $850,000 To Politicians" in the Montreal Gazette on Apr. 4 1978, "Hanna Begins Prison Term" in the Palm Beach Post on May 9 1978, "Rep. Hanna To Talk At Trial" in the Lodi News-Sentinel on Mar. 21 1979, "Passman Cleared In Korea Case" in The Dispatch on Apr. 9 1979, "Koreagate Charges Dismissed" in the Gadsden Times on Aug. 17 1979, "Ex-Congressman In Bribe Scandal" in the Los Angeles Times on Sep. 9 1982, Troubled Tiger: Businessmen, Bureaucrats, and Generals in South Korea by Mark Clifford, Taking Care of the Law by Griffin B. Bell and Ronald J. Ostrow

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Donald Edgar Lukens: deliniquent girls, delinquent bank book

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The first sex charge against Donald Edgar Lukens emerged when he was nothing more than a college kid. He was investigated for child molestation in 1954, but the parents declined to file charges. That same year, Lukens graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in sociology and joined the United States Air Force. He was 23 years old, having been born in Harveysburg, Ohio in February of 1931. He became a captain and served six-and-a-half years with the service, specializing in criminal investigation and counterintelligence, and was later a member of the Air Force Reserve. Thirty-five years later, when Lukens was well into a political career, an aide revealed the criminal investigation from his past. It was only in relation to another allegation, however, and by that time Lukens was well on his way to getting thrown out of office and into a jail cell.

After his time in the Air Force, Lukens (who nicknamed himself "Buz" out of distaste for his given name) became a minority counsel for the House Rules Committee. In 1963, during a tumultuous convention, he became the chairman of the Young Republicans. Lukens was an ultraconservative, and this post marked one of a series of victories that swayed the party farther to the right at that year's convention. New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, a moderate, even accused Lukens and his compatriots of using the "tactics of totalitarianism" at the convention. At one point, Lukens was accused of promoting biased journalism for advocating the injection of 100 Young Republicans into media jobs. He led the organization for two years, which included active stumping for unsuccessful 1964 GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.

In 1966, Lukens came to the House of Representatives and two years later he was re-elected. He was a staunch advocate of the Vietnam War, speaking at a rally in 1969. Imitating President Nixon's "V for Victory" sign, he said, "no one declares North Vietnam to withdraw from the war, and yet they're the ones that started it." He deemed antiwar protesters "selfish Americans and some of them, let's face it, are indeed cowardly." He opted not to run in 1970, instead trying unsuccessfully to win that year's gubernatorial race in Ohio.

Lukens remained in Ohio and began serving in the state senate in 1971. This service was nearly cut short a few years later. He was barred from consideration in the Republican nomination for governor in 1974 after failing to file a 1972 campaign finance report. Lukens said he had done so and that the document must have gotten lost in the mail. The next year, however, he was nearly banned from running for re-election under a campaign financing law penalizing people who did not file such reports in time. The law was amended in time for him to win re-election in 1976. In 1984, the state board of elections split 2-2 on the question of whether he still complied with the residency requirements of his seat after his divorce. Lukens responded that he'd been living with a friend only a few blocks away, and that the issue was simply harassment by the state's Democrats. Lukens finally left the state senate after 15 years when he was elected to the House again in 1986, as well as re-election in 1988. During this second stint in Washington, he opposed the continuation of sanctions on apartheid-era South Africa and supported continuing aid for Nicaraguan contra rebels.

Lukens' fall from politics was an ugly affair that stretched over several years. It began in February of 1989, when he was indicted on a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the unruliness and delinquency of a child. The charge was only punishable by a maximum of 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, but it was essentially another child molestation accusation.

The mother of a 16-year-old girl had gone to Columbus television station WSYX regarding the matter and agreed to have the station secretly videotape a meeting between her and the representative. The two met at a McDonald's fast food restaurant, where the woman questioned Lukens about past sexual encounters with her daughter. One occurred in 1985, when the girl was 13; the other in November of 1988, when she was 16. The mother found out about the incidents after overhearing a conversation between the girl and her friend.

When confronted with the allegations at the restaurant, Lukens said he didn't know at the time that the girl was underage. He then said he would see if he could find a government job for the woman. It was a rather baldfaced effort to keep things quiet, but the FBI determined that there wasn't enough evidence for a bribery charge. Lukens denied the charges when they first came up, suggesting that he was set up and approached for money on a general allegation.

The trial began in May of 1989. The girl testified that she told Lukens she was 19, but that he had laughed it off and responded, "No, you're not." Much to Lukens' discomfort, she described the second time they met to have sex. As the girl told it, she and her 19-year-old friend went to Lukens' apartment, where the congressman greeted them wearing nothing but his boxer shorts. Lukens asked them to get changed into black robes (commenting that the white robes he had were for "white people, other kind of people;" both girls were black). They slept together, and Lukens paid her $40 and gave her birthday gifts of a pink lace fan and a silver pillbox. He also gave her friend $30, a bottle of perfume, and a diamond pendant and compensated the duo for cab fare.

The defense attacked the girl's mother as chronically unemployed and desperate for publicity and money, but to no avail. The jury found Lukens guilty after one-and-a-half hours of deliberation. Chalmers Wylie, senior Republican representative from Ohio, called for his resignation immediately. The verdict came down at about the same time as another girl accused Lukens of paying to have sex with her five or six times in 1985, when she was 15. "I refuse to allow the lies and deceit of one delinquent individual to ruin me," Lukens said in a statement responding to the verdict. "I am now fighting for my life." He went on to say that the girl had "fantasies about 'getting even with the establishment.'"

In June, Lukens was sentenced to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine, along with sex offender counseling and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. The sentence was stayed while Lukens appealed, seeking to have the girl's school and juvenile records admitted for consideration by the court. The girl in the case wasn't exactly an angel. A month after the trial, she was in a fight with a man and the preliminary investigation determined that she was a courier for cocaine, money, and guns. In August, her mother had her arrested after a fight between the two resulted in threats and the girl breaking in a door with a crowbar.

The judge and prosecutor had clearly had enough on this score, however. Prosecutor Rita Mangini said the girl's "prior unruliness" did not factor into the case. Judge Ronald Solove declared, "The court is particularly struck by the unwillingness of the defendant to recognize that he was not the victim" and the ridiculousness of the idea that he was "somehow seduced by a child." Prosecutors also threatened to pursue felony charges related to Lukens' 1985 conduct if his appeal of the misdemeanor was successful.

The legal fight came at about the same time that Lukens had to go through the normal run for the GOP nomination. The Ethics Committee said it would look into whether Lukens violated any House rules, along with Democratic congressmen Gus Savage of Illinois (accused of molesting a Peace Corps volunteer during a trip to Zaire) and Jim Bates of California (accused of sexually harassing female staffers). Vice President Dan Quayle, in a trademark gaffe, caused snickers at a Young Republicans meeting when he accidentally used Buz Lukens' name instead of Buzz Aldrin when referring to the 20th anniversary of the Moon landing; the St. Louis Dispatch quipped "Quayle Puts Sex Offender on Apollo 11."

With the convention approaching, Lukens finally gave a curt mea culpa: "I apologize. I made a dumb mistake. I'm sorry." He came in third place in the May primary, with 17 percent of the vote. The nomination, and subsequent series of elections, instead went to state representative John Boehner.

One month later, Lukens' appeal was rejected by a state court. He finally resigned on October 24, 1990 "for the good of Congress and the integrity of the institution." Even then, it took one last incident to force him out. A few days before, he was accused of fondling a young female House elevator operator. The resignation saved him from an inquiry by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. The committee had opted not to pursue an investigation after Lukens' primary loss, but in light of his remaining few months of office and the recent allegations they were ready to reopen the matter.

In November, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the verdict. Lukens finally began serving his sentence in January of 1991, but only completed nine days of the month-long sentence; the judge agreed to an early release so he could start attending sex offender counseling. Lukens was not quite out of hot water yet. The girl's mother filed a lawsuit against Lukens, seeking $250,000 in damages, but a judge threw it out in December of 1993 after Lukens could not be located.

Then the bribery charges started to poke up again. The House Ethics Committee determined in 1978 that Lukens had received two $500 gifts from South Korean businessman Tongsun Park (later indicted for bribery) during his first four years in office. In July of 1994, Pentagon contractor Edward Krishack was acquitted of 16 criminal charges, including one suggesting that he gave Lukens $5,500 to get access to a congressional committee during his last year in office. Krishack was cleared at trial when it was determined that he gave Lukens the money but that it did not constitute a crime.

Lukens found himself in court again not much later. In February of 1995, he was accused of taking $27,500 in bribes from two businessmen who were trying to keep the Cambridge Technical Institute trade school in Cincinnati in the federal student loan program. One businessman, John Fitzpatrick, was also charged; the other, Henry Whitesell, had been murdered in 1990. The state alleged that the bribery occurred at about the same time that Lukens was struggling to find money to pay his legal bills on the sex charge. The potential maximum penalty was much worse this time around: 65 years in prison and a $1.25 million fine.

In October of 1995, a jury found Lukens innocent of three bribery charges but deadlocked on a fourth charge as well as a single count of conspiracy. Another trial was held in March of 1996. Prosecutors argued that he received $15,000 from the businessmen a week before the 1990 primary, when he was operating on a shoestring. In June of 1996, he was convicted of accepting a bribe and sentenced to the minimum term of 30 months in prison; he began serving seven months later. Fitzpatrick pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of conspiracy in March of 1997 and got two years in prison.

Not much was heard of Lukens after that. He moved to Texas, taught English as a second language courses, and volunteered with the Red Cross. He died of cancer in Dallas in May of 2010.

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "Only Two Incumbent House Members Meet November 8" in the Times-News on Nov. 3 1966, "Thousands Attend Washington Rally In Support Of Nixon Vietnam Policy" in the Toledo Blade on Nov. 12 1969, "Buz Lukens Asks Supreme Court Action" in the Bryan Times on Feb. 24 1973, "Lukens May Get Relief" in the Daily Sentinel on Mar. 8 1974, "Panel Questions Lukens' Status On Residency" in the Toledo Blade on Mar. 2 1984, "Brown Votes To Certify Sen. Lukens For Primary" in the Youngstown Vindicator on Mar. 22 1984, "Tape Links Congressman To Sex With Teen" in the Pittsburgh Press on Feb. 2 1989, "Ohio Congressman Indicted On Sex Charge" in the Tuscaloosa News on Feb. 24 1989, "Congressman Indicted In Sex Case With Teenager" in the Rock Hill Herald on Feb. 24 1989, "Lukens Defends Himself, Says Sex Charge A Setup" in the Toledo Blade on Feb. 27 1989, "Congressman Denies Morals Charge" in The Telegraph on May 20 1989, "Mother Takes Stand In Lukens Sex Case" in the Reading Eagle on May 24 1989, "Teen Says Congressmen Paid Her For Sex" in the Lewiston Daily Sun on May 25 1989, "Lukens Convicted Of Sex Charge" in the Herald-Journal on May 27 1989, "Congressman Won't Resign Despite Morals Charge" in the Anchorage Daily News on Jun. 2 1989, "Girl In Lukens Case In Fight" in the Portsmouth Daily Times on Jun. 7 1989, "Lawmaker Sentenced To Jail For Sex Crime" in the Union Democrat on Jun. 30 1989, "Lukens May Face Felony Charges" in the Gadsden Times on Jul. 4 1989, "A Quayle Of A Gaffe" in the Times Daily on Jul. 16 1989, "House to Probe Lukens" in the Portsmouth Daily Times on Aug. 5 1989, "Lukens' Accuser Jailed On Charges Filed By Her Mother" in the Reading Eagle on Aug. 16 1989, "Lukens Apologizes, But Will Seek Re-Election" in the Portsmouth Daily Times on May 3 1990, "Lukens Loses After Sex Scandal" in the Free Lance-Star on May 10 1990, "Lukens Will Appeal To State High Court" in the Portsmouth Daily Times on Jun. 13 1990, "Lukens Quits To Avoid New Ethics Investigation" in the Eugene Register-Guard on Oct. 25 1990, "Ex-Legislator Loses Appeal In Sex Case" in the Eugene Register-Guard on Nov. 22 1990, "Lukens Released From Jail" in the Toledo Blade on Jan. 10 1991, "Judge Tosses Out Suit Against Former Congressman" in The Vindicator on Dec. 17 1993, "Man Acquitted Of Bribing Lukens" in the Tuscaloosa News on Jul. 11 1994, "Ex-Legislator Accused of Bribery" in The Hour on Feb. 24 1995, "Ex-Statesman Gets Bribery Mistrial" in the Gainesville Sun on Oct. 20 1995, "Lukens Convicted On Bribery Charges" in the Toledo Blade on Mar. 16 1996, "Ex-Congressman Gets 30-Month Prison Term" in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Jun. 20 1996, "Lukens Begins Sentence For Accepting Bribe" in the Toledo Blade on Feb. 20 1998, "Trade School Operator Enters Guilty Plea" in the Toledo Blade on Mar. 7 1998, "Donald Lukens, 79, Dies" in the Washington Post on May 25 2010, "Donald Lukens, Scandal-Tainted Lawmaker, Dies at 79" in the New York Times on May 25 2010, "Former Congressman Donald Lukens Dies" from United Press International on May 25 2010, The Little Quiz Book of Big Political Scandals by Paul Slansky

Monday, October 25, 2010

Daniel E. Sickles: through the perilous fights

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Congressmen with murderous tempers were not new to Philip Barton Key, but his prior experience had not exactly prepared him for the events of February 27, 1859. Key was used to handling such matters from behind a prosecutor's table. A few years before, his duties as the U.S. district attorney for Washington, D.C. compelled him to try Democratic Representative Philemon T. Herbert for a bizarre murder. Herbert's argument with a waiter at Willard's Hotel grew physical, and it culminated in the congressman taking out a pistol and shooting the waiter dead. Two trials later, Herbert was acquitted under arguments that included intimidation by other waiters during the scuffle.

The incident may have taught Key not to cross a congressman at breakfast, but it did nothing to suggest that sleeping with a representative's wife was a bad idea. Not long after the unsuccessful trial, Key had befriended incoming representative Daniel Edgar Sickles and his wife, Teresa. Sickles was more than twice Teresa's age, having married her in 1852 when she was 15 years old. He was also not the most dedicated family man, and his work in Congress in the tumultuous period leading up to the Civil War did nothing to improve matters. During his frequent absences, Teresa wound up spending more and more time with Key. Their relationship did not go unnoticed in the higher ranks of Washington society, but Sickles remained oblivious. That precarious balance continued for several months, until an anonymous tipster inadvertently caused one of the most talked about events in the nation's capital.

Sickles had left a wake of minor scandals through his career, but nothing to derail it. Born in New York City in October of 1819, he attended New York University for a time and apprenticed as a printer. He later changed his focus to law, was admitted to the bar in 1843, and started practicing in the city. Though he was charged with grand larceny three years later in the theft of an $800 deed, he was acquitted on technical grounds. Sickles' frequent dalliances with a prostitute named Fanny White also failed to throw him off the political track. Aided by the Tammany Hall machine, he became a member of the state assembly in 1847 and the corporation attorney for New York City in 1853. Sickles supported the idea of a central park in Manhattan, an idea which eventually came to fruition during his lifetime.

In 1853, Sickles was tapped to be secretary of the legation at London by Democratic President Franklin Pierce. The key goal of this body was to promote the freedom of the seas and convince the British government not to interfere in the American aspiration to acquire Cuba from Spain. Sickles spent two years in this position, but caused a few embarrassments along the way. In 1854, he refused to toast the health of Queen Victoria on the Fourth of July. He likely had a role in the Ostend Manifesto, a document boldly proclaiming that the United States would take Cuba by force if Spain did not part with the island peacefully. The ultimatum was not well-received in both Europe and the U.S., and Pierce was forced to distance himself from the manifesto. When Sickles returned from England, he soon wound up in the state senate. His time here was cut short when he was elected as a Democrat to the House of Representatives in 1856.

Sickles allied himself with the Southern, "Hardshell" wing of the Democratic Party. As crises related to slavery and the balance of power in Congress mounted, the Hardshells sought to preserve the union of states even if it meant the practice of slavery were to stay in place. To that end, Sickles supported the proposal by Democratic President James Buchanan to admit Kansas as a slave state. The measure passed the Senate, but ran into defeat in the House.

It was not long after he was returned for a second term in the House that Sickles was confronted with a bitter piece of news about his marital relations. On February 24, 1859, he received a letter signed only by someone identifying themselves as "R.P.G." This tipster, whom the New York Times later melodramatically dubbed an "enemy of mankind," suggested that Sickles' friend Key rented a house on 15th Street for no other reason than to meet clandestinely Teresa. "He hangs a string out of the window as a signal to her that he is in and leaves the door unfastened and she walks in and sir I do assure you he has as much the use of your wife as you have," R.P.G. hinted. "With these few hints I leave the rest of you to imagine."

Sickles decided to embark on an investigation. Visiting the address, he questioned a few neighbors and found to his dismay that they readily recalled that a man and woman matching the description of Key and Teresa had regularly convened at the house. Sickles confided in a few friends, one of whom surveyed the house from a rented apartment across the street and turned up nothing. Sickles even had a brief glimmer of hope, when a witness recalled seeing Teresa on a date he knew her to be in another location; this quickly faded when it turned out that the witness had simply gotten the date wrong. Finally, Sickles confronted Teresa and forced her to write a lengthy and detailed confession when she admitted to the affair. "I did what is usual for a wicked woman to do," she concluded.

Key remained aloof of this development. So it was that three days after Sickles received the letter from R.P.G., several witnesses say Key loitering around the congressman's residence. At one point, he even made a clumsy attempt to signal Teresa, waving a handkerchief while petting the Sickles family dog after it ran out to see him. When Sickles finally saw Key outside, he was enraged. Though one of his friends, Samuel Butterworth, urged him to go the gentleman's route by challenging Key to a duel, Sickles would have none of it. He strode out to confront the district attorney, shouting that he was a scoundrel who had dishonored his house and threatening his life. He then took out a derringer and fired.

The first shot only grazed Key's hand. Key managed to grab hold of Sickles' coat collar, which was enough to prevent Sickles from firing again. Instead, he dropped his weapon and pulled free, only to take out a second gun and shoot again. This time, Key was struck in the leg near the groin. At some point during the struggle, Key took a pair of opera glasses he happened to have on him and threw them at Sickles, an attack which obviously didn't do much harm. With a serious wound, Key now begged Sickles not to kill him. Sickles ignored him, firing again. The gun misfired. He shot again, this time hitting Key in the chest. Even at this point, Sickles wasn't satisfied and tried to shoot Key in the head, only to have the fickle weapon misfire a second time. The incident took place in Lafayette Square, directly across the street from the White House.

Finally, the witnesses in the square interceded and Sickles surrendered his weapon. A surgeon had heard the shots and run to the scene, and Key was taken to a nearby house soon after. It was too late to do anything for the man, however, and he died before any medical treatment could be given. A White House page reported the matter to President Buchanan, a friend of Sickles. Whether he was ignorant of the judicial process or simply lying, Buchanan told the page that he could be detained indefinitely as a witness to the murder. He urged the page to flee the city, and he did. Teresa wasn't far behind. Her lover dead and her husband in jail, she returned to New York a disgraced woman.

Sickles was indicted for murder in March. His trial began the next month, after a lengthy jury selection in which numerous people admitted bias one way or another. The prosecution's case included evidence from the autopsy, which showed that Key had not been struck in the heart but rather died after his chest filled with blood from the wound. The one bullet retrieved from the body did not match the gun Sickles surrendered to authorities, so the prosecutor suggested that the congressman may even have had a third weapon. Their main argument was that Sickles had acted with malice aforethought, going so far as to deck himself out with multiple firearms before confronting Key.

In reply, Sickles' defense team tried out a rather risky argument: temporary insanity. The shock of learning about Teresa's affair, they argued, had driven him briefly out of his mind and caused him to gun down his friend and rival. It was the first time the argument was used in a court of law. The defense was easily able to dodge the testimony of numerous witnesses that Sickles didn't seem like a raving lunatic at the time of the shooting by simply pointing out that the witnesses had never been to an asylum, where plenty of committed people seemed perfectly normal on the surface.

Perhaps the most anticipated part of the trial never came about. After some debate, the judge opted not to admit Teresa's confession into the record. It leaked to the press soon after at any rate. As a result of this ruling, the judge also declined to admit similarly enticing evidence suggesting that Sickles himself had committed adultery with another woman in a Baltimore hotel. During the closing arguments, the defense reiterated their temporary insanity argument and suggested that one of the weapons dropped during the confrontation may have belonged to Key. The prosecution responded that Sickles had seemed normal before the shooting, attending his duties in Congress with no sign of mental disturbance and even making sure his remarks on a minor issue were recorded correctly.

After only 70 minutes, the jury returned a not guilty verdict. It may have been in error, since Sickles allegedly walked by the site with two friends not long after his acquittal and commented that he had meant to kill Key all along. Nevertheless, sympathy with Sickles was high since his action was seen in many quarters as a reasonable defense of his honor. One of the jurors told the press, "I would not have been satisfied with a derringer or a revolver, but would have brought a howitzer to bear on the seducer." So rather than the killing itself, Sickles got more flak when he and Teresa kept in contact with one another, fueling rumors that they were reuniting. They did keep in touch, but remained somewhat estranged.

Sickles was not very active in Congress following the trial, though after Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860 he blamed the increased threat of secession on abolitionists. Sickles even went so far as to say that if the North and South separated, New York City would break itself away from the country as well. "I tell you, that imperial city will throw off the odious government to which she now yields a reluctant allegiance; she will repel the hateful cabal at Albany, which has so long abused its power over her; and with her own flag, sustained by the courage and devotion of her own gallant sons, she will, as a free city, open wide her gates to the civilization and commerce of the world," he proclaimed. Once the Southern states actually did secede, however, Sickles pretty much flipped this opinion on its head and became a staunch supporter of Lincoln. "In all the partisan issues between the South and the Republican Party, the people of the city of New York are with the South, but when the South makes an untenable issue with our country, when the flag of the Union is insulted, when the fortified places provided for the common defense are assaulted and seized, when the South abandons its Northern friends for English and French alliances, then the loyal and patriotic population of that imperial city are unanimous with the Union," he said.

In this way, Sickles became a friend of Lincoln and was frequently able to meet with the President. He urged Lincoln to keep troops garrisoned at Fort Sumter, perhaps indirectly contributing to the attack there that would launch the Civil War. Sickles was not a candidate for renomination by the Democrats in 1860, likely due to his murder trial, but found himself with plenty to do when the war broke out. He committed himself to raising volunteers in New York, and within a month he helped to raise 40 companies totaling 3,000 men. Dubbed the Excelsior Brigade, the units were briefly threatened when Republican Governor Edwin Morgan asked him to disband all but eight of the companies since Sickles' top-notch recruiting was making it harder for the state to meet its own recruitment quota. Sickles thought it amounted to little more than political maneuvering, and won relief when he appealed directly to Lincoln.

Sickles now turned his focus entirely to the war. The Senate declined his nomination to brigadier general in March of 1862, but the appointment was confirmed by one vote in May. He saw action during the Peninsular Campaign, the aborted attack on Richmond from eastern Virginia, as well as Chancellorsville. He performed reserve duties during the battles at Fredericksburg and Antietam. He was promoted to a major general in 1863. Ultimately, Sickles would become best-known for his role in the Battle of Gettysburg, which caused even more controversy than his shooting of Key.

During the preparations for this battle in July of 1863, Sickles and his Third Corps were ordered to hold a portion of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. Sickles noted that his ordered position left the high ground in front of him unoccupied, and thought leaving it to the Confederate Army would result in slaughter. He had already seen how the enemy's use of high ground in Chancellorsville had contributed to the Union defeat. He asked to advance, but never got an answer from General George Meade. Sickles took this as a license to move, and advanced the corps to the peach orchard atop the hill.

The move remains a disputed one. By advancing his troops, Sickles created a gap in the Union line and spread his troops more thinly than they would otherwise have been in their assigned position. Yet Sickles may well have been right in believing that the result of the battle would have been different if the Confederates had taken the orchard without any resistance. At any rate, Sickles' worst mistake may have been that he never passed on word of his new position, leaving nearby units to believe that he was still in his assigned location.

The Third Corps was subject to a major attack as the Confederates tried to break this weak point in the line. The soldiers held the line, but not without heavy losses. One of the casualties was Sickles, who was struck in the right leg by a cannonball while riding a horse on the second day of the battle. The impact was severe enough to shatter the leg into uselessness, but Sickles tried to keep up morale by looking nonchalant and clamping a cigar between his teeth as he was taken off to a field hospital. Surgeons amputated the leg partway up the thigh.

Lincoln visited him during his recovery, and soon after the draft riots in New York City the city council there ordered a gold medal struck for him. In October of 1897, Sickles would be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg, namely "most conspicuous gallantry on the field, vigorously contesting the advance of the enemy and continuing to encourage his troops after being himself severely wounded." Not everyone was so satisfied with his performance. Meade complained that the three-quarters of a mile advance "nearly proved fatal in battle." Sickles fired back during testimony before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of War, saying Meade was slow to act and missed the opportunity to destroy the Confederate army after the Union victory at Gettysburg.

Sickles was anxious to return to service, but Lincoln was understandably reluctant to do so given his injury. Instead, he gave him emissary duty in January of 1865. This meant Sickles spent several months in Greater Colombia (then comprising Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panama) to convince the government to reopen the territory for Union troop crossings and to consider the possibility of taking in freed slaves after the war. At the same time, Sickles used his position to secure exotic animals for the Central Park Zoo.

Following the war, Sickles became the military governor of South Carolina and later North Carolina. One of his more notable actions came on the first day of 1866, when he overturned South Carolina's Black Code to give equal judicial rights to freed slaves. He also exempted freed slaves from special taxes and allowed them freedom of movement. President Andrew Johnson, who rose to power following Lincoln's assassination, was not as big a fan of Sickles' work as his predecessor and the two frequently clashed. Sickles thought Reconstruction should be managed by Congress rather than the White House. Johnson finally removed him from office when Sickles overextended his authority, using a military commission to try a local crook after the federal authorities declined to take the case.

Sickles returned to diplomatic work. After turning down an offer by Johnson to become Minister to the Netherlands and an offer by Republican President Ulysses S. Grant to become Minister to Mexico, he accepted an appointment as Minister to Spain. This once again put him in a position to discuss Cuban issues. Teresa died of consumption in January of 1867, and four years later Sickles remarried, this time to a woman named Caroline de Creagh whom he met at a diplomatic party in Paris. Sickles didn't see much of his new family either; he last saw a daughter de Creagh bore him when she was five years old, and then not again until 17 years later. Sickles' commission in Spain ended when he prematurely closed the American embassy in response to the execution in Havana of 53 Americans on board the ship Virginius, suspected of smuggling arms and revolutionaries into Cuba. The issue was resolved instead by direct communication between the Spanish government and the Secretary of State, leaving Sickles out altogether. He retired from the military in April of 1869 with the rank of major general.

Sickles returned the New York City and became involved in a numerous local offices, serving on the New York State Civil Service Commission and New York Monuments Commission and becoming sheriff of New York City in 1890. Two years later, he was returned to the House for a single term. Among his friends he counted James Longstreet, the Confederate general at Gettysburg, who said the position Sickles took in that conflict "saved that battlefield to the Union cause."

Accusations of fiscal mismanagement dogged Sickles from the larceny accusation on, and a few final instances of this occurred near the end of his life. Despite his father leaving him a $5 million estate upon his death in 1887, Sickles continued to run up debts. At one point, his wife had to sell her jewels to pay them off. Then in 1912, the state controller discovered a $28,476 disparity in the records of the New York Monuments Commission. The entire commission, including now 93-year-old Sickles, was suspect. He was arrested in January of 1913 by a reluctant and apologetic sheriff, but immediately bailed and allowed to remain at home. In April, the state decided not to press the case against him. Several people had made offers of financial support , but none materialized and the state was convinced he did not have the assets to make up the disparity.

In May of 1914, Sickles died of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was the last surviving corps commander from Gettysburg, and the third last surviving corps commander of the entire Union army. A piece of Sickles is still visible in the nation's capital today. The surgeon who amputated his leg knew the Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C. was looking for samples and sent the severed limb there. Today, Sickles' broken femur is still on display at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "Dreadful Tragedy" in the New York Times on Feb. 28 1859, "Sickles Indicted For Murder" in the Chicago Tribune on Mar. 17 1859, "Sickles In Custody For A Minute Only" in the New York Times on Jan. 28 1913, "General Sickles To Go Free" in the Gazette Times on Apr. 25 1913, "Gen. Sickles Dead" in the Star and Sentinel on May 6 1914, The Outlook Vol. 107, American Scoundrel: The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Sickles by Thomas Keneally, Generals in Blue and Gray: Lincoln's Generals by Wilmer Jones, Wicked Washington: Mysteries, Murder, and Mayhem in America's Capital by Troy Taylor, The Second Day at Gettysburg: Essays on Confederate and Union Leadership edited by Gary Gallagher, Brigades of Gettysburg: The Union and Confederate Brigades at the Battle of Gettysburg by Bradley M. Gottfried

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Harry M. Daugherty

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The controversial existence of Harry Micajah Daugherty in the world of politics is probably best exemplified by the fact that his name is linked with a key phrase in underhanded wheeling and dealing: "the smoke-filled room." In 1920, Daugherty served as the campaign manager for longtime friend Warren G. Harding, a Republican senator from Ohio. Harding was not expected to be a favored choice, but sometime before the summer convention Daugherty made an odd declaration. "At the proper time after the Republican National Convention meets some 15 men, bleary-eyed with loss of sleep and perspiring profusely with the excessive heat, will sit down in seclusion around a big table," he said. "I will be with them and will present the name of Senator Harding to them, and before we get through they will put him over."

The prediction, which basically said Harding would be chosen out of frustration, may have cost Daugherty a seat at the convention as a delegate-at-large. After all, he was openly saying that he and other political bosses, likely men of the "Ohio Gang" of Harding backers, would wield more power at the convention than the delegates.

Daugherty proved rather clairvoyant in his statement, however. The convention at Chicago ground its way through several ballots, unable to reach a consensus on the Republican ticket for the year's presidential contest. Several political bosses met in a hotel room made hazy by the cigar smoke and decided that if the deadlock could not be broken, Harding would be an acceptable choice. Daugherty and other members of the Harding team helped by raining pro-Harding postcards down on the convention from the rafters. Finally, on the tenth ballot, Harding was selected with Governor Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts as his running mate.

Daugherty's prediction had come true, but it would hardly do him any favors. For the rest of his political career, he would be waylaid by enemies accusing him of incompetence or complicity in the corruption that emerged under Harding's presidency.

Daugherty was born in Washington Court House, Ohio in January of 1860. He pursued a legal career, which included a period serving as the Fayette County prosecuting attorney. This morphed into a political path, as he was elected a township clerk for the county, served two terms on the city council of Washington Court House in the late 1880s, and held a seat in the state house of representatives from 1890 and 1894.

From there, Daugherty sought to go on to bigger and better things, but never with any success. He made failed bids for the nominations for Ohio attorney general in 1895 and governor in 1899, and wasn't able to get the Republican nod for the Senate races in 1910 and 1916. In 1912, he contented himself with managing the Ohio campaign of Republican presidential candidate William Howard Taft. It marked yet another flop on Daugherty's record, as Taft not only failed to best Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson but also tallied fewer votes than former President Theodore Roosevelt's third party bid. During these dry years, Daugherty supported himself by representing corporate interests and acting as the vice president of the Columbus Savings and Trust Company.

After Harding was selected as the Republican presidential nominee in 1920, Daugherty continued to be a close compatriot. He accompanied the candidate on all of his speaking engagements and served on the campaign's legislative committee. Along with other bosses ushering Harding toward the election, Daugherty earned the scorn of Democratic presidential candidate James Cox, another Ohioan and governor of that state, when Harding declared himself "the freest man that was ever nominated by any party for the presidency." Cox fired back that Harding was essentially in the pocket of big business and asked, "What promise have you made to Harry M. Daugherty, corporation lobbyist, and what promises was he authorized to make in your behalf in order to secure your nomination at Chicago?"

Harding was nevertheless able to win the 1920 election, and in February of the next year Harding announced that he was appointing Daugherty to the post of Attorney General. The favor, along with Daugherty's character, continued to draw ire for some time after. When Harding reportedly cautioned newspapers against printing criticisms of Daugherty, Democratic Senator Augustus Stanley of Kentucky asked, "Will the President say in his desperation to shield his friend, Harry M. Daugherty, that senators and representatives who denounce the nefarious and crooked operations of a political broker are 'political blackguards?'"

The Attorney General did find some support amid the rash of accusations that befell him, however. In July of 1922, the Ohio bar passed a resolution proclaiming their support for Daugherty, charging that "certain propaganda has been made in Congress and in the press tending to discount and discredit the service and character of Mr. Daugherty."

Daugherty still took plenty of flak from opponents. One of the earliest things to come across his desk was the case of Eugene V. Debs, a Socialist leader charged under the Espionage Act for utterances made against World War I in Canton, Ohio. Debs had been convicted in June of 1917 and sentenced to 10 years in prison in September of 1918. Following an unsuccessful appeal, Debs began serving the sentence in April of 1919; he was eligible for parole in August of 1922, with the sentence scheduled to end in December of 1925 with good conduct.

Daugherty considered the original sentence too harsh, since it didn't take Debs' age (61 at the time of conviction) into account. He recommended in December of 1921 that the sentence be commuted at the end of the year. Daugherty suggested that Debs did not intentionally break the law, and that it would be a wise political move to commute the sentence due to Debs' considerable clout, but stressed that the decision shouldn't amount to a pardon. "No right-thinking man would set up a government, or a system of government advocated by Debs, as against the government founded by the wisdom of our forefathers and supported by every right-thinking American who has an understanding of the benefits and necessity of government and the security and opportunity it affords," he said. "I became satisfied while talking with Debs that his conviction and imprisonment in the penitentiary have had no effect upon his incorrect opinions."

Despite these explanations, Daugherty was still the chief recipient of opponents' anger when Harding commuted Debs' sentence. Another more serious pardon issue related to an earlier case. In May of 1922, Thaddeus H. Caraway, a Democratic senator from Arkansas, accused Daugherty of receiving $25,000 from New York shipbuilder Charles W. Morse to get him released from prison in 1912 following his conviction on charges of violating banking laws. Caraway said the money passed through Georgia attorney Thomas B. Felder into Daugherty's hands. The Justice Department responded that the Taft-era pardon only took Morse's health problems into consideration.

Caraway demanded Daugherty's resignation, but nothing came of it. Four months later, Republican Representative Oscar Keller of Minnesota proposed impeachment proceedings against the Attorney General on a different issue, namely injunction proceedings started by the Justice Department against striking railroad unions to keep the trains running. Keller charged violations of the First Amendment, specifically that Daugherty acted "in a manner arbitrary, oppressive, unjust, and illegal," threatened punishment against opponents, illegally used funds to prosecute individuals and corporations for lawful acts while failing to prosecute illegal acts, and recommended release of offenders of Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

Daugherty was unfazed. He grinned broadly when told of the resolution, which was referred to the House Judiciary Committee with little hope of progress. Later, he proposed an expansion of the injunction, including forbidding strikers from trying to stop people crossing the picket line, picketing near the entrances to rail sites, or using threats. The impeachment effort collapsed during committee hearings in December of 1922, when Keller tried to read a prepared statement and was told he could not "lecture" the representatives and needed to be under oath. Keller angrily tossed the statement before Andrew J. Volstead, committee chairman and another Minnesota Republican, saying he wouldn't cooperate if he could not read it. Keller then stormed out, accusing the committee of a "bare-faced attempt to whitewash Harry M. Daugherty." The committee later recommended exoneration for the Attorney General, and the House agreed in a 204-77 vote in January of 1923.

The blow that finally toppled Daugherty came in the form of the most famous of the scandals to rock the Harding Administration: the Teapot Dome Scandal. Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall leased naval oil fields in Wyoming and California to oil men Harry F. Sinclair and Edward L. Doheny in 1922, and the deal had been sweetened by $409,000 paid to Fall. The Secretary of the Interior ultimately had to serve a year in prison and pay a $100,000 fine after his conviction on bribery charges.

Daugherty was never implicated in the crimes, but his enemies were quick to question why he had not caught this misconduct earlier. Burton K. Wheeler, a Democratic Senator from Montana and one of Daugherty's most outspoken foes, asked President Coolidge (Harding died in August of 1923) to demand Daugherty's resignation. Wheeler later amended his request, asking for an inquiry into the Justice Department. He also accused Felder of being a former partner to Daugherty who collected money in exchange for selling appointments and dismissing cases related to Prohibition-era alcohol violations in New York. Felder responded that the two were associated with several of the same cases, but never partners; he also said such accusations had arisen before, with no result. Nevertheless, Felder was ultimately convicted of conspiracy in a scheme to bribe Daugherty to remove evidence from Justice Department files.

Daugherty came under even more fire when the committees investigating the corruption received a report in February of 1924 that he dealt in Sinclair oil stock. He refused to resign, asking, "Shall reputations be destroyed and public officials driven from office by clamor, insinuation, and falsehood?" The next month, Daugherty was blasted in testimony by Roxie Stinson, the divorced wife of Daugherty's friend and assistant, Jesse Smith. In 1923, Smith had been found dead of apparent suicide in the apartment he shared with Daugherty. Stinson said she remained friendly with Smith following their separation, and that he had told her Daugherty procured stock in companies such as White Motors and Pure Oil for nothing; she said Smith even gave her some small blocks of stock. She said the corruption put a great deal of stress on Smith, and that she tried without success to get him to break his loyalty to Daugherty. She agreed that Smith killed himself, but held that the Attorney General was "morally responsible" for the death.

One charge held that Sinclair turned over securities to Daugherty and Will H. Hays, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, to cover a deficit incurred by the party in the 1920 campaign. The committee also heard testimony that Daugherty and Hays each received $25,000 to secure Harding's nominations at the 1920 convention, while Senator Boies Penrose of Pennsylvania got a $50,000 payout. Amid the hubbub, Daugherty still refused to resign, proclaiming, "I wouldn't have given 30 cents for the office of Attorney General, but I won't surrender it for a million dollars."

When Daugherty refused to supply documents on various aspects of Harding corruption, Coolidge asked for the Attorney General's resignation. Daugherty agreed to do so, and left office at the end of March of 1924. "I have no personal feeling against the President," he insisted. "I am yet his dependable friend and supporter." Coolidge chose Harlan Fiske Stone, former dean of Columbia Law School and director of several corporations, as his successor.

The investigation into Daugherty continued, at least until his counsel abruptly announced in June of 1924 that he would not testify before the committee. The Senate voted 70-2 to pursue the matter anyway, and take it to the Supreme Court if need be. While out of office, Daugherty had to defend himself against numerous accusations. They included failure to actively pursue the collection of millions of dollars in war debts, failure to identify fraud within the Justice Department, collecting bribes via Smith to get the government to look the other way on Prohibition matters, and the appointment of anti-labor William J. Burns to the department's Bureau of Investigation (Burns also resigned under fire in 1924).

In May of 1926, Daugherty was indicted alongside former Alien Property Custodian Thomas Miller and former Republican national committeeman John T. King on charges of conspiracy to defraud the government. In this case, the men were charged with fraud in the $7 million sale of American Metal Company assets seized during World War I to German metal magnate Richard Merton. Smith was also implicated, but of course could not be charged due to his death; King died before he could go to trial. Daugherty was the first Attorney General indicted for crimes in office, and prosecutors charged that $49,335 in Liberty bonds could be traced to him, deposited via his brother's bank in a joint account with Smith. Altogether, the men were accused of receiving $441,000 in kickbacks in the sale.

The trial began in September of 1926. Merton testified that he had no dealings with Daugherty, and that the sale was conducted through a supposedly neutral Swiss corporation. The strongest evidence against Daugherty came from his brother, Mal S. Daugherty, though all he could do was say evidence was no longer available. Mal, the president of Midland National Bank in Washington Court House, said Harry told him he had burned three accounts of bank ledger sheets related to the American Metal Company transfer. Daugherty's attorney gave the rather awkward argument that he destroyed the documents "in a moment of madness," partially fueled by the constant attacks against him, and meant to burn records related to a Harding campaign fund instead. Prosecutors said the lost bank ledgers would have proved Daugherty's guilt.

After lengthy deliberations, the jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of convicting Miller and 7-5 in favor of convicting Daugherty. Another trial was scheduled, and in the interim Daugherty testified as part of the proceedings against Fall, saying the Justice Department was never asked for a formal opinion on the corrupt oil leases. At the next trial in February of 1927, the amount of Daugherty's alleged kickback increased to $140,000, while witnesses suggested that Miller got $40,000. The next month, this jury debated the question for even longer, about 70 hours, before convicting Miller. Only one person was against conviction of Daugherty, but it was enough to hang the jury. The federal prosecutor, Emory R. Buckner, asked for the indictment against Daugherty to be quashed. Teary-eyed, Daugherty said he would be returning home to practice law.

Though Harry Daugherty never served any jail time, Mal was found guilty of defrauding his bank in March of 1931 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Daugherty died in Columbus, Ohio in October of 1941 of congestive heart failure following his recovery from two heart attacks and pneumonia. He left an unfinished book defending his reputation, and an estate worth $175,000.

Sources: The Political Graveyard, "Ohio: Election Of Republican Candidate For Governor Probably By About 30,000" in the New York Times on Nov. 8 1899, "Wade Ellis To Lead Fight On Harmon" in the New York Times on Feb. 8 1910, "Prophesied How Harding Would Win" in the New York Times on Jun. 13 1920, "Harding Abandons Vacation To Hold Party Conferences" in the New York Times on Jun. 20 1920, "Cox Ridicules Assertions By Rival Nominee" in the Deseret News on Oct. 30 1920, "Democrats Concede The Election Of Sen. Harding" in the Lewiston Daily Sun on Nov. 3 1920, "Harding Picks Cabinet" in the Reading Eagle on Feb. 22 1921, "Daugherty A Storm Centre" in the New York Times on Feb. 22 1921, "Daugherty Report On Release Of Debs" in the New York Times on Dec. 31 1921, "Daugherty Charged Again With Getting Big Fee From Morse" in the Miami News on May 3 1922, "Caraway Asks That Daugherty Resign" in the Lewiston Daily Sun on May 22 1922, "Daugherty To Lead War Prosecutions" in the New York Times on May 26 1922, "Gives Out Data On Morse's Pardon To Aid Daugherty" in the New York Times on May 28 1922, "Harding Shields Daugherty, Is Senate Charge" in the Pittsburgh Press on Jun. 4 1922, "Ohio Bar Upholds Daugherty" in the New York Times on Jul. 8 1922, "Asks House To Impeach Daugherty" in the Southeast Missourian on Sep. 11 1922, "Asks Impeachment Against Daugherty" in the New York Times on Sep. 12 1922, "Daugherty Seeks Firmer Injunction" in the New York Times on Sep. 22 1922, "Keller Quits Probe Alleging Whitewash" in the Evening Independent on Dec. 15 1922, "Wheeler Again Plans Ousting Of Daugherty" in the Miami News on Feb. 15 1922, "Daugherty Remains Under Fire In Senate Oil Inquiry" in the Lewiston Evening Journal on Feb. 20 1924, "daugherty Threatens To Carry To People Battle To Retain Cabinet Seat" in the Lewiston Daily Sun on Feb. 22 1924, "Tells Of Deal With Daugherty" in the Gettysburg Times on Mar. 13 1924, "Oil Probers Get Setback" in the Evening Independent on Mar. 20 1924, "Thinks Smith Suicide And Harry Daugherty Morally Responsible" in the Lewiston Evening Journal on Mar. 27 1924, "Daugherty Is Not 'At Outs' With Coolidge" in the Southeastern Missourian on Mar. 31 1924, "News Review Of Current Events" in the Polk County News on Apr. 10 1924, "Daugherty Refuses Call Of Committee" in the New York Times on Jun. 5 1924, "Senate Votes 70-2 To Fight Daugherty" in the New York Times on Jun. 6 1924, "Asked To Grant Appeal" in the Herald-Journal on Jan. 24 1926, "Jury Indicts Daugherty In Alien Scandal" in the Milwaukee Sentinel on May 8 1926, "Mal Daugherty Admits Record Was Destroyed" in the Times Daily on Sept. 24 1926, "German Magnate Helps Daugherty" in the Ellensburg Daily Record on Sept. 14 1926, "Paper Burned By Daugherty When Hounded" in the Schenectady Gazette on Oct. 8 1926, "Daugherty Will Face New Trial" in the Sarasota Herald on Nov. 4 1926, "Fall Blamed For Leasing Of Oil Lands" in the Berkeley Daily Gazette on Nov. 30 1926, "Daugherty And Miller Again Facing Trial" in the Sarasota Herald on Feb. 9 1927, "Daugherty Man 'Friday' Figures In Court Trial" in the Lewiston Evening Journal on Feb. 9 1927, "Brother Deals Daugherty Rap" in the Prescott Evening Courier on Feb. 15 1927, "Ex-Alien Property Chief Convicted Of Conspiracy" in the Berkeley Daily Gazette on Mar. 3 1927, "Corruption: One Blind, One Coated" in Time on Mar. 14 1927, "Daugherty Is Found Guilty" in the Gettysburg Times on Mar. 5 1931, "Mal Daugherty Gets 10 Years In Prison" in the New York Times on Mar. 19 1931, "Harry Daugherty Succumbs At 81" in the Evening Independent on Oct. 13 1941, King of the Bootleggers: A Biography of George Remus by William A. Cook, The New Encyclopedia of American Scandal by George C. Kohn, New World Coming: The 1920s and the Making of Modern America by Nathan Miller

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thomas H. Benton: the fury of Missouri

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Charles Lucas, a U.S. attorney for the territory of Missouri, should have taken a cue from his first major confrontation with Thomas Hart Benton. Lucas and Benton, a rival lawyer, had sparred bitterly in the courtroom but things had not reached a head until Benton insulted Lucas by quipping to a panel of judges that he did not "propose to answer any charges made by any puppy who may happen to run across my path." Lucas was angered enough that he demanded satisfaction, and met Benton at the popular "Bloody Island" dueling spot in August of 1817. The two men exchanged shots from 30 feet, resulting in a slight wound to Benton and Lucas nearly bleeding out through a shot to the neck. This was a rather telling example of Benton's skill with a firearm, and friends of Lucas grumbled that Benton had specifically demanded such a distance to increase his advantage over Lucas. Though Lucas himself never accused Benton of being unjust, he agreed to Benton's proposal that the two duel at nine feet to settle the rumors. At this second contest in September, Benton fatally shot Lucas in the heart. Lucas allegedly had harsh words that Benton persecuted and murdered him, but ultimately proclaimed his forgiveness of the man before he died.

It was not the first run-in with firearms Benton had in his life, and it would not be the last. The duel with Lucas soured him on the idea of ever killing another man, however, and he never took up another duel challenge in his life.

Benton was born near Hillsborough, North Carolina in March of 1782. He attended Chapel Hill College (later the University of North Carolina) as well as the College of William and Mary. He didn't finish his studies at either institution, since his father left behind a 40,000-acre estate in Tennessee when he died and Benton moved there with his family to help manage it. He was admitted to the bar at Nashville in 1806, and started practicing in Franklin. From 1809 to 1811, he served in the state senate and helped pass one law reforming the judicial system and another giving slaves the right to a jury trial in criminal matters.

Later, Benton served in the military as an aide-de-camp to General Andrew Jackson. He was a colonel of a regiment of Tennessee volunteers during the War of 1812, and appointed lieutenant colonel of the Thirty-ninth United States Infantry in 1813. It was in this same year that Benton's relationship with Jackson began to deteriorate. Benton's brother, Jesse, and a man named William Carroll were both slightly injured in a duel where Jackson acted as a second to Carroll. The incident led to a series of sniping verbal attacks between Benton and Jackson, culminating when Benton commented that he considered another man a superior officer to the general. Jackson threatened to publicly horsewhip Benton at their next meeting, but the encounter was not to go in his favor. In a brawl in Nashville in September of 1813 between Benton, Jesse, Jackson, and a handful of other people, Jackson was shot and wounded seriously enough that he had to be taken away from the scene. He left his small sword behind, and Benton reportedly broke it in the public square while continuing to denounce the general.

The incident did nothing to improve Benton's standing in Tennessee, as he found that Jackson's friends would make sure that he never had a political future in the state. Benton's solution was to move, and he relocated to St. Louis, Missouri in 1815. He continued to practice law, but also became an editor with the Missouri Enquirer. He equated the modern newspaper with the forums in ancient Greece and Rome, and became an outspoken author in a number of different political debates. In 1819, he voiced opposition to a treaty between the United States and Spain assuring the latter country that the U.S. would relinquish any claims to Texas the Louisiana Purchase had stirred up; he even went so far as to say that war with Spain over the issue would be "the most happy event for ourselves and the human race." Benton also supported the U.S. possession of Cuba, Mexican independence, trade with India via the Pacific Northwest, and the admission of Missouri as a state.

Benton got his wish in the last matter with the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which admitted the state alongside Maine to balance the free and slave states in Congress. In 1821, the newly formed legislature unanimously chose David Barton, speaker of the state house of representatives and president of the state's constitutional convention, to serve in the Senate. Members deadlocked on their second choice in the crowded field of candidates, which included Benton as well as Lucas' father. They turned to Barton for help, and he recommended Benton. The legislature approved Benton with 27 votes, seven short of a unanimous consensus, and Benton received the six-year term instead of the four-year term after drawing straws with Barton.

Benton spent the next 30 years in the Senate, first as a Democratic-Republican and later as a Democrat. During his time in the chamber, he chaired the committees on Indian affairs, military affairs, and foreign relations. In the first position, Benton was an advocate of Indian removal. He figured that such relocation would open the way for white settlement and the collection of natural resources, along with the strange justification that prohibiting Indians from having contact with whites would prevent them from becoming depraved. He said such policies were designed "to cherish and protect the Indians, to improve their condition, and turn them to the habits of civilized life," yet he also commented at another point that it freed the land of a "useless and dangerous population."

Land issues were especially close to Benton's heart. He supported land reform, namely a preemptive right to settlers, periodic price reductions of homesteads to allow prices to conform to the quality of the land, and donations of land to poor settlers to allow them to work it for a period of time as a way of payment. He also favored western exploration, especially the Pacific Northwest, but not so much that he joined the "fifty four-forty or fight" crowd who demanded a larger chunk of land during negotiations with Britain. In this regard, he helped to establish the present day 49th Parallel border with Canada.

The rift between Benton and Jackson healed with time. Benton lent his support to Democratic-Republican Representative Henry Clay of Kentucky in the 1824 presidential election, but later defected to Old Hickory. Jackson won the popular vote with 152,901 votes as well as the electoral vote, but none of the four candidates received a plurality. The matter had to be resolved in the House of Representatives, which awarded the White House to Secretary of State John Quincy Adams (who received 114,023 votes). As a further show of support, Benton backed a proposal to amend the Constitution to allow the popular vote to decide presidential contests.

Benton also sided with Jackson in his ongoing disagreements with Vice President John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. The chief issue between them was the question of nullification, or whether states had the right to overturn unpopular federal laws. Calhoun was specifically interested in disabling tariffs that were harmful his state, but Jackson and Benton both opposed nullification. Benton shared Jackson's distaste of the Bank of the United States, and launched several resolutions on the issue; these included one questioning whether the Bank's accounts were properly balanced and another requiring the Bank to compensate citizens for its use of public money. He became such a supporter of having gold back up accounts to avoid inflation through paper money that he was nicknamed "The Gold Humbug" by opponents, who began calling gold coins "Benton's mint drops." Supporters of the gold standard adopted the more complimentary nickname "Old Bullion" for the senator

Undoubtedly, Benton's most visible act of support for Jackson was also related to the Bank and financial matters. Jackson was elected President in 1828, and in 1832 he vetoed a congressional approval of the Bank's recharter and withdrew federal funds from the institution. Two years later, Congress censured him on the accusation of exceeding his authority. Benton immediately tried to get the resolution expunged, but it was shot down. He tried two other unsuccessful versions before a fourth one to expunge the censure resolution from the Senate Journal finally passed in January of 1837, with Jackson not far from retiring from his second term as President. The measure was controversial enough that Benton's friends tried (and failed) to persuade the senator to take up arms for his own personal protection, and Benton launched a few salvos at anti-Jackson "ruffians" in the galleries as the measure was going through.

Opposition to Benton at home grew strong enough at times to threaten his seat, but he was able to survive in Washington. Despite his earlier support of war to retain claims to Texas, he was nearly turned out of the Senate by voters for opposing the annexation of the territory. The criticism, he explained, was over where the territory's borders lay and the process of the land's acquisition rather than the annexation itself. He opposed the Mexican War, but supported a speedy end to the conflict once the first shots were fired. In Benton's mind, however, part of this process involved a leadership position for himself. He was able to pressure President James K. Polk into nominating him for as a commanding lieutenant general of all U.S. troops in the war, but he was never confirmed. Polk also considered him for a major-general position, but Benton declined to accept.

It was as a result of these machinations that Benton ran afoul of Henry S. Foote, a lawyer who became a Democratic senator and began serving in 1847. Foote first met Benton in 1837, and later wrote that while he and Benton agreed on several matters he considered the Missouri senator imperious and pompous. "On meeting him face to face my first unfavorable impressions of him were greatly strengthened," Foote said, "and the excessive vanity and egotism constantly displayed by him, both in conversational scenes and in the Senate, inspired me with feelings of disgust and aversion which I have seldom experienced." Foote criticized Benton's attempt for a command position as an "unjust and ungenerous" effort to suppress the leadership of General Winfield Scott. He raised a more serious accusation after the war ended in 1848, accusing Benton of procuring a meeting with the Mexican minister to try to rescind the treaty ceding the empire's northern lands to the United States. Foote's accusation was enough to get Benton voted out as chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs at the Democratic caucus, though Benton resigned the position once he got the news.

Benton had a rather curious opinion about slavery. He was certainly no abolitionist (he was, in fact, a slaveowner), but he described the practice as evil, saying during one debate, "The incurability of this evil is the greatest objection to the extension of it." The Missouri Compromise had banned slavery in the Louisiana Purchase territory north of Missouri's southern border, and Benton generally agreed that the practice should not be tampered with in areas where it existed, but also not expanded to new territories. One notable exception to this was the Wilmot Proviso of 1847, an ultimately unsuccessful proposal by Democratic Representative Daniel Wilmot of Pennsylvania to forbid slavery in the California and New Mexico territories seized in the Mexican War. Benton may have agreed with the sentiment, but felt it was a non-issue and "firebrand" resolution since slavery was already banned there under the laws of the former Mexican government. "The proviso was nugatory, and could answer no purpose but that of bringing on a slavery agitation in the United States; for which purpose it was immediately seized upon by Mr. Calhoun and his friends, and treated as the greatest possible outrage and injury to the slave states," Benton declared in his memoir, Thirty Years' View. Benton was strongly committed to preventing secession, to the point that a 1909 book, The South in the Building of a Nation, bluntly declared, "The reason Missouri did not secede was Col. Thomas Hart Benton."

A few years later, debates over the imminent admission of California as a free state led to heated debates over how best to handle the resulting slave vs. free state imbalance in Congress. Benton was opposed to the idea of taking on several proposals in a single bill, suggesting during the debates that the Fugitive Slave Law to return escaped slaves to the South was defective and proposing a bill to eventually divide Texas into two slave states. Foote continued to goad Benton, positing that Clay's support of a speedy California admission was a result of conversations with his son-in-law, John C. Fremont, who had taken on a few government posts in the territory and would be appointed a senator upon California's admission.

Foote had tried to get a rise out of Benton on plenty of occasions, possibly in an attempt to force the senator to pick up his dueling pistols once again. Though the compromise debates were raising plenty of tempers, the circumstances leading to confrontation between the two senators may have been a result of different issues. There are several different accounts as to what sparked the incident. Benton and Foote may have traded barbs over who was more cowardly, or Foote may have named Benton as lead "calumniator" of a lower class than those who signed Calhoun's "Southern Address." Foote recalls that it had to do with remarks over Calhoun, who died at the end of March of 1850. Benton certainly wasn't kind to the former Vice President on his passing, giving the opinion that he had been a key proponent of disunion. "There may be no vitality in his body, but there is in his doctrines," Benton opined. "The last thing I did before leaving home was to denounce him and his treasonable sentiments and I shall do the same thing when I return home...Calhoun died with treason in his heart and on his lips...Whilst I am discharging my duty here, his disciples are disseminating his poison all over my state." Foote said that Benton made further derogatory remarks in April, as Calhoun's body was being taken back to South Carolina. He said he tried to get Democratic Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina to denounce Benton on behalf of his state, but that Butler wasn't sure what the issue was about when he did so. Foote said Benton's action came after he added his own words to strengthen the criticism.

Whatever the cause, the Senate remembered what came next fairly clearly. Benton was incensed enough that he shot up from his chair and began to rush toward Foote. The Missouri senator was a large, powerful man and that made any efforts to try to stop him all the more difficult. Foote retreated into the aisle, fearing that Benton would try to attack him as he'd threatened to do after earlier insinuations. He took out a pistol he had with him and kept the barrel pointed at the floor, but he later admitted that he would have shot Benton if he had advanced much farther than he did. The weapon only seemed to strengthen Benton's resolve, but he opted to keep his distance once it was out. He shouted that he did not carry any weapon, and dared Foote to carry out the deed, even opening up his vest to help his fellow senator find a target. "Let him fire!" he boomed. "Let the assassin fire!"

The matter resolved itself peacefully. Foote gave up the gun to fellow Democratic Senator Daniel S. Dickinson of New York, and it was locked away. Benton returned to his desk, shouting some more abuse at Foote before taking his seat. The matter was referred to a seven-man committee, which had to be appointed since no one wanted to volunteer and suffered from several members trying to withdraw. The lukewarm final report criticized the disorder and the presence of firearms in the Senate, but also found Foote innocent of any assassination attempt against Benton. The committee said it was the first incident of its kind in the Senate and announced the hope that it would be the last, recommending no further action on the idea that it would serve as "a sufficient rebuke and warning not unheeded in the future." Benton and Foote continued to snipe at each other, but never got into so severe an incident again. A retrospective by Joseph Morgan Rogers, friendly to Benton, declared Foote's behavior "the greatest indignity the Senate had ever known."

Benton's enemies finally ousted him in the election in 1850, and Whig candidate Henry S. Geyer took his spot. He wasn't out of Congress long, winning an 1852 election for a place in the House of Representatives. The New York Times gave the opinion that while they disagreed with Benton on most issues, they could still appreciate him as a politician. On one hand, he was "assuming, domineering, and even insolent to a most extraordinary degree, and generally contrives to make himself thoroughly uncomfortable to the party which he has always opposed, and which he will undoubtedly continue to oppose to the end of his life." At the same time, he was in favor of a federal democracy rather than states' rights, and therefore a "real Democrat. He is not shamming, or seeking simply selfish ends, as many of his party leaders are, in professing a belief in Human Rights." In addition to returning as chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs, he opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Bill to repeal the Missouri Compromise, criticizing it as another threat of disunion and a "bungling attempt to smuggle slavery" into the territories. He colorfully described the bill as a "shilly-shally, willy-won'ty, don'ty-can'ty style of legislation."

Benton lost the 1854 election to Opposition Party candidate Luther M. Kennett. He stayed in Washington, D.C. and turned to literary matters, completing an account of his 30 years in the Senate and working on a collection of abridged debates in Congress from 1789 to 1856. Unfortunately, a good portion of his manuscript papers were destroyed when his house burned down in March of 1855. He made an unsuccessful bid in Missouri's 1856 gubernatorial election, and was so committed to Jacksonian politics that he backed Democratic presidential candidate James Buchanan over Fremont, his son-in-law and the Republican candidate. Though he felt Fremont's election would inflame sectional differences, he ultimately became a critic of the Buchanan Administration and lent his support to the Republican Party in his waning days.

Benton died of cancer in April of 1858. The New York Leader eulogized him, saying, "He was an affectionate husband, a devoted father, a true friend, and a sincere Christian. In this respect his example is worthy the attention of all; and his memory will long be held in respect by a grateful country."

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "Benton And Clay" in the National Era on Aug. 2 1849, "Benton In Congress" in the New York Times on Aug. 16 1852, "The Destruction Of Colonel Benton's House" in the New York Times on Mar. 1 1855, "Thomas H. Benton: Sketch Of His Life And Public Services" in the New York Times on Apr. 10 1858, Thirty Years' View by Thomas Hart Benton, Munsey's Magazine Vol. 58, The Life of Thomas Hart Benton by William Montgomery Meigs, Thomas H. Benton by Joseph Morgan Rogers, The United States Democratic Review Vol. 42 Issue 1, A History of Missouri by Eugene Morrow Violette, A History of Missouri: 1820 to 1860 by William Earl Parrish and Perry McCandless, The South in the Building of the Nation edited by Julian Alvin Carroll Chandler et. al., President Zachary Taylor: The Hero President by Elbert B. Smith, Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union by Robert Vincent Remini, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Casket of Reminiscences by Henry Stuart Foote, My Quarter-Century of American Politics, Vol. 2 by Champ Clark, On the Brink of Civil War: The Compromise of 1850 and How it Changed the Course of American History by John C. Waugh

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Frank D. McKay: the Teflon boss


Frank Donald McKay made plenty of enemies in his time as a political boss, but perhaps the most bizarre action by one of his foes came in October of 1935. McKay's maid called police after noticing that two men were peering at his house in Grand Rapids, Michigan, from a concealed position. When officers arrived, they found former police commissioner John Gillespie and a gas station employee spying on the residence. Both men were arrested, and police discovered that they had been armed with a rifle and pistol. Gillespie insisted that the weapons were for his own protection, saying McKay was a dangerous man. He blamed McKay and Republican Governor Frank Fitzgerald for his downfall after Fitzgerald repudiated him.

McKay had gradually built his empire to the point where he was capable of controlling much of the Republican politics in Michigan. He was born in Grand Rapids in 1883 and got his start working in furniture factories. He then built up his personal fortune by becoming a financier, extending into real estate, insurance, and banking interests. He also owned the Michigan Times and had holdings in lumber, tires, food, and numerous other areas. In addition to making him a millionaire, this extensive network helped him gain control over patronage jobs and public contracts in the Grand Rapids district. Though one retrospective said he spoke in "short, explosive phrases, usually profane," McKay was still able to form alliances on the local level and with other party bosses in the state. He once said he dedicated 95 percent of his time to business and only five percent to politics, but McKay's grip tightened to the point where he could sway the delegates to any candidate of his choice at the GOP state primaries.

McKay had not truly consolidated his power until the 1930s, but his first brush with the law came in November of 1919. He was one of 135 people indicted on corruption, fraud, and conspiracy charges. The focal point of these crimes was Republican Senator Truman H. Newberry, the biggest name of the defendants, and the charge that $500,000 to $1 million was improperly used to influence Newberry's re-election over Democratic candidate and automobile magnate Henry Ford in 1918. McKay was then serving as an assignment clerk in the Detroit courts, and charged with twice giving $10 to residents in "overt acts" of corruption. He was not convicted of the crime.

McKay's only real political office was state treasurer, which he held from 1925 to 1930. One year after he left, he was investigated by a grand jury over his handling of state funds, but never charged with a crime. He was still suspected of wielding excessive control over the governor's office, however. In 1935, Fitzgerald defended his relationship with McKay after Republican Representative Albert J. Engel warned that the GOP's chances of success in 1936 would be endangered if the party did not distance itself from McKay. Fitzgerald accused Engel of acting out of self-interest or making an attempt to discredit the current administration. "McKay is my friend," he said. "I don't say this is true of Congressman Engel, but I find that most of those who criticize him ask me to do things that Frank McKay would never dream of asking...The charge that this administration is hooked up with Frank McKay has been whispered constantly, but no one has ever produced definitive evidence of it."

Engel responded by demanding a full probe of Fitzgerald's activities. Though this apparently did not happen, Engel proved correct in his warning, at least as it related to the governor's office. In the 1936 race, Democratic candidate Frank Murphy made "McKayism" an issue and vowed to end it in state government; voters turned Fitzgerald out in November. McKay was investigated by the state legislature to see if his personal wealth correlated with his political activities, but once again no charges were forthcoming.

The year 1940 was a mixed bag for McKay. He retained enough power that he was able to convince Republican presidential candidate Wendell Willkie to grant him control of statewide patronage jobs if he were sent to the White House. At the same convention, however, anti-boss factions were successful in blocking him from getting a vote and preventing his re-election as Republican national committeeman. He was also subject to three grand jury investigations throughout the year related to fraud, extortion, and kickbacks. In November, Franklin D. Roosevelt bested Willkie for an unprecedented third term as President; the same month, McKay was indicted on charges of fraud and mail fraud. In one incident, he was accused of defrauding Edsel Ford of $9,918 to reimburse himself for contributions made to Fitzgerald's 1938 gubernatorial campaign. Two mail fraud counts said he collected money under false pretenses to finance the state Republican Party's debt. Another charge alleged that he tried to bilk Grand Rapids out of $300,000 in an approximately $2.2 million bond issue to finance a pipeline in 1938. And liquor issues resurfaced again, with prosecutors saying McKay collected $500,000 in tribute from 16 national distillers over five years.

The state's Liquor Control Commission had taken over bulk liquor purchases and retail licenses following the repeal of Prohibition. Not surprisingly, the three men on the board were McKay stooges, and distillers seeking business from the state had to go through the boss. McKay ensured that those friendly to the GOP got first consideration, while distillers considered more Democratic were bumped to the back of the line. It seemed likely that McKay collected a bit of cash in exchange for granting applicants access to the commission. After five days of deliberation in July of 1941, however, the jury had failed to reach a verdict. The jury was dismissed and subjected to a tampering investigation, but in May of 1942 McKay was acquitted along with seven co-defendants. The Edsel Ford charge was dismissed in July, and in October the pipeline count was dropped after the prosecutor determined that the chance of success at trial was too remote.

The result was a common one in McKay's repeated visits to the courtroom. The state could only prove McKay told state employees related to the liquor commission that their jobs depended on continued GOP success. Proving corruption was more difficult, but it didn't stop prosecutors from trying. In December of 1944, McKay was indicted alongside sports promoter Floyd Fitzsimmons and state representative William Green for bribery conspiracy. This time, McKay was charged with influencing the state legislature on an issue related to horse racing and parimutuel betting. The legislature defeated a bill aiming to boost state revenues from the activities, something which would have hurt the mob's stake in the sport. McKay was known to have connections to such gangsters, including the infamous Purple Gang, through their transition from illegal to sanctioned liquor sales.

The case had a dramatic ending. The state had targeted several people on corruption charges, charging some 50 people with crimes. State senator Warren G. Hooper, a legislator who had confessed to state corruption and agreed to turn state's evidence, was set to be the star witness in the trial of McKay and his cohorts. The state's case rested heavily on this man, and in January of 1945 he was found shot to death inside his burning car outside Springport. It was an indisputable gangland murder, and it received a bizarre twist when state attorney general John R. Dethmers charged widespread malfeasance at the Jackson State Penitentiary. Dethmers alleged that the inmates had essentially taken over control of the prison, with officials allowing them to pay for prostitutes to be brought in and accepting bribes to sanction escapes. In such an atmosphere, Dethmers said, it was entirely possible that imprisoned gangsters could have been granted a temporary release to murder Hooper, then return to the prison for a perfect alibi.

Four Detroit youths were charged with conspiracy in such a scheme. Prosecutors argued that one of the defendants was allowed to confer with members of the Purple Gang prior to the murder, and that the men conspired to arrange Hooper's death for a $15,000 payoff. The state made several thinly veiled accusations of McKay's involvement in the plot, though McKay himself was never directly charged. Dethmers said the murder was specifically meant to silence testimony against McKay, and special prosecutor Kim Sigler identified McKay as "the one man most interested in the death of the death of the Albion senator." The four men were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in August of 1945 and sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison each. No one was ever charged with the actual murder of Hooper.

The state launched one more salvo at McKay, once again charging malfeasance related to the liquor trade. In June of 1945, he and former Flint mayor William McKeighan, along with three other men, were indicted on a charge of conspiracy to violate state liquor laws. The group was accused of receiving a dollar a case from distillers for liquor sold in Michigan between 1938 and 1940. Distillers who wanted larger liquor orders from the state had forked over some $400,000, the state charged, and McKay and his co-defendants helped move things along by threatening and intimidating the commission.

The trial had to be moved after allegations of jury tampering. The state called 32 witnesses to the stand at the trial in 1946. The defense didn't call anyone, and the gambit worked. In February, the judge directed a verdict of not guilty after determining that the state failed to prove any criminal acts. Charges of bribery had been thrown out at the beginning of the trial, and that seriously undermined the conspiracy allegations. Moreover, the judge said it appeared to be a case of McKay and the other men trying to get increased sales and listings for the state liquor commission. Sigler argued that the outcome demonstrated a need for a law making it illegal to sell political influence, though enacting and enforcing such a law would be quite difficult.

McKay had also made an enemy in future president Gerald Ford. When Ford's stepfather advised him that he would have to earn McKay's favor if he wanted to get anywhere in Michigan politics, Ford went to meet with the boss. After waiting for several hours, McKay brushed him off after only three minutes. Angered, Ford joined the anti-boss advocates. He eased on these activities during World War II to join the military, but used this to his advantage when he returned to the state. As part of his campaign for the 1948 Republican nomination for the House of Representatives, he set up a red, white, and blue Navy surplus Quonset hut right outside McKay's office tower in Grand Rapids. In a sign of McKay's diminished power, he wasn't even able to kick the upstart candidate off his property. At the Republican primary, Ford ousted McKay's pick, 10-year incumbent Bartel Jonkman, Jr. and went on to win the general election.

McKay quietly disappeared from the political scene, and at some point he moved to Florida to continue business activities there. He died in Miami Beach in January of 1965.

Sources: The Political Graveyard, "Newberry And 133 Others Indicted For Election Plot" in the New York Times on Nov. 30 1919, "Gillespie Is Freed After Short Arrest" in the Ludington Daily News on Oct. 15 1935, "Engel's Talk Challenged By Governor" in the Ludington Daily News on Nov. 2 1935, "Engel Asks Probe Of McKay's Power" in the Ludington Daily News on Nov. 5 1935, "Business & Finance: Grand Rapids Heroism" in Time on May 25 1936, "House To Continue McKay Investigation" in the Ludington Daily News on Apr. 25 1939, "Michigan GOP Chief Indicted" in the Miami News on Nov. 27 1940, "Study Further Action Against McKay" in the Ludington Daily News on Nov. 28 1940, "Grand Jury Resumes Investigation Into Jury" in the Ludington Daily News on Jul. 23 1941, "GOP Committeeman Acquitted Of Fraud" in the Reading Eagle on May 26 1942, "Dismiss McKay Mail Fraud Charge" in the Milwaukee Journal on Jul. 18 1942, "McKay Freed Of Last Count" in the Milwaukee Journal on Oct. 15 1942, "Jury Accuses Politics Figure" in the Milwaukee Journal on Dec. 3 1944, "Michigan State Senator, Witness In Probe, Slain" in the Evening Independent on Jan. 12 1945, "Politician Held In Bribe Plot" in the St. Petersburg Times on Jun. 17 1945, "Blow Lid On Orgies In World's Largest Prison" in the Lodi News-Sentinel on Jul. 25 1945, "Four Detroit Hoodlums Convicted In Murder Plot" in the St. Petersburg Times on Aug. 1 1945, "Judge Orders Frank McKay Freed Of Conspiracy Charge" in the Ludington Daily News on Feb. 14 1946, "Sale Of Political Influence Leads To Drive For Curbs" in the Milwaukee Sentinel on Dec. 8 1947, "The Shaping Of The President: Ford's Early Years" in New York Magazine on Aug. 26 1974, Gerald R. Ford by Douglas Brinkley, Time and Chance: Gerald Ford's Appointment with History by James M. Cannon, The Powers That Punish: Prisons and Politics in the Era of the "Big House," 1920-1955 by Charles Bright