Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hiram Bingham: dodgy lobbying

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Like another Connecticut senator censured several decades after him, Hiram Bingham III's misdeeds ultimately amounted to little more than a blemish on a remarkable career. Indeed, Bingham's political service as a whole almost comes off as a footnote to his persona as an explorer, so prevalent that he is often cited as a possible inspiration for the character of Indiana Jones.

The son of a Pacific missionary, Bingham was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, in November of 1875. He grew up in the islands, attending the Punahou School and earning an undergraduate degree from Oahu College in 1892. From there, he went stateside to attend the Phillips Academy, Yale University, the University of California at Berkeley, and Harvard University.

One of Bingham's first explorations came shortly after Bingham graduated from Harvard in 1906. The next year, he traveled the route set by Simon Bolivar from Venezuela to Colombia. In 1908, he explored an old Spanish trade route through the Andes and became a delegate to the First Pan American Scientific Congress in Santiago, Chile. Bingham also went from student to teacher, working as a professor of history and politics at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton University.

Perhaps Bingham's greatest accomplishment came in 1911 during an expedition to find Vilcabamba, the "lost city of the Incas." The joint mission by Yale and the National Geographic Society instead uncovered the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. The notion that Bingham discovered the city has generally been toned down in more recent years. The German explorer Augusto Berns may have explored Machu Picchu as early as 1867, and a Peruvian Indian who offered to act as a guide was the one who led Bingham's team there. However, Bingham was the first person to make a scientific study of the site, with follow-up expeditions in 1912 and 1915. Bingham's claim that Machu Picchu was the Vilcabamba site was not debunked until the middle of the 20th century. However, Bingham's trips also uncovered the nearby settlements of Vitcos and Espiritu Pampa, with archaeologist Gene Savoy determining in 1964 that the latter site was the likely Vilcabamba site.

World War I was already underway in Europe at the time of these expeditions, and Bingham may have foreseen American involvement in the conflict. He became a captain in the Connecticut National Guard in 1916, and when the United States declared war on the Central Powers in the spring of 1917 he became an aviator and organized the United States Schools of Military Aeronautics. He served in the Signal Corps, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel, and oversaw the flying school at Issoudun, France, from August to December in 1917.

Bingham's political career began in 1922, when he became the lieutenant governor of Connecticut. He held this position through 1924, the year he was elected governor of the state. This election took place just weeks after the suicide of Frank B. Brandegee, who had represented the state in the Senate since 1905. Bingham ran as the Republican in the special election held in December to fill the vacancy and won, committing him to the remainder of the Senate term ending in March of 1927. The curious circumstances meant Bingham would serve less than a day as Connecticut's governor before resigning, taking up his Senate duties and turning the governor's role over to Lieutenant Governor John Harper Trumbull.

President Calvin Coolidge appointed him a member of his Aircraft Board in 1925. Bingham also chaired the Committee on Printing and the Committee on Territories and Insular Possessions during his time in Congress. He continued his travels while in politics, including a 1927 trip to China during a war in that country that left him robbed of his money and camera.

Starting in April of 1929, a subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee began investigating lobbying activities among members. Concerns about this activity had been increasing in the early 20th century, with proposed regulations ongoing since 1911. Although Bingham was not immediately subject to the investigation, he volunteered to defend his own lobbyist, Charles L. Eyanson. He began giving testimony in October of 1929.

Bingham told the subcommittee members that Eyanson was initially on "loan" from the Manufacturer's Association of Connecticut to assist with tariff legislation. Although Eyanson continued to receive a salary from the lobbying group, Bingham also set up an arrangement where he became an official Senate employee as well. As Republican members of the Finance Committee began meeting in private on the tariff proposals, Bingham asked his principal clerk to formally resign his post. Although he would continue to perform his duties and receive his salary, Eyanson was sworn in as an official employee in the clerk's place so he would be able to attend the closed sessions. Eyanson was paid a salary for this new role, but passed it on to the regular clerk.

The investigators were taken aback by how much involvement in Senate affairs Bingham had allowed Eyanson to have. Even Eyanson was unsure who he answered to during this period. "Until I reported to Senator Bingham I would be a representative of the Manufacturers' Association...but actually I did not represent the association after I went with Senator Bingham. I represented Senator Bingham," he testified. Under questioning, Bingham admitted that he should have let other senators know about the arrangement. When the subcommittee issued its report at the end of the month, it was critical of Bingham's actions but made no recommendation of censure. Senator Thaddeus H. Caraway, an Arkansas Democrat who first proposed the subcommittee, offered stronger criticism on the Senate floor but also didn't recommend any formal punishment.

Bingham, however, had strong words for those who spoke against him. In remarks on the Senate floor, he accused of the subcommittee of being biased and partisan, saying Judiciary Committee chairman George Norris, a progressive Republican from Nebraska, stacked the subcommittee with people opposed to the policies of President Herbert Hoover, which Bingham supported. He complained that he was being framed and was the victim of a "modern Spanish Inquisition." The rant also implied that one senator on the subcommittee used a Capitol policeman to chauffeur him to his distant state. John J. Blaine, a Wisconsin Republican, sensed he was being targeted and demanded that Bingham named the accused; Bingham promptly confirmed that he was referring to Blaine. He continued to rail against the subcommittee, saying it used the methods of a criminal court to try to catch him in a contradiction and issued an inaccurate final report. "I had not supposed that there was no much unfairness in a group of senators," he said. "I had not supposed that for political purposes, to damage a New England senator and a friend of the administration, that they would go so far as they did."

The senators had not expected such a heated reaction, and they responded in kind. In November, Norris introduced a resolution seeking censure against Bingham for actions "contrary to good morals and senatorial ethics" that tended "to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute." Norris said that throughout the debate over Eyanson's role in the Senate, Bingham "never yet grasped the fact that the action he took was injurious to the honor and dignity of the Senate, was injurious to public sentiment and to public opinion." Blaine described Bingham's defense of his actions as akin to those made by the accused in the recent Teapot Dome Scandal, accused Bingham of having a seniority complex, and described the arrangement with Eyanson as a "dirty, slimy deal." Caraway challenged any of the Republican senators to defend Bingham; the GOP side of the chamber remained silent. Although the resolution was amended to specify that Bingham never had corrupt motives, the final vote approved the censure 54-22.

Lobbying legislation would be slow to arrive. During the 1930s, Congress finally passed bills requiring registration by lobbyists in the fields of public utilities, shipping firms, and foreign agents. It was not until 1946 that the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act, adopted as part of the Legislative Reorganization Act, would require all lobbyists to register with Congress. By that time, Bingham was long gone from the body. He lost his bid for re-election in 1932, a defeat he blamed on Prohibition advocates after supporting a repeal that ultimately did not appear on the platform in Hoover's own failed re-election bid.

After leaving the Senate, Bingham worked in the banking industry and wrote history books. He was a strong opponent of Hoover's successor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and his New Deal plan, saying the federal government was "trying to become a dictatorship." In a dramatic breakup in 1937, his wife of 37 years filed for divorce and accused Bingham of mental cruelty. She said he would enthusiastically greet the family's two dogs while acknowledging her presence only with a "kind of grunt." Bingham announced he would remarry only three months later, to Suzanne Carroll Hill (a descendant of Declaration of Independence signer Charles Carroll). He also engaged in lobbying of his own, promoting the aviation industry in Washington, D.C., and later served as the vice president of the Coleman Oil Company.

During the Second World War, Bingham lectured at naval training schools. President Harry Truman later appointed him chairman of the Civil Service Commission's Loyalty Review Board, a role Bingham held from 1951 to 1953. Truman founded the loyalty program in 1947, and although government agencies had their own boards to review Federal Bureau of Investigation findings on employee loyalty, the 12-member Loyalty Review Board was an entity employees could appeal to if they were found disloyal and fired. Bingham's appointment was a handy way of countering Republican accusations that Truman's administration was harboring disloyal employees.

Bingham died in Washington, D.C. of a respiratory ailment in June of 1956. His son, Jonathan Brewster Bingham, would also go into politics. He would serve as the United States delegate to four General Assemblies of the United Nations as well as a Democrat in the House of Representatives from 1965 to 1983.

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, National Governors Association, The United States Senate Historical Office, Encyclopedia Britannica, "Lost City of Incas a Wonderful Ruin" in the New York Times on Jan. 1 1914, "Resigns to Become Senator" in the Lawrence Journal-World on Jan. 8 1925, "Bingham's Car Plundered on Return From Battle Front" in the Milwaukee Sentinel on Jun. 1 1927, "Senator Bingham Roundly Scored on Senate Floor" in the Telegraph-Herald on Oct. 28 1929, "Glass Assails New Deal Tax 'Tyranny'" in the Evening Independent on Jul. 18 1936, "Divorce is Granted Mrs. Hiram Bingham" in the Meriden Daily Journal on Mar. 27 1937, "Hiram Bingham to Wed Mrs. Hill" in the New York Times on Jun. 26 1937, "U.S. Loyalty and Security Risks Involve Different Procedures" in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Jul. 24 1951, "Ex.-Sen. Bingham of Connecticut Dies in Capital" in the St. Petersburg Times on June 7 1956, "Hiram Bingham 'Discovers' Machu Picchu" in Wired on Jul. 24 2008

Monday, September 24, 2012

Otto Kerner: tainted reputation

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Otto Kerner, Jr. would be far from the first politician accused of financial misconduct who fought his conviction and accused the court of besmirching his name. But when Kerner complained that the jury's finding of guilty had "deeply and irreparably tainted the good reputation that [he] cherished," he had a significant legacy to defend. Until his day in court, Kerner was best known for having delivered one of the most progressive opinions on race relations by the United States government.

Born in Chicago in August of 1908, Kerner earned a bachelor's degree from Brown University in 1930, attended Trinity College at Cambridge University in England from 1930 to 1931, and earned a Juris Doctorate from the Northwestern University School of Law in 1934. He enlisted in the National Guard after graduation and transferred to field artillery two years later. With the outbreak of World War II, he served in both the European and Pacific theaters. When he retired from the service in 1954, Kerner was a major general with a Soldier's Medal, Bronze Star, and Army Commendation Ribbon.

Kerner entered politics soon after, becoming the U.S. District Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. He held this position from 1947 to 1955 before serving as a Cook County judge from 1955 to 1960. During his time in these positions, Kerner led an effort to reform adoption procedures. Running on the Democratic ticket, Kerner was elected governor of Illinois in 1960. He was re-elected four years later. Kerner served on the National Governors' Conference Executive Committee from 1967 to 1968, and he chaired the Midwestern Governors' Conference that same year. There was a minor scandal in December of 1964 when Theodore J. Isaacs, Kerner's former campaign manager, was charged with misconduct and conspiracy for allegedly receiving fees from two envelope companies. The charges blew over, but it wouldn't be the last time that Isaacs appeared before a judge.

Kerner was perhaps best known for his role as chairman of an 11-member bipartisan committee convened in the summer of 1967 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. A series of devastating race riots had broken out across the country in recent years, and Johnson wanted to know why. Officially known as the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, the group was nicknamed the "Kerner Commission" due to Kerner's leadership role and progressive record as the Illinois governor; he had worked to integrate the National Guard, and although Chicago had not been exempt from the riots the disruptions had been much less severe than those in Detroit and elsewhere. For several months, the committee members met with civic leaders, police officers, politicians, and social scientists to discuss the racial situation in the country.

The result was a groundbreaking report in March of 1968 identifying a number of deep-seated problems and recommending several sweeping reforms. It confirmed the assertions of many civil rights leaders and was a general indictment of the degradation of race relations, blaming "white racism" as the crux of the problem. The report also said racism had become institutionalized, with racist policies not only leading to the creation of black ghettos but keeping them intact and rationalizing their existence. As a result, black citizens had poorer access to education and health facilities and were more susceptible to poverty and unemployment than white citizens. The report also accused police departments of having confrontational tactics when policing the ghettos and contributing to the severity of the riots by responding too slowly to the disruptions. Some members of the media were accused of being irresponsible in reports that could "seed the thoughts of riots."

The findings included the ominous finding that "our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white - separate and unequal." It recommended an immediate effort to improve ghetto conditions by better access to jobs and housing, including 550,000 new jobs and 600,000 new housing units in 1968 alone. Members also suggested a need for welfare reform, guaranteed income for every American family, and full-year schooling for children. Shortly before it disbanded, the commission released a supplemental report in July of 1968 saying more ghetto residents than expected - 18 percent - had joined in the riots and that the participants were not just criminals or "riff-raff" but a large number of urban youth.

This secondary report was likely in response to a complaint accusing the commission of not placing responsibility for the riots on the rioters themselves. Richard Nixon, running on a "law and order" platform in 1968, accused the Kerner Commission report of blaming "everybody for the riots except the perpetrators." The report may have illuminated a number of issues, but the scale of the recommendations (and belief that the riots were more the fault of conspirators than a release of outrage about social conditions) meant that it did little else.

A year after the release of the report, an independent study by the nonprofit organizations Urban America Inc. and The Urban Coalition found that little progress had been made in race relations. It borrowed a line from the Kerner Commission in concluding, "A year later we are a year closer to being two societies, black and white, increasingly separate and scarcely less unequal." Testifying before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee in May of 1971, Kerner said he thought police tactics had improved since the riots but that underlying racial issues had not been addressed.

Kerner decided not to run for a third term due to a "deep concern for the health and happiness" of his family." He resigned his governorship early, handing over the reins to Lieutenant Governor Samuel Shapiro in May of 1968. However, Kerner soon accepted a presidential appointment as a federal appeals court judge in Chicago.

In December of 1969, an investigation began into the allegation that Kerner received $50,000 in bank stock shortly before ordering the dismissal of a second indictment against organized crime figure Joseph Amabile, who had been sentenced to 15 years in prison on extortion conviction. Although nothing came of this inquiry, Kerner would land in hot water less than two years late on a similar accusation.

In July of 1971, investigators questioned Kerner about a hefty profit he made in racetrack stock while serving as governor. Five months later, a federal grand jury indicted him on charges of bribery, mail fraud, tax evasion, perjury, and conspiracy. The jury also indicted three former administration officials and one of their secretaries: Isaacs, who had served as state director of revenue between 1961 and 1963; William S. Miller, chairman of Illinois Racing Board from 1961 to 1967; Joseph Knight, director of state institutions between 1962 and 1968; and Faith McInturf, Miller's former secretary and business associate.

The charges alleged that Kerner conspired to acquire $356,000 in racetrack stock for the bargain price of $70,158, and that this amounted to a bribe since it intended to influence his decisions on horse racing matters. Prosecutors also charged that Kerner evaded $84,129 in taxes by false reports to the Internal Revenue Service.

Kerner promptly took leave of his post but did not resign. The case zeroed in on him and Isaacs, since Knight was too old and ill to stand trial and the charges against McInturf eventually evaporated. The state dropped the charges against Miller when he agreed to testify against his co-defendants.

The trial against Kerner and Isaacs began in January of 1971 and lasted for seven weeks; the state called 40 witnesses, the defense 31. Majorie Everett, a former head of Chicago Thoroughbred Enterprises, said she made stock available to Kerner and Isaacs in 1962 and contributed $45,000 to the governor's campaign. Miller said Kerner knew the contributions were made with the intent that he would favor Everett's interests with his decisions; he said Kerner accepted simply by saying, "Well, that's very nice of Marj." The government also asserted that Kerner and Isaacs went through a complex system of hiding the assets and avoiding taxes on them. On the stand, Kerner denied that he ever interpreted the stock and contribution as a bribe.

The jury disagreed; they found Kerner guilty of a total of 17 charges and Isaacs guilty of 15. It was the first time a sitting federal judge was convicted of criminal charges. Kerner vowed to fight the conviction and refused to give up his post, meaning he could only be removed by impeachment. In April of 1973, he and Isaacs were each sentenced to three years in prison and a $20,000 fine. Kerner complained, "My real punishment, deserved or not, has already been inflicted...I was never tainted, and I was never bought."

His argument about the interpretation of the stock and campaign donation held some merit during the appeals process. An appeals court agreed to dismiss the bribery charge, but upheld the other convictions. In June of 1974, the Supreme Court denied a review of the cases; Kerner's argument, in part, was that he could not be indicted while a sitting judge. Some members of Congress were getting tired of this particular ambiguity. In July, Kerner finally resigned from the judge's position as efforts to impeach him gained momentum. He started serving his sentence the same month.

Kerner remained imprisoned until March of 1975. By that time, his health had declined precipitously. Although he had kicked the habit, Kerner had formerly been a longtime smoker; surgeons removed a tumor from his lung and gave him a 50-50 chance of survival. Kerner's poor health sped up his release from prison, and he accepted a job consulting with Lewis University-Chicago's special services center to improve the mental attitudes of prisoners.

President Gerald Ford received a request to pardon Kerner in October of 1975, but rejected it. Kerner was again under consideration for a pardon in May of 1976, but was already fighting a losing battle against resurgent lung cancer at this point. He died the same month and, due to his military service, was buried with honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Sources: National Governors Association, "Advisers Map Plans to Fight Discrimination" in the Ocala Star-Banner on May 30 1963, "Wild Scene as Governor Orders Illinois Adjournment" in the Telegraph-Herald on Jun. 27 1963, "Nine Public Officials Indicted on Charges of Malfeasance" in the Reading Eagle on Dec.17 1964, "Illinois Governor to Quit Politics" in the Spokane Daily Chronicle on Feb. 7 1968, "Anti-Riot Panel Urges Major National Effort" in the Beaver County Times on Mar. 4 1968, "Armed Cops Not Answer - Kerner" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Mar. 13 1968, "Riot Commission Calls For Action on Report" in the St. Petersburg Times on Apr. 10 1968, "Illinois Governor Resigns" in the Press-Courier on May 21 1968, "Riot Commission Report is Challenged" in the Sumter Daily Item on July 27 1968, "One Year Later: The Nation Still Drifts Toward a Racial Upheaval" in the Lewiston Morning Tribune on Mar. 2 1969, "Kerner Silent on Charge" in the Southeast Missourian on Dec. 3 1969, "Judge Kerner Testifies For Senate Group" in the Gettysburg Times on May 26 1971, "Kerner Gain in Racetrack Stock Cited" in the Milwaukee Sentinel on Jul. 30 1971, "U.S. Jury Indicts Judge Kerner" in the Milwaukee Sentinel on Dec. 16 1971, "Kerner Pledges Battle to Erase Conviction" in the Toledo Blade on Feb. 20 1973, "Indictments Against Miller, Aide Dropped" in the Chicago Tribune on Mar. 3 1973, "Kerner Gets Three Years, $50,000 Fine" in the Ellensburg Daily Record on Apr. 20 1973, "Kerner Free of Bribery Conviction" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Feb. 20 1974, "Kerner: Honor Dearer Than Life" in the Ellensburg Daily Record on Feb. 20 1974, "High Court Refuses to Review Kerner Case" in the Portsmouth Times on Jun. 17 1974, "Kerner Quits Bench, Faces Prison Term" in the Beaver County Times on Jul. 25 1974, "Lung Tumor Removed From Former Governor" in the Beaver County Times on Mar. 12 1975, "Kerner to Work With Inmates" in the Free Lance-Star on May 22 1975, "Ford Reject Pardon for Former Governor" in the Virgin Islands Daily News on Oct.18 1975, "Pardon Eyed For Kerner" in the Spokesman-Review on May 7 1976, "Otto Kerner Dies; Paroled Year Ago" in the Schenectady Gazette on May 10 1976, Encyclopedia of American Race Riots edited by Walter C. Rucker and James N. Upton, Crime and Punishment: A History of the Criminal Justice System by Mitchel P. Roth

Friday, August 10, 2012

Albert B. Fall: tempest in a teapot

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Though President Warren G. Harding was never implicated in any of the scandals befalling his administration, his preference for giving his Cabinet unregulated control over their departments helped contribute to their abuse of power. Of his Secretary of the Interior, Albert Bacon Fall, Harding once said, "If Albert Fall isn't an honest man, I'm not fit to be President of the United States." Harding died unexpectedly in August of 1923, just a couple of months shy of the scandal that would show how he had misplaced his trust.

Fall was born in November of 1861 into a hardscrabble life in Frankfort, Kentucky. He worked at a cotton mill in his youth to help support his family, and later became a drugstore clerk and teacher. From an early age, Fall suffered from respiratory problems. He moved to Mexico in the hope that the climate would be more tolerable for this health issue and worked in the mining industry before returning to the United States, studying law in Texas. He moved to Las Cruces in New Mexico, then a U.S. territory, where he pursued employment in real estate, mining, and livestock interests while also opening a bookstore. Fall began practicing law after he was admitted to the bar in 1891, choosing Mexican law as his area of expertise.

By the time he got into the legal field, Fall had already started on a political career. After unsuccessfully running for the territory's house of representatives in 1888, he won a seat in the body in 1890; the year before, he was elected the irrigation commissioner of Dona Ana County. In 1893, he was appointed judge of the third judicial district in 1893. However, he soon left to return to private practice after an accusation that he deliberately discounted returns in an election in order to favor the Democratic candidate. He became the territorial attorney general in 1897 and 1907, the terms bookending another term in the legislature which Fall managed to serve despite opening a new law practice in El Paso, Texas. He was in a different party in 1904, having switched to join the Republicans. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, Fall served as a captain in Company H of the First Territorial Infantry.

When New Mexico was admitted as a state, the legislature named Fall as one of the first people to represent the state in the Senate. It was a contentious choice; 32 were in favor, but a coalition of Democrats, progressive Republicans, and one other Republican did not cast a vote. The legislature's chairman argued that the choice was not valid because 37 votes were needed, but the Republicans said the decision stood because it was made with a majority of those present. Governor William C. McDonald, a Democrat, did not sign Fall's credentials. However, Fall was re-elected without incident in January of 1913 for a term commencing in March. In 1918, with the Senate electoral process changed from legislatures to popular vote, Fall won a second term.

Fall quickly became a controversial figure for his role in the relations between the United States and Mexico. Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, said Fall's demands amounted to an ultimatum which could lead to war. These included Fall's contention that the country was not doing enough to collect from Mexico for damages done to American property in skirmishes with rebels along the border. There was a minor scandal in 1913 when Fall denounced provisional Mexican president General Victoriano Huerta as a "traitorous and treacherous assassin" and demanded the repeal of a joint resolution allowing the President to authorize arms shipments to Mexico. The Mexican government in turn accused Fall of fomenting revolution and providing the rebellion with $200,000 to protect his property interests in the country. Fall denied the charge, saying, "The whole trouble is that I know the Mexican people, that I am thoroughly in sympathy with the great masses of the Mexican people and that I am not in sympathy with traitors nor assassins of any race. Huerta and his associates know these facts and they fear my statements concerning them, and they are driven to desperation when they threaten any exposé of myself or my facts."

When Harding was elected President in 1920, Fall accepted an offer to join his Cabinet as Secretary of the Interior and resigned from the Senate in March of 1921. He would become known as one of the members of the "Ohio gang," the members of the Harding Administration who achieved the most autonomy only to abuse this power. A rumor arose that Fall would resign at the end of his first year in the job due to irreconcilable disagreements with Harding over the issues of soldiers' bonuses and farm legislation. Fall said this was not true, and also denied suggestions that he had received offers to become affiliated with oil companies. It was an early hint of the scandal that would rock the country for several years. Though Fall did not resign in 1922, he did leave the post on his two-year anniversary. The reported reason for his departure was similar to the 1922 rumor: he and Harding remained friends, but disagreed over a variety of issues including U.S. intervention in Mexico and policies involving Alaska and conservation. Harding named the Postmaster General, Hubert Work, to take Fall's place.

The resignation came about five months before the lid blew off in a corrupt bargain that would come to be known as the Teapot Dome Scandal. This issue had its roots in the U.S. Navy's conversion from coal to diesel to fuel its ships. In order to ensure an adequate supply of fuel for the vessels, the administrations of William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson had set aside reserves at Teapot Dome in Wyoming and Elk Hills in California. During his time as Secretary of the Interior, Fall convinced Harding that the jurisdiction of the reserves should fall under his department rather than the Navy. He argued that neighboring private companies were inadvertently draining the reserves, and that it would make more sense to lease the fields to these companies and have them give the government a portion of the tapped oil. With Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby agreeing with the recommendation, Harding acquiesced.

In April of 1922, Fall leased the Teapot Dome reserve to the Mammoth Oil Company, owned by Harry F. Sinclar. Sinclair gained control of the Teapot Dome reserve without ever going to bid; the 20-year lease promised to pay government between 12.5 to 50 percent of proceeds, depending on production. These funds would be paid in certificates that could be exchanged for fuel or Mammoth's services in constructing oil storage factories. Edward Doheny, a close friend of Fall's and owner of the Pan American Petroleum Company, won control over most of the Elk Hills reserve. He also submitted a successful bid for the construction of oil storage facilities at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

Congress investigated the transactions in 1922, but it wasn't until October of 1923 that a Senate inquiry began to uncover the seedy details of the leases. A Wyoming congressman questioned why they had not gone out to bid, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an exposé alleging corruption in the deals. The Senate Public Lands Committee called in witnesses to see if any criminal activity had taken place, and eventually uncovered gifts and loans made to Fall by Sinclair and Doheny. Sinclair admitted that Fall had been his personal guest on several occasions, and the committee later determined that he gave Fall $260,000 in Liberty bonds as well as a herd of cattle and other gifts in exchange for control of the Teapot Dome reserve. Fall claimed that an additional $100,000 loan uncovered by the committee was given to him by Washington newspaper publisher E.B. McLean to purchase additional ranch properties in New Mexico. But in January of 1924, Doheny admitted that he had given this money to Fall in a black satchel during the lease negotiations. Further investigation determined that Fall was suffering from significant financial difficulties when he joined the Harding Administration, and that he had used the money to pay off his debts, renovate his ranch, and purchase adjoining property.

The blatant disregard for the public office horrified the American public, and the scandal sent shock waves through the Cabinet. Though not implicated in any criminal wrongdoing, Denby was heavily criticized for ceding control of the reserves to Fall and resigned under fire. Attorney General Harry Daugherty was also not found to be personally culpable, but resigned in 1924 amid accusations that he dealt in Sinclair stock and should have caught the misconduct. The leases were quickly annulled, and the Supreme Court upheld the decisions in two separate cases in 1927.

An indictment came down against Sinclair in March of 1924, and others were issued against Fall and Doheny three months later. The government charged that the men conspired to get control of the reserves between July of 1921 and December of 1922. However, the court quashed the indictments in April of 1925 since the assistant attorney general was present during the grand jury proceedings. The relief for Fall and the oil men was short-lived; all were re-indicted a month later. However, Fall and Doheny were acquitted of the conspiracy charges in December of 1926.

The legal proceedings continued to grind slowly forward, as both Fall and Doheny still faced bribery charges. Sinclair avoided these charges, but his refusal to cooperate with investigators earned him a conviction for contempt of both the Senate and Supreme Court in March of 1927; he was sentenced to serve three months in jail and pay a $500 fine. In the autumn of this year, the government tried to finally bring Fall's case to trial only to run into troubles with securing witnesses and other factors. Moreover, Fall was then 66 years old and "near death" with serious congestion in his right lung. The trial was put on hold. In the spring of 1928, Fall said that Harding had insisted upon leasing the oil fields and that Denby had been the person to request it. The transaction was above board and not done in secret, he asserted.

The case finally came before a jury in October of 1929. Fall was present in a wheelchair, attended by a medical staff. The main witness in his defense was Doheny, who would later be acquitted at his own trial. Doheny characterized the $100,000 payment to Fall not as a bribe, but as a loan to a friend. He also made the rather clairvoyant assertion that the deal was also made in the interests of deterring Japanese power, as he felt it would help keep the Navy well-prepared against the threat of an attack by this country. Doheny claimed that a Navy officer had urged him to seek control over an oil reserve as part of a contract for the oil storage facilities at Pearl Harbor, so that a Pacific power could be kept in check. "That government was Japan and fortunately the [September 1923] earthquake in Japan destroyed the very thing that was the menace, thousands of barrels of oil," Doheny testified.

The jury was not moved by this passionate appeal, and found Fall guilty of bribery. Fall was the first member of a presidential cabinet to be convicted of a crime. Doheny, who felt the case had been significantly directed by the bench, angrily cried, "The jury didn't try the case, the judge tried it!" Nevertheless, the jury recommended leniency for Fall due to his age and illness. He was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and a $100,000 fine. After unsuccessfully appealing the verdict, Fall arrived at the prison by ambulance to begin serving his sentence in July of 1931. He was released in May of 1932. The scandal would have a major effect on conservation policy, notably leading to the creation of the Federal Oil Conservation Board.

Fall resumed his business pursuits in New Mexico, but the scandal and his illness prevented him from meeting with much success in these areas. The 750,000-acre ranch he lived on had been purchased at foreclosure auction by the Doheny-led Petroleum Securities Company in 1929, and in 1935 the company moved to evict him. Fall fought the action, and was able to hold onto the ranch house and 100 acres. Nearly broke, Fall spent the last two years of his life suffering from continued illness in a hospital. He died in November of 1944 in El Paso.

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Ohio History Central, "Queer Tactics in New Mexico Senate" in The Day on June 6 1912, "Would Discipline Mexico" in the New York Times on July 23 1912, "U.S. Senator is Accused of Aiding Rebels" in the New York Times on June 29 1913, "Fall Denies Diaz Charge" in the New York Times on July 2 1913, "Gompers Sees War With Mexico If Sen. Fall's Program is Carried Out" in the Lewiston Daily Sun on June 4 1920, "Fall Denies Report That He Will Resign" in the New York Times on Feb. 11 1922, "Work Given Fall's Place" in the Evening Independent on Feb. 27 1923, "Sinclair Bares Oil Lease Facts" in the Miami News-Metropolis on Oct. 29 1923, "Fall is Under Fire" in the Prescott Evening Courier on Dec. 27 1923, "Technicality Knocks Out Fall-Doheny True Bill" in the Reading Eagle on Apr. 3 1925, "New Indictments Against Teapot Dome Celebrities Drop the Bribery Charges" in the Evening Independent on May 28 1925, The Oxford Companion to United States History edited by Paul S. Boyer, "Sinclair Oil Lease Annulled" in the Providence News on Oct. 10 1927, "Here's History of Naval Oil Lease Cases" in the San Jose Evening News on Oct. 18 1927, "Fall Near Death" in the Pittsburgh Press on Nov. 5 1927, "Fall Continues With Account of Oil Leases" in the San Jose News on Mar. 27 1928, "Doheny Weeps in Testifying at Fall Trial" in the Milwaukee Sentinel on Oct. 18 1929, "Convict Fall, Ask Mercy of Court" in the Pittsburgh Press on Oct. 25 1929, "Fall Arrives at Prison to Start Term" in the Schenectady Gazette on Jul. 21 1931, "Fall To Be Released From Prison Today" in the Reading Eagle on May 9 1932, "Albert B. Fall, 83, Dies in Hospital" in the Pittsburgh Press on Dec. 1 1944, Encyclopedia of White-Collar & Corporate Crime edited by Lawrence M. Salinger, The New Encyclopedia of American Scandal by George C. Kohn

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Joe Waggonner: solicitation immunity

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A close friend of Wilbur Mills, a fellow member of the House of Representatives, Joseph David Waggonner, Jr. was there to support Mills following revelations that he had a dubious relationship with a stripper and was struggling with alcohol problems. Two years later, Waggonner weathered his own scandal.

Waggonner was born in Plain Dealing, Louisiana in September of 1918. He graduated from Plain Dealing High School in 1935 before earning a bachelor's degree from Louisiana Tech University in 1941. Although he entered the business world after this graduation, he joined the Navy for the duration of World War II and returned for service in the Korean War between 1951 and 1952.

Waggonner's first experience with politics began in 1954, when he was elected to the Bossier Parish school board. He served there for six years, spending his last year as a member of the Louisiana state board of education as well. In 1961, he was the president of both the United Schools Committee of Louisiana and Louisiana School Boards Association. Waggonner also ran unsuccessfully for state comptroller in 1959.

When Representative Overton Brooks died in September of 1961, the district held a special election in December to fill the vacancy. Waggonner was chosen as the Democratic nominee and faced off against Republican candidate Charlton H. Lyons, Sr. Both men were extremely conservative and in favor of segregation; in fact, Waggonner had briefly left the Democratic Party in 1960 to run in the general election as an elector for the States Rights Party. When the results came in, Waggonner had defeated Lyons. He would be re-elected in 1962 and in each of the next seven congressional elections.

During his time in Congress, Waggonner was credited with bringing a number of improvements to his district. These included the establishment of an interstate between Lafayette and Shreveport, development to make the Red River navigable, helping convince General Motors to set up a plant in Shreveport, and acquiring funding for the Barksdale Air Force Base and Fort Polk. Waggonner served on the Ways and Means Committee as well as the House committee that administered the space program. He became one of the most prominent leaders of the conservative Southern Democrats and a vocal opponent of liberal Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, whom he accused of engaging in paid activity while a judge as well as a $200,000 payment to a mobster while Douglas was the head of the Albert Parvin Foundation.

Waggonner also became an outspoken critic of civil rights measures and other initiatives by President Lyndon Johnson. He led the fight against Johnson's school aid and antipoverty measures, declaring, "There's no demand, for the first time in many years, for this legislation except from those who are politically motivated." He described the civil rights group Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee as a "radical, Communist-infiltrated gangs of agitators...dedicated to violence for the sake of the party line." Waggonner claimed that civil rights measures unfairly targeted the South. He said that congressmen were "blackmailed into acting" on a bill on housing discrimination since it was being pushed through Congress at the same time as a number of violent incidents in the South. In response to President Richard Nixon's 1969 civil rights bill, Waggonner complained, "You've got to quit whipping the South."

Despite this criticism, Waggonner was a strong Nixon supporter. He was taken aback when transcripts related to the Watergate scandal were released in August of 1974. "The only thing I've got to say is it hurts," he told a reporter. "I'll let the dust settle before I say more, and think the whole thing through." Yet the men remained close enough that Nixon consulted with Waggonner as the scandal reached its crescendo. Waggonner told Nixon that he could probably rally 70 Democrats to oppose the President's impeachment, but warned that if he did so there would still be a demand to hold Nixon in contempt of the Supreme Court for refusing to turn over his audio tapes as ordered. The advice no doubt played a part in Nixon's ultimate decision to resign. "After my call with Joe Waggonner...realized that we are really looking at about thirty days in which the climactic decision with regard to whether we are able to stay in office," he recorded in his journal.

In June of 1976, reports surfaced that Waggonner had briefly been detained by the Washington, D.C. police earlier in the year after soliciting a police officer posing as a prostitute. According to the police, three vice officers were stationed at a corner frequented by prostitutes and Waggonner circled the block three times before motioning to one of the women. He arranged to meet with her and pay $50 for sex, at which point the policewoman tapped the top of his car as a signal for officers in the area to arrest him. After a trip to the police station, however, Waggonner was released without being charged.

Waggonner had a different version of events, claiming he had been the victim of entrapment. He said a woman was trying to entice him and he refused, but when an unmarked car pulled up he became frightened and fled the scene. He said officers caught him after a short foot chase, but were ultimately satisfied with his account of the events. He was nevertheless none too pleased when the media found out about the incident. The New York Post broke the story, accusing the police and U.S. Attorney's Office of trying to cover the matter up. They quoted Waggonner as saying, "Gentlemen, this will destroy me. This will destroy my family. Do you want to destroy me?"

The incident did have the effect of abolishing a century-old practice in the nation's capital. Soliciting a prostitute was a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a $250 fine. Yet as Police Chief Maurice J. Cullinane explained, members of Congress had immunity from all misdemeanors. The original intent of the law was to prevent the arrest of congressmen in relation to civil charges, but the matter involving Waggonner prompted the department to consider changing the policy. After a legal review, the misdemeanor immunity for congressmen was scrapped in July of 1976.

The matter had no effect on the year's election. Waggonner easily won the Democratic nomination in August and had no Republican rival in the general election. In fact, there had been five other sex scandals involving Democratic congressmen in 1976 and most of the officials involved survived for another term. Only Wayne Hays, who opted to resign before the election, and Allan Howe, a Utah representative defeated in the election after his conviction on a charge of soliciting a prostitute, would not return to Congress.

The new term Waggonner won would be his last. His most notable work at this point was his advocacy of the oil and gas industries. In February of 1978, he announced that he was retiring after the completion of his term "to be with my family and to share with them...God's abundance of life." He died in October of 2007 in Shreveport.

Sources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, The Waggonner Center at Louisiana Tech University, "Democrat Is Favored In Election" in the Spokesman-Review on Dec. 19 1961, "House May Not Accept Open Housing Amendment" in the News and Courier on Mar. 11 1968, "Congress Passes Rights Bill; LBJ Vows 'Early' Signature" in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Apr. 11 1968, "Voting Rights Measure Clears House" in the News and Courier on Dec. 12 1969, "House Set To Vote On Cambodia Funds" in The Telegraph on May 10 1973, "Justice Douglas Target Of New Probe Demands" in the Press-Courier on May 10 1973, "Disclosure Stuns Backers" in the Bangor Daily News on Aug. 6 1974, "'Flatfoot Floozie' Catches A Congressman, Paper Says" in the Miami News on June 17 1974, "Hays Will Resign From House Post" in the Free-Lance Star on June 18 1976, "GOP Predicts, Democrats Dispute, Prediction Of House Gains" in the Herald-Journal on Jul. 15 1976, "Immunity Ended For Congressmen" in the Spokesman-Review on July 26 1976, "Incumbent Defeated" in the Spokesman-Review on Aug. 15 1976, "Books Closed on Sex Scandal" in The Telegraph on Dec. 9 1976, "2 Demos To Retire" in the Deseret News on Feb. 11 1978, "2 More Congressmen To Retire" in the Spokane Daily Chronicle on Feb. 11 1978, "Joe Waggonner, La. Congressman" in the Boston Globe on Oct. 10 2007, Time and Chance: Gerald Ford's Appointment with History by James M. Cannon, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s by Clayborne Carson

Thursday, April 5, 2012

William Woods Holden: a divided legacy

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The competing legacies of William Woods Holden have ensured that opinions on the North Carolina governor continue to vary greatly. He has been praised for cracking down on the Ku Klux Klan during his tenure and criticized for the way he carried out this goal. Even 140 years later, when the topic of Holden's impeachment again appeared in the state senate, there were some who bitterly considered the governor a renegade who had trampled individual rights.

Holden was born in Hillsborough, North Carolina in November of 1818. At age 10, he apprenticed with the hometown newspaper, the Hillsborough Recorder. Holden later studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1841, but soon found himself back in the newspaper business. He worked at the Raleigh Star, and later became the owner and editor of the North Carolina Standard. Through this organ, he advocated for causes such as equal suffrage, universal education, and improved labor conditions.

First entering politics as a Whig, Holden joined the Democratic Party in 1843. A year later, he began serving in the state's house of commons and held a seat there until 1847. Holden was absent from politics for several years, although in 1858 he was rejected as both a gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidate. Though he defended states' rights to secede and supported the expansion of states and territories allowing slavery, Holden initially opposed the idea of North Carolina's secession since he thought it would lead to war. However, following the secession of several other states and the attack on Fort Sumter, he took part in a secession convention in May of 1861 which led the state to break away from the Union and join the Confederacy.

Holden's views changed again during the Civil War as he continued to publish his newspaper. He began to criticize the Confederate government and call for peace, saying it would be better for the South to meet a negotiated end to the conflict rather than fall in unconditional surrender. Some residents denounced Holden as a traitor, and in 1863 troops from Georgia attacked his office, destroyed his type, and seized personal papers. Yet Holden continued to publish until the Confederacy suspended the right of habeas corpus.

Holden's views impressed President Andrew Johnson enough that he appointed Holden the provisional governor of North Carolina during the postwar Reconstruction. This term was to last through December, and Holden worked to revise state constitution to recognize federal authority and begin restoring the economy. In December, Jonathan Worth defeated him in a re-election bid. Holden was offered a chance to represent the state in the U.S. Senate, but declined in order to return to publishing. Yet Holden remained politically active, changing parties again and becoming instrumental in organizing the state's Republican Party. He led the party's ticket in 1868 and was returned to the governor's office, although there was a brief standoff when Worth refused to recognize the Republican victory. This was resolved with an intervention by General Edward Canby to enforce the Reconstruction laws.

When he returned to office, Holden focused on initiatives such as prison reform, universal education, internal improvements such as railroad development, and equal justice. He also oversaw North Carolina's acceptance of Reconstruction efforts. The state had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment in July of 1868 and officially returned to the United States. In March of 1869, the state ratified the Fifteenth Amendment. These additions to the Constitution sought to extend rights to former slaves, declaring that people born or naturalized in the United States were citizens and that color or past servitude did not prevent them from voting.

What did prevent them from voting was the campaign of terror waged by the Ku Klux Klan. The hooded vigilante group carried out lynchings, assaults, and other violent acts in an effort to suppress the black and Republican vote. Holden began to receive urgent requests for protection as civil authorities proved unable to unwilling to take on the KKK. In October of 1869, the governor threatened to declare Lenoir and Jones counties in insurrection. Holden also appealed to local law enforcement to take stronger action against the Klan, while the state legislature passed a law making it illegal to appear disguised in public for the purpose of violence or intimidation.

Though the actions helped cut down on the violence, it did not quash it entirely. Holden was especially concerned with continued KKK atrocities in Alamance and Caswell counties. In the former county, a band of men dragged Wyatt Outlaw, a black councilman and president of the local Union League, from his home and lynched him in February of 1870. Three months later, Republican state senator John W. Stephens attended a Democratic Party convention in Caswell County in an attempt to ease tensions by lending his support to the party's conservative candidate for sheriff. Instead, the candidate and several other attendees took him to the basement and stabbed him to death.

Under the Shoffner Act, recently passed by the state legislature, Holden had the power to declare counties to be in insurrection, raise militias to quell the rebellion, and suspend the right of habeas corpus. In March of 1870, he declared Alamance County to be in a state of rebellion. He said he had waited to see if there would be a public outcry against the KKK but that one never materialized, presumably because people were afraid of reprisal. "The laws must be maintained," Holden declared. "These laws are all over. Every citizen, of whatever party or color, must be absolutely free to express his political opinions, and must be safe in his own house. These outrages and these violations of law must and shall cease." In June, citing the murder of Stephens and six others in five counties, Holden declared Caswell County to be in a state of insurrection as well.

Holden put the task of raising a militia to Col. George W. Kirk, who commanded Union troops in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. These troops moved into Alamance and Caswell counties and also posted a presence in Cleveland County, where state KKK leader Plato Durham lived. As the troops arrested suspected agitators, some accused Holden of perpetrating the same crime he was purportedly trying to stop. With state elections coming up in August, opponents felt the militia troops were terrorizing innocent civilians and trying to intimidate voters. There were complaints of brutal behavior by Kirk's troops, including two men who had been hanged by their necks in an effort to get them to divulge information on the Klan.

Democrats criticized the move as unconstitutional, claiming Holden's accounts of violence were exaggerated and that civil authorities were capable of handling the crime that was occurring. One address declared, in part, "It is true that murders and other outrages have been committed, but they have not been confined to any particular locality or any political party; and when Governor Holden represented to the President and to Congress that these acts are evidence of disloyalty, he is guilty of a willful libel upon the people whose rights he has sworn to protect." The party theorized that Holden could even be trying to provoke a violent conflict with the KKK, allowing him to put the entire state under martial law.

A standoff between Holden, Kirk, and judicial authorities began in the summer when Chief Justice Richard Pearson of the state's supreme court served a writ of habeas corpus on Kirk ordering four prisoners to be delivered before the court. Kirk refused, since Holden had instructed him not to surrender any prisoners to civil authorities. Pearson contacted Holden on the issue, and the governor responded that he felt the civil courts were " no longer a protection to life, liberty, and property; assassinations and outrage go unpunished, and civil magistrates are intimidated." He wanted the prisoners to be tried before federal military tribunals. While Pearson deliberated the issue, Holden wrote to President Ulysses S. Grant seeking federal troops to bolster the militia. "The organization is widespread and numerous, is based on the most deadly hostility to the Reconstruction acts, and is in all respects very unfriendly to the government of the reconstructed states and to the United States," he said. Grant immediately ordered the Secretary of War to comply with the request.

Pearson's ruling was slightly critical of Holden, determining that the governor did not have the right to suspend habeas corpus but that his actions in declaring the counties to be in rebellion and putting them under occupation had been legal. He also tacitly supported the governor by determining that Kirk had "sufficient reason" to not deliver the prisoners when ordered, and that the judiciary's role would be exhausted once he sent the writ to Holden for approval. In other words, he did not agree that Holden should suspend habeas corpus but he did not demand enforcement of the writ. Holden, of course, flatly refused to approve the writ once it came across his desk.

With the state authorities proving unhelpful, the prisoners now appealed to U.S. District Court Judge George Brooks. When Brooks also ordered a writ of habeas corpus for the men, Holden again looked to Grant for help. He argued that if the federal army demanded the prisoners, the court's writ would not apply to them. Attorney General Amos T. Ackerman replied that this would amount to the government blocking the judicial process. Holden relented, telling Kirk to obey the writ, and the federal proceedings were called off. Most of the prisoners arrested by Kirk's troops would later be released. In November, Holden declared that the situation had improved enough that he could lift the martial law. It was the end of what became known as the "Kirk-Holden War," but only the beginning of the proceedings against Holden.

The hotly contested state elections had occurred in August, and the new legislature assembled at the end of November. If Holden had truly been trying to influence the election with his actions, the plan had backfired. The Democrats won a majority in the legislature, which now had 32 members in the state senate and 75 in the house of commons. The party immediately pushed for the governor's impeachment, and in December the house voted 60-46 to remove Holden for "high crimes and misdemeanors." Holden stepped down while the impeachment proceedings got underway, and Lieutenant Governor Tod Caldwell took over for him. Meanwhile, the black members of the house issued a joint address supporting Holden, saying the impeachment proceedings were retaliatory; the governor, they said, had "thwarted the designs of a band of assassins, who had prepared to saturate this state in the blood of the poor people on the night before the last election, on account of their political sentiments, and to prevent them from voting."

Holden's trial began in the senate in February of 1871. He was charged with eight articles of impeachment, which alleged that he had illegally declared the two counties in insurrection, illegally arrested two men (including Joshia Turner Jr., the anti-Republican editor of the Raleigh Sentinel), willfully ignored a writ of habeas corpus, and unlawfully recruited and paid troops. The house would also approve a ninth charge, accusing Holden of conspiracy to defraud the state on railroad bonds, but this never went before the senate. The trial lasted until March and heard 170 witnesses. Ultimately, the senate voted 36-13 to convict him of six counts and remove him from office. It was only the second time in U.S. history that a governor was impeached, and the first time that one was convicted.

The unrest in North Carolina had a direct effect on national politics. At the same time that Holden's impeachment trial was going on, Congress was taking steps aiming to better enforce Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment rights. Just a month after Holden was convicted, Congress passed what was dubbed the Ku Klux Klan Act. This made it a federal offense for anyone to conspire to deny someone from voting, running for office, or otherwise utilizing their citizenship rights, with the special note that it was also unlawful to do this while disguised. The measure essentially allowed federal intervention to take place in the states if any groups were in violation of the law. It specifically denied some of the actions Holden had advocated, including martial law and trials before military tribunals, but it did allow the President to suspend habeas corpus at his discretion in these cases.

The Ku Klux Klan renewed its activities in North Carolina, waging a new campaign of terror in Rowan County shortly after Holden was impeached. Caldwell received appeals for aid, but felt his hands were tied. The Shoffner Act had been repealed by the new legislature, and he was powerless to raise a militia to address the problem. When the Ku Klux Klan Act passed, he requested help from Grant and federal troops were called in to restore order.

Holden, barred from holding political office as a result of his impeachment, was offered ministerial posts to Peru and Argentina but declined both. He moved to Washington, D.C. for awhile to again resume his newspaper career by editing the Daily Chronicle. In 1873, he returned to North Carolina and became the postmaster of Raleigh, holding the position for the next decade. Although several legislators made efforts to pardon him and clear his political disabilities, none were successful. Holden continued to write and serve as something of an unofficial head of the Republican Party until his death in March of 1892.

The pardon effort resurfaced in 2011, but the legislators behind it found that Holden's reputation was still a touchy subject. What was intended to be a simple vote, symbolically held on the 140th anniversary of Holden's conviction, was derailed when an anonymous person managed to sneak a two-page report onto the senators' desks denouncing Holden as “a bitter, unscrupulous and arrogant demagogue.” As the vote was delayed, the Caswell County Historical Association joined in condemning the former governor. Its members said the governor had been rightly convicted for wrongful acts in the county, including carrying out an illegal rebellion that never resulted in the conviction of any KKK members. A pardon would "condemn Caswell’s history on the state level and put us all to shame and glorify Governor Holden, making rights truly wrongs," one historian with the group complained.

The association appealed to the senator from Alamance, who also joined in the call to further study the issue. Doug Berger, a Democratic co-sponsor of the bipartisan proposal, said the bill had the support of a state historian who considered Holden's impeachment to be motivated mostly by racism and party politics. Berger said he was willing to dedicate more study to the issue, but thought it would lead to "the Civil War being fought all over again."

Ultimately, the flare-up settled down. In April of 2011, in a special session held in the old capitol building where Holden was removed from office, the North Carolina senate unanimously voted to pardon the former governor.

Sources: National Governors Association, The North Carolina History Project, The North Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial, "Debate on Holden Pardon Delayed by 'Scurrilous' Report" in the New Bern Sun Journal on March 22 2011, "High School Student Halts Holden's Pardon" on WRAL on March 24 2011, "N.C. State Senate Pardons Governor Who Stood Up to Klan" in Reuters on April 12 2011, Historic Alamance County: An Illustrated Almanac by William Murray Vincent, The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies by Victoria E. Bynum, The Dictionary of North Carolina Biography edited by William S. Powell, Lectures on the Growth and Development of the United States edited by Edwin Wiley and Irving Everett Rines and Albert Bushnell Hart, Encyclopedia of the Reconstruction by Richard Zuczek, The American Annual Cyclopedia and Register of Important Events, North Carolina in the Civil War by Michael C. Hardy, The Ku Klux Klan: A Guide to an American Subculture by Marty Gitlin, Carpetbaggers, Cavalry, and the Ku Klux Klan: Exposing the Invisible Empire During Reconstruction by J. Michael Martinez, Declarations of Dependence: The Long Reconstruction of Popular Politics in the South, 1861-1908 by Gregory P. Downs, The American Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events of the Year 1870

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ernest K. Bramblett: the Pearson payroll triple

Image from the Pittsburgh Press

When it came to exposing political corruption, Drew Pearson's muckraking column "The Washington Merry-Go-Round" had a significant role in discovering the misuse of office payrolls. Having already had a role in uncovering such scandals related to Representatives J. Parnell Thomas and Walter Brehm, in 1953 Pearson added Ernest King Bramblett to the list.

Born in Fresno, California in April of 1901, Bramblett graduated from Stanford University in 1925. He stayed at the school for graduate work, supplementing it with other work at San Jose State University and the University of Southern California. His first jobs were in the insurance and auto industries from 1925 to 1928, but for the greater part of his life he worked in education. He was in this field from 1928 to 1946, and held his first political offices during this time as well.

In 1939, Bramblett became the mayor of Pacific Grove. He also became coordinator of the Monterey County schools in 1943 and a member of the Republican Central Committee in 1944. He held all of these roles until 1946, when he won a seat in the House of Representatives. He won the next three elections to retain this office as well.

Pearson's first complaints about Bramblett were mainly critical about the congressman's ethics. In May of 1952, newspaper columnist Drew Pearson criticized the congressman for putting his wife on his payroll as a secretary. Bramblett explained in a letter to his constituents, "We know that Communist agents are everywhere around us. They're in place in every strategic place in the nation, particularly so in California." Bramblett said the uncertainty had reached a point where his wife was the one person he knew he could trust with the sensitive material in his office. Pearson retorted that Bramblett, as a member of the Agriculture Committee, "has access to nothing more top secret than the latest cure for chicken lice."

Pearson followed up this column with the accusation that Bramblett's wife had been on the payroll since 1947, before Communism became an overriding concern. He added that his wife was earning $8,192.04 a year, more than some FBI agents who were certainly doing more to combat any Communist subterfuge. Pearson also alleged in October of 1952 that Bramblett had offered to boost the salary of secretary Vivian DeWitt from $2,400 to $5,000 if she paid him $5,000 in advance; DeWitt refused, Pearson said, and was dropped from Bramblett's staff three months later.

Pearson's suspicions were not confirmed until 1953. In May, a federal grand jury opened an investigation into Bramblett's payroll. Two months later, he was indicted on 18 counts of making false statements. These specific charges alleged that Bramblett had attempted to alter his records to conceal $4,036 in kickbacks from former clerks Margaret M. Swanson and Olga Hardaway.

The trial began in February of 1954. The prosecutor charged that Bramblett collected Swanson's salary for 17 months and Hardaway's for seven months. Swanson, the state said, did "no work whatever" while on Bramblett's staff. Swanson's husband, who also worked as a House clerk, gave the curious testimony that he suggested to Bramblett that he take his wife off the payroll to avoid criticism and put Margaret on. Swanson's husband even recalled that he had offered to send her salary to Bramblett, and that it was under this arrangement that Margaret had been hired. Bramblett rehired his wife at a later date without the Swansons' knowledge, the prosecution said. Moreover, they said that Hardaway had been placed on the payroll without her knowledge, with Bramblett having her sign her checks face down so she did not know they were being transferred over to him.

The state's case related to Hardaway was weakened when it was shown that Hardaway, whose husband was Bramblett's former campaign manager, did some work for Bramblett. However, Bramblett was convicted of the remaining seven counts involving the collection of $3,300 from Swanson. The judgment was stayed after the defense challenged the applicability of the false statements law to the legislative branch. Meanwhile, Bramblett opted to not run for re-election in 1954.

The Supreme Court agreed to review the false statements law, but unanimously upheld the conviction in April of 1955. Two months later, Bramblett received a sentence of four months to one year in prison, all suspended, along with a year of probation and $5,000 fine. His attorney, Edward B. Williams, complained that Bramblett had been professionally, economically, and socially "immobilized" by the charges and lost the reputation he had built up over the years. As a result, Williams said, Bramblett had no immediate prospects for employment. The judge granted an additional 60 days for the payment of the fine.

Bramblett made one last attempt to appeal the conviction, but the Federal Court of Appeals upheld it in January of 1956. Later that year, he was the target of a federal lawsuit charging that the amount diverted into Bramblett's bank account was much higher than alleged in at his trial. The suit asked for the return of $35,408 it said had been funneled to Bramblett, as well as $36,316 in damages for a total of $71,724. It is unclear how this suit was resolved.

Bramblett began working as a consultant. He spent some time in Washington, D.C. after leaving Congress, but returned to California to live the rest of his life in Woodland Hills. He died in December of 1966.

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "How to Put Wife on the Pay Roll" in the St. Petersburg Times on May 13 1952, "Washington Merry-Go-Round" in the Oxnard Press-Courier on Jun. 2 1952, "Jury to Study Office Pay Roll of Lawmaker" in the St. Petersburg Times on May 16 1953, "Four Bramblett Employees Called in Payroll Probe" in the Oxnard Press-Courier on May 28 1953, "Rep. Bramblett Denies Charges" in the St. Petersburg Times on Jun. 19 1953, "Congressman Accused on Pay to Wife" in the Oxnard Press-Courier on Feb. 2 1954, "Lawmaker on Trial for 'Padding' Payroll" in the Pittsburgh Press on Feb. 3 1954, "High Court Agrees to Rule on Alleged Bramblett Kickback" in the Lawrence Journal-World on Oct. 18 1954, "Ex-Lawmaker Loses in Scandal Plea" in the Milwaukee Sentinel on Apr. 5 1955, "Bramblett Gets Fine, Probation" in the Oxnard Press-Courier on Jun. 15 1955, "Bramblett Loses Kickback Appeal" in the New York Times on Jan. 20 1956, "Bramblett Sued for $71,724" in the Tri City Herald on Nov. 1 1956

Sunday, February 12, 2012

John Milton Elliott: the most ignominious game

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The fact that John Milton Elliott's defection from the United States during the Civil War did not negatively affect his life after the conflict shows just how common such actions were. Rather, Elliott is another politician best known for his dramatic and tragic end.

Elliott was born in Scott County, Virginia in May 1820. He moved to Morgan County (now renamed for Elliott) in Kentucky. He returned to Virginia to attend Emory and Henry College in Emory, graduating in 1841. From there, he studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1843, and began a practice in Prestonburg, Kentucky.

In 1847, Elliott became a member of the state's house of representatives. Five years later, he was elected as a Democrat to the House of Representatives. He was re-elected twice and chose not to run for re-election in 1858. Upon his departure, he returned to his legal practice and again joined the state house of representatives in 1861. Elliott initially favored neutrality in the split between the Union and Confederacy after several southern states seceded, but his sympathies were clearly with the states just south of Kentucky. He occasionally purchased a slave, denounced the abolitionist movement, and was a member of Kentucky's Southern Rights party.

After the close of the fall session of the house of representatives, Elliott began organizing support for the Confederacy in eastern Kentucky. The activity did not go unnoticed, and the U.S. District Court returned an indictment charging him with treason for "directly or indirectly giving aid and comfort to the enemy." In December of 1861, Elliott was one of eight members of the Kentucky General Assembly expelled for the same cause. He joined the convention at Russellville organizing the Kentucky representatives to the Confederate government, and was elected to both the First and Second Confederate Congresses.

After the war, the Fourteenth Amendment barred anyone who had previously sworn an oath to the United States Constitution and joined an insurrection or rebellion against it from holding office unless there was a two-thirds vote allowing it. The provision effectively ended Elliott's political career, but he was able to return to a successful legal career. He settled in Owingsville, and later Catlettsburg. From 1868 to 1874, he served as a circuit court judge. Starting in 1876, he was a judge of the court of appeals.

This line of work would effectively seal Elliott's fate. The sister of one Col. Thomas Buford had purchased a farm from a Mr. Guthrie, but managed to pay off only one of three notes. Guthrie began foreclosure proceedings against her in 1871. He won the suit, but Buford argued that the title was defective and the ruling was reversed on a technicality in the appeals court. Guthrie pressed the foreclosure and won again, meaning Buford's sister lost both her property and her $20,000 investment. In 1878, Elliott affirmed the decision after Buford again appealed.

By the time the final decision was made, Buford's sister had died. He directly blamed the court for her death, and bore a grudge against both Judge Pryor, who had made the initial decision against him, and Elliott. Buford later said he bore no personal grudge against Elliott, but rather had been enraged when the judge came over after Pryor's decision and said, "Colonel, I did the best I could for you." Buford considered this to be an insincere statement. "He had given the original decision against me; he had concurred in this one and although he did not pronounce it, I had means of knowing that he was the moving spirit and engineer of it all through," Buford accused. He frequently stopped by the Capitol Hotel, where both Pryor and Elliott boarded, to shout threats up to them. At one point, the sheriff tried to serve eviction papers on Buford but quickly withdrew when he found that the farm had been heavily fortified to ward off such attempts.

In March of 1879, Buford sought his revenge. His primary target was Pryor, but he said he decided against killing the judge because he had children. He would not have been able to find Pryor in any case, since he had accepted a friend's drink invitation and was not at the hotel; doubtful about Buford's proclamation that he had decided against killing him, Pryor would tell people for years afterward that the drink had saved his life. Buford went after another judge as well, but couldn't persuade him to leave his breakfast to see him.

Finally, Buford found Elliott in front of the Capitol Hotel with another judge. Buford had been wandering through the town carrying a shotgun loaded with buckshot, but this did not raise any concerns. In fact, Buford was wearing his hunting gear and asked Elliott if he wanted to go snipe hunting. Elliott declined, and Buford persisted by asking Elliott to go out for a drink with him. Elliott refused this offer as well. The other judge turned away for a moment and heard a gunshot. When he turned back, he saw that Elliott had collapsed. He died soon after.

Buford readily confessed that the shooting was no accident and showed no remorse, calling Elliott "the most ignominious game my gun ever killed." He added that he killed Elliott "to try my case, to show that they could not rob and assassinate with impunity." The murder itself shocked the state. Governor James B. McCreary declared that state offices would be closed at noon the day after Elliott's death as a token of respect, and ordered all state officers and clerks to attend the funeral. The New York Times wrote, "No man among all the popular elements of his district enjoyed such real and universal esteem." Later, Elliott would have a statue dedicated to his memory at the Boyd County Courthouse in Calettsburg.

Elliott went to trial in July of 1879. There was little chance of disproving that Buford had shot Elliott, and there was no attempt to do so by the defense. Rather, 45 witnesses took the stand to testify that Elliott was insane. The jury found Buford guilty and sentenced him to life in prison. A second trial took place on appeal in 1881, and on this occasion he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Buford was sent to an asylum, although he soon escaped and made his way to Indiana. He stayed there for two years before voluntarily returning to the asylum, dying there in February of 1885.

Elliott's murder also helped contribute to the death of General Abe Buford II, Thomas's brother. Renowned as a horse breeder and veteran of the Mexican War and Civil War (on the Confederate side), Abe bankrupted himself paying for Thomas's defense. In 1884, he committed suicide, leaving behind a note that said in part, "My financial troubles have driven me to despair. Have lost my only chance to relieve my unfortunate brother and self, and the future is too dark for me to struggle against any further."

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, The Political Graveyard, "Members of the Legislature Expelled" in the New York Times on Dec. 24 1861, "The Record of Murder" in the New York Times on March 27 1879, "A Chivalrous Murderer" in the New York Times on Jul. 20 1879, "Abe Buford's Suicide" in the Reading Eagle on Jun. 10 1884, Lawyers and Lawmakers of Kentucky edited by H. Levin, American Law Review Vol. 54, Famous Kentucky Tragedies and Trials by Lewis Franklin Johnson, A New History of Kentucky by Lowell H. Harrison and James C. Klotter, The Kentucky Encyclopedia edited by John E. Kleber

Thursday, January 12, 2012

John Edward Addicks: not for sale

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John Edward Addicks' persistent effort to win a seat in the Senate ultimately had some positive results for politics on both the state and national level. A constitutional amendment would take the appointment of senators out of the hands of state legislators and make the decision one made by the state's electorate as a whole, and black voters would become a more influential part of Delaware's democracy. Yet Addicks' contribution to these advances was ultimately an unintended side effect of a corrupt campaign which frequently paralyzed the state's legislature and forced Delaware to go without representation on the national scene.

Addicks was born in Philadelphia in November of 1841. He worked as a clerk and errand boy before becoming a partner in a flour business. Addicks suffered a setback in the Panic of 1873, but managed to recover. He further diversified his business dealings by becoming involved in wheat and railroad markets, but he would become a millionaire mainly by investment in the illuminating gas industry. Boston was his key market, and he did extensive business in other cities as well; in 1883, he was one of the financial backers for the new gas works in Chicago.

Addicks' first association with Delaware came in 1877. He bought a residence in Claymont, a community on the border with Pennsylvania that allowed him to commute easily to Philadelphia. Addicks later moved to Boston after his business dealings as the president of the Bay State Gas Company required him to spend more time there. He continued to hold the Claymont house as a summer residence, but for all intents and purposes it seemed he was a Massachusetts citizen. So it came as quite a surprise when Addicks announced in 1889 that he was a Republican candidate to represent Delaware in the Senate.

He joined three candidates in the race for the nomination, declaring that his opponents would compromise the Republican Party. "It is a sort of Kilkenny cat fight, and the election of any one of them would imperil Republican supremacy in the state," he said. "A new man is needed to hold the state, which I regard as the first step toward breaking the solid South. I am greatly interested in the success of the Republican Party and I feel that by my election Delaware can be kept a Republican state, while the election of any one of my opponents would make its retention very uncertain on account of their relation to the factional interests in the party."

Addicks was unsuccessful in this attempt, but it was only the first in a series of Senate bids where he would use his wealth and influence to try to buy his way to Washington. One of his most common tactics was paying the delinquent taxes of voters or else covering the poll tax in exchange for political support. With the state legislature the ultimate power behind choosing the Senate representation for Delaware, however, Addicks focused much of his attention on buying the support of legislators with thinly-veiled bribes. In 1892, it was alleged that he funded the campaign purses of several legislators to support his latest Senate bid. Many received $8,000 sums, four times the amount allowed for political campaigning, with the implication that they could max out their campaigns and keep the balance for themselves. Yet ultimately these efforts fell short of the majority needed to win the legislature's favor.

One of the most turbulent years occurred in 1895. Governor Joshua H. Marvil died in April, less than three months after he was sworn into office. The state senate's president, William T. Watson, replaced Marvil as governor. By this point, Addicks had gained a significant following of "Union Republican" followers to counterbalance the "Regular Republicans" uncorrupted by his influence. Watson's departure from the state senate left the Regulars with a single vote majority in support of their candidate: Henry du Pont, a businessman who had won a Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in the Civil War. Yet Watson was persuaded to return to the senate to cast his vote for Addicks, deadlocking the decision 15-15. Ultimately, du Pont would travel to Washington to try to take his seat on the argument that Watson's vote was null and void, but the Senate didn't accept him; one of Delaware's two seats would remain vacant.

It wouldn't be the last time that Addicks' efforts would stymie the state's representation. For over a decade, Addicks' machinations would occupy much of the legislature's business. Deadlock in the legislature meant that Delaware failed to appoint a senator in 1899, 1901, 1903, and 1905; between 1901 and 1903, neither Senate seat from Delaware was filled.

The strength of the Regular Republicans was enough to prevent every effort to appoint Addicks, but he came close on some occasions. In 1899, he received 21 of the 27 votes needed for the seat. Two years later, he had 22 votes. One article charged that Addicks tried to solidify his support in the legislature by covering the poll taxes of 130 of 134 registered black voters in Kent County and 258 out of 260 in Sussex County in 1902. "Other men have bought votes now and then on a small scale, and other parties have resorted, occasionally, to tricky or dishonest methods; but no systematic attempt was ever made to corrupt the whole population and buy up the whole State until J. Edward Addicks and the Union Republican party took the field," George Kennan wrote in an account of Addicks' activities for Outlook Magazine. "'Addicks or nobody' for their war-cry, they began a campaign of corruption which has no parallel, I believe, in the history of the United States."

Kennan said Addicks was displeased enough about spending large amounts of money with no result that he sent a telegram to William Washburn, a former Republican senator from Minnesota, that showed he had little loyalty to the party. "The Republican Party will carry Delaware next year pledged to Addicks for Senator. I made Delaware Republican," Addicks ranted. "If the Republican Party is the party of treachery, I will bury it ten thousand fathoms deep."

Overall, Addicks spent about $3 million on his unsuccessful campaigns. Shortly after the start of the 20th century, his political aspirations were waning. The New York Times reported in September of 1905 that he was becoming a political obscurity, with supporters deserting him. Addicks still had some fight left, however. He said in 1907 that he was considering running for mayor of Wilmington, and four years later announced that he would try to challenge the legislature's election of his old rival, Henry du Pont. He quickly withdrew when it became clear that the deadlock over du Pont was not as serious as he thought. The vacant seat left in 1905 had prompted the legislature to elect du Pont to the Senate in 1906, and he was re-elected in 1911.

State reforms aimed at addressing the corruption included the establishment of a secret ballot and elimination of the poll tax. Both had the secondary effect of scoring a victory for civil rights and empowering black voters. In 1901, the the first black candidate was elected to the Wilmington City Council. Cases like that of Addicks and William Lorimer of Chicago also made it clear that state legislatures were far more vulnerable to corrupt bargaining than the general electorate. In April of 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified and Senate elections went to a popular vote.

Addicks fell on hard times in his waning years. Once worth between $10 and $15 million, he lost much of his fortune when his investments in the copper market didn't pan out. No stranger to lawsuits, Addicks ignored a summons to appear in court for further proceedings after Hiram H. Burton of Boston won a $20,000 judgment against him. Subsequently, Addicks was arrested in New York City for contempt of court. Two years later, he was again jailed for contempt after prolonged efforts to elude the authorities by only going to the city on Sundays, when he could not be served with papers.

Addicks died in August of 1919.

Sources: The Political Graveyard, The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "New Gas-Works in Chicago" in the New York Times on Jun. 1 1883, "Wants to Save Delaware" in the New York Times on Jan. 5 1889, "Absolute Divorce Asked" in the New York Times on Nov. 27 1894, "The Addicks Divorce Case" in the Philadelphia Record on Jan. 8 1895, "Higgins and Addicks Both Out" in the New York Times on May 9 1895, "Addicks for Senator" in the New York Times on Jan. 19 1897, "Delaware Bribery Case" in the New York Times on May 3 1899, "Political Obscurity Creeps Upon Addicks" in the New York Times on Sep. 3 1905, "Addicks Would Be Mayor" in the New York Times on Dec. 15 1907, "Addicks Out For U.S. Senate" in the Gettysburg Times on Jan. 24 1911, "Concede Du Pont Election" in the New York Times on Jan. 25 1911, "Deputies Arrest J. Edward Addicks" in the New York Times on Apr. 2 1913, "J. Edward Addicks in Jail Over Sunday" in the New York Times on May 18 1915, "J. Edward Addicks, of Gas Fame, Dead" in the New York Times on Aug. 8 1919, "Addicks, Daring and Unscrupulous Political Adventurer, Deserted by the Leeches Who Clung to Him While Wealthy, Passes Away In Obscurity" in the Sunday Morning Star on Aug. 10 1919, Delaware Politics and Government by William W. Boyer and Edward C. Ratledge, Pirates and Patriots: Tales of the Delaware Coast by Michael Morgan