HOME SOCIALCRITICISM LIBRARY TABLE OF CONTENTS
(* The footnotes for this chapter will open in a "new window"so the user can conveniently flip back and forth between notes and text)
THE REPUBLIC OF MONEY:
As everything thus far inquired into has obviously floweredunder the benign providence of government it is evident that government and politicshave more than a little to do with the gaudy blooms of extreme wealth and povertyin the feverish American realm. It has not, to begin with, prevented whatever isthe case. What it has ministered to, and how and why, will now be our theme.
How the government of the United States functions in all itsramifying complexity is the theme of ponderous treatises running into the proportionsof Sears, Roebuck catalogues--composed by academicians somewhat left-handedly knownas political scientists. Whatever they say is almost invariably correct in a formalsense as anatomical description, apart from any decorative filigree provided by suchheady words as "democracy" and "freedom."
What we are really interested in, however, is process, function--politicalphysiology, as it were. Although many political scientists profess to deal with thisaspect as well, they all tend to lose sight of the actual ball in play or to averttheir eyes in horror at the clinches. They are as physicists would be who had neverbeen in a laboratory, as members of a vice squad who had never been in a brothelor taken money under the table from a madame. They themselves were never in the celebratedsmoke-filled backrooms, never on hand when the price was set, the bodies buried,the papers burned, the ballots destroyed, the payoff made, the double entendrearranged, the people bilked.
Like nearly everyone else in this sphere, the political scientistis dependent on reports, rumors, memoirs, documents, statistics, interpretations,deductions and more or less shrewd surmise. And, like everyone else, he is limitedby his position as a strict outsider. Journalists are far more privy to what goeson than he, and indeed he depends on journalists for much of his information. Itis one field where certain participants know more about it in its nook-and-crannyaspects than those self-dedicated to its systematic study.
The difference between government as reported by political scientistsand government as it actually takes place is much like the difference between learneddescriptions of amour and amour itself. The difference is far greaterthan that between description in general and phenomena in general, between symboland act. The political scientist is in much the same outside position as a biologistor psychologist studying amour. What each says may be entirely correct, moderatelyenlightening or even exhilarating; but what the dedicated acolyte misses are thenuances these experts haven't been able to encompass even by delicate imaginativeprojection. Their often assumed delicacy is elephantine. Again, they often misinterpretsimple rutting for amour, intrigue for politics.
Even more than the theoreticians of amour, who sometimeshave the advantage of being tentative practitioners themselves, the political scientistis at a disadvantage: For he has never actually been in the situation, does not occupya privileged position denied, say, to the editors of the New York Times. Theterrain, clearly, belongs in the particular jurisdiction of someone else, as amourlies in the jurisdiction of the poet or madman. A poet, even a madman, now and thenhas something revealing or poignant to say about amour; it would be astonishingif a political scientist ever said anything about government that approached a Machiavellior a Hobbes who, be it noticed, were nonscientific "insiders."
The indubitable experts I call upon to bear witness in thischapter (leaving to one side the delicate question of my own expertise) will allbe far, far closer to what goes on than any political scientist has ever been, valuablethough the compilations, commentaries, commonplaces and occasional insights of thesegentry may be as aides-memoires and reference classifications.
As most people have some more or less accurate conception ofthe gross mechanics of the United States government, seen mostly in rose lights andsoft-focus, I omit the citation of basic supposed facts on which we might be improbablysupposed to agree in advance. Let us simply descend on the phenomenon oozing in itshabitat.
In much of what follows for quite a way I lean heavily on first-handanalysis by the erudite and resolutely democratic Senator Joseph S. Clark of Pennsylvania,until his election in 1956 the Democratic burgomeister of dingy Philadelphia, magnacum laude, Harvard, '23--in brief, a man of parts. Having Clark on hand is prettymuch like having a literate psychoanalyst stationed right on the vice squad itself,an entrancing and unexpected combination. Here and there I shall set the focus alittle more sharply than does the truly able but somewhat romantic senator. He, althoughsufficiently forthright, is a gentleman and becomes queasy at spelling out certaindetails which I, here as a pathologist, will have no more hesitancy in scrutinizingin the light of the evidence available than has a coroner in examining a mildewedcadaver.
As Senator Clark has made microscopically clear, no doubt tothe consternation of the more polite observers, each house of Congress is under thetight control of a dour inner clique, the general intended aim of which is to caterto favored ultra-acquisitive interests and to frustrate the general lightheartedlynonacquisitive interests. As far as these cliques are concerned, the general populacecan go and slide on its collective buttocks if it has any complaints to make--andstick its finger in its ear for good measure.
To these twin cliques, composed to a man of self-certified back-countrypatriots, we owe the gamey tax laws, among others. Senator Clark stylishly refersto the cliques as "The Senate Establishment" and "The House Establishment."They run Congress, when necessary with a heavy hand, at times in opposition to anypresident, sometimes as under Lyndon B. Johnson in close harmony with him. When theyare in full-blown opposition, the government simply deadlocks, freezes, as far asrational adjustment to events is concerned.
The special merit of Senator Clark's analysis is that he showsat first hand the precise inner mechanics of Establishment control, so that evena child can understand it.
The senator endorses the conclusion of James Macgregor Burnsthat there are always two governing parties in power, a Congressional party and aPresidential party. The Presidential party is national, necessarily concerned withbroad interests, and is at least halfheartedly oriented toward carrying out the cloudyparty platform submitted every four years to the bemused voters. The Congressionalparty is devoted to particularistic self-seekers (as shown by near-the-spot sourcesother than Senator Clark); these include most of the members themselves as on-the-slyentrepreneurs. It is bipartisan--a coalition of standpat Republicans and Democrats.It is generally opposed, usually by indirection, to the party platform, most of whichit covertly sabotages. The function of the party platform is only to stir enthusiasmin Presidential voters. After serving this purpose it is subject to discard.
The Establishment, moreover, is as permanently and fixedly inpower as the Communist leadership in Russia. Nothing about it alters over the decadesexcept the fall of a few of its aging personnel by the wayside. Only extreme forceand violence could remove it. It is anchored, in sober fact, in extra-legal violence,intimidation and terrorism as religiously practiced especially throughout the Southbut visible at times elsewhere.
The findings of Senator Clark were expressed at considerablepersonal risk. For no professional can ever give such pointedly documented criticaltestimony to the outside heathen without thereafter having every hand of the Establishmentsecretly raised against him. All that can now save Senator Clark from political oblivionis the popular constituency--by itself a weak reed, as every practicing politicianknows.
Barriers against the Majority
Barriers to the expression of majority will at the governmentallevel are, among others, the following:
Many persons do not vote--some for the intelligent reasons thatthey suspect the electoral process is rigged or they do not know enough about theissues or candidates; most from indifference, apathy, intimidation, terror stemmingfrom localized violence, simple mental or physical ill health or because they arebarred from voting by peculiar residential requirements devised by local politicoswith little enthusiasm for voting.
Only a bit more than 60 per cent now vote in presidential elections(presidents have never been true majority officers). On statewide bases, the votersalways number fewer than 50 per cent in purely congressional elections and rangedownward to less than 10 per cent in other elections.
In 1962 only 46.7 per cent of civilians of voting age cast ballotsfor House congressmen, a record high in a nonpresidential year. 1 In manystates (all Establishment Country) the percentage of voters was far lower: 13.7 percent in steamy Mississippi; below 20 per cent in Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana andVirginia; between 20 and 30 per cent in Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Tennesseeand Texas; and between 30 and 40 per cent in Kentucky, Maryland and North Carolina.The largest statewide vote for House congressmen that year was in Idaho with 66.5per cent. Only eleven states attained 60 per cent or better. 2
In 1964 even the presidential vote was below 40 per cent inAlabama, District of Columbia, Georgia, Mississippi (33.3 per cent), and South Carolina.Usually it attains lower levels in these and some other states. 3
It is often said that the Democratic primaries are the trueelections in the South, the election itself just a formality. But even so they donot involve a significantly large segment of the population. Again, it is often saidthat the poor showing in the South is traceable to the exclusion of Negroes; yetmost of the abstentions are of low-grade whites. In 1960, Mississippi, with the largestproportion of Negro population, had less than 40 per cent Negroes in its populationof voting age. 4 So it is not only the exclusion of Afro-Americans thataccounts for the poor voting record of the South. It is mainly whites (or pinks andrednecks) who abstain from voting, in part because they are culturally as retardedas the sepia shades and in part because they are dissuaded by the local padrones.
The vast disparity of participation between presidential andcongressional elections--in 1960 the presidential vote drew 64 per cent--revealsthe degree of purposeful abstention and lack of ardor in many people for an electoralprocess widely suspected of being greased and rigged and at least ineffective asa means of producing tangibly gratifying results. Too many people have seen too muchremain the same after too many high-flown elections to be carried away by the prospectof another.
Many of those who vote do not vote their interests intelligently,perhaps do not even know what they are. Again, many of those elected obviously donot themselves know what the score is, as they show by asinine pronouncements. Onemust be very much of a mystic to believe that, at variance with rational criteria,there is something intrinsically valuable about a popular vote. It is at best a roughway of selecting somebody, even a Lyndon B. Johnson.
Having voted for one of the two handpicked puppets of backroomschemers (except where there are open primaries), usually with some childish ethnicor religious bias most prominently in mind, the functioning portion of the electoratefavors a man (as often as not deemed unfit by the community for other walks of life)who is then thrown into close working contact with others of like mind arrived inthe halls of government by the same dubious road. There are some 750,000 electiveoffices in the land and, considering the fact that there is at least one aspirantarrayed against every incumbent, it is evident that the mere filling of offices amountsto quite an industry in an economic sense--gives employment to many people.
Despite all hosannahs to the collective sagacity of the people(what politician or newspaper editor would publicly question it?) the arrangementsunder which popular elections have been held since their inception have been as crookedas a fixed wheel in a low gambling house. Long asserted by the tough-minded, deniedby the tender-minded, the plain fact was only recently underscored in terse decisionsby the United States Supreme Court. Various transparent devices, the Court found,were traditionally used in many states to keep Negroes and other a prioriundesirables from voting, thus trammeling gloriously free even if obtuse popularexpression at the very source. A wider and subtler abuse was found in the legislativedistricts, federal and state, which had been traditionally gerrymandered by one-partyand two-party establishment-controlled state legislatures so that in some cases enormousnumbers of distraught voters, mostly urban and suburban dwellers, had only one dubiousrepresentative; while in other cases very few voters, mostly functionally illiteraterural hinds, also had a dubious representative. A handful of rustics thus were themeans for stifling the representatives of thousands of trapped city patsies. Theconsequence was that even if a majority of a legislative body was allowed to prevail(not always the case, as we shall see) the majority did not reflect the majorityof the voting population either in its wisdom, folly or confusion.
Although the Court has now issued its ukase against these practices,the men borne to prominence by them will remain on the scene and in office untilthey wilt; and there is no guarantee that something equally objectionable, or moreso, will not be devised by the always cunning pubpols.
Americans, it is often said unthinkingly, believe in majorityrule. Yet, oddly, they never have had it; they have always had oligarchic rule, usuallyof a rather low order. The farther one moves away from a gerrymandered, intimidated,meagerly educated, emotionally immature and partly disqualified electorate the fewerbecome the participants in any decision until in the legislatures it is always andinvariably far less than a majority, either representatively or among those present.For all those brain-laundered with the doctrine of majority rule this is, admittedly,a strange, even unpatriotic notion. Yet it is an exact statement of the case.
"The primary and overriding duty and responsibility ofeach member of the House of Representatives is to get re-elected," it has beenwell said by Adam Clayton Powell, long a proficient preacher of the Gospel and asuccessful and highly affluent congressman since 1945. 5
The Establishment legislator in Congress-and some not so classifiable--hasthree further informal, off-the-record duties: (1) to work loyally with the legislativeEstablishment as an organization man; (2) to insure his own position whenever possibleas a member in good standing of the affluent sector of society by acquiring any availablecash, securities, real estate, franchises, market tips or whatever else may be ofvalue; and (3) to share his affluence with indispensable offstage key figures ofhis home district organization grouped around the state or district party chairman.Nobody, it is plainly evident, plays the game alone.
Not to do this is to leave himself at the mercy of the shiftingwhims and moods of a potentially unstable constituency, wide open to the claims ofeager rivals for his office, Despite careful planning by the legislator, he is attimes the victim of political upsets and internal feuds. Yet if he is of the Establishmenthe is never wholly extinguished even if he has not had time to become affluent, becausehe has made many Establishment friends who remember him as a "regular."They see to it that his post-legislative life is enriched by various appointmentssuitable to a "lame duck"--commissionerships, judgeships, receiverships,lobby clients and the like. He belongs to a bund.
The Congressional Establishment, as Senator Clark proves, hasa life of its own, policies of its own, aims of its own. These either have no connectionwith the needs or desires of the nation as a whole or harmonize with them only occasionally,fitfully, incidentally and, as it were, accidentally. It is a parasitical oligarchy.It produces results of its own predetermined stamp. It explains much about the chills,fevers and shudders of American society--its volume of crime, riots and lynchings.
The Bottom of the Bird Cage
"The trouble with Congress today,". writes SenatorClark, "is that it exercises negative and unjust powers to which the governed,the people of the United States, have never consented. . . . The heart of the troubleis that the power is exercised by minority, not majority rule." 6
As in Soviet Russia and Red China, power is in the hands ofsolidly installed intriguing manipulators, with the difference that in the UnitedStates the intrigue takes place behind a facade of reasoned if blurry constitutionality.In Russia and China the bayonets show through the periodic purges. The differenceis enough to make the reasonable man prefer the American system with all its blemishes,about as one would unjoyfully prefer dysentery to cholera.
"Our forms of government are heavily weighted against anykind of action, and especially any that might alter significantly the status quo.It takes too many units of government to consent before anything can be done."7 This, of course, is a truism. The constitutional bulwarks against tyranny,placed there by the Founders' hands, are used to produce a creeping, low-key tyranny.
It is the third branch of government, the legislative, where things have gone awry. Whether we look at city councils, the state legislatures or the Congress of the United States, we react to what we see with scarcely concealed contempt. This is the area where democratic government is breaking down. This is where the vested-interest lobbies tend to run riot, where conflict of interest is concealed from the public, where demagoguery, sophisticated or primitive, knows few bounds, where political lag keeps needed action often a generation behind the times, where the nineteenth century sometimes reigns supreme in committees, where the evil influence of arrogant and corrupt political machines, at the local and state level, ignores most successfully the general welfare, where the lust for patronage and favors for the faithful do the greatest damage to the public interest.
. . . the legislatures of America, local, state and national, are presently the greatest menace in our country to the successful operation of the democratic process. 8
Lest the sheltered reader, tucked away in his bower, think thatSenator Clark here delivers himself of an extravagant opinion or resorts to hyperbole,it is a settled conclusion among seasoned observers that, Congress apart as a separatecase, the lower legislatures--state, county and municipal--are Augean stables ofmisfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance from year to year and decade to decade andthat they are preponderantly staffed by riffraff or what police define as "undesirables,"people who if they were not in influential positions would be unceremoniously toldto "keep moving." Exceptions among them are minor. Many of them, includingcongressmen, refuse to go before the television cameras because it is then so plainlyobvious to everybody they are what they are. Their whole demeanor arouses instantdistrust in the intelligent. They are, all too painfully, type-cast for the racetrack,the sideshow carnival, the back alley, the peep-show, the low tavern, the bordello,the dive. Evasiveness, dissimulation, insincerity shine through their false bonhomielike beacon lights.
The New York Times, customarily referred to as staid,has vouched editorially that the Massachusetts legislature is the most corrupt inthe country. If this is so, the Commonwealth lawmakers have nosed out many others,including neighboring Rhode Island, merely by millimeters, The Times basedits opinion on a solid report of the Massachusetts Crime Commission, submitted byimpeccable leading citizens of the Bay State to Governor John Volpe in response tofrenetic public clamor. "Corruption permeates the state, the report said, fromtown governments to the state house and involves politicians, business men, lawyersand ordinary citizens." 9
This official report, a state document, cited wide-scale briberyby corporations and lawyers and the fact that legislators are on the payrolls ofcompanies doing business with the state. Corruption was encouraged, the report said,because of "the lack of backbone" in the legislature.
As to this particular legislature, the Boston Globe analyzedit during the week of April 11, 1966, revealing elements of a pestilent tale. Mostof the legislature, the Globe indicated, is composed of Babbittian local realestate dealers, insurance brokers, fixing lawyers, loan sharks, used-car entrepreneurs,miscellaneous fast-buck operators and obscure local hangers-on and roustabouts--manyof them types who if they could not become attached to a public payroll, there todivert commerce their way, would be local misfits and perhaps panhandlers, vagrants,con men, family dependents, procurers or on local relief or unemployment rolls. Thenet impression given by the Globe (a rather reserved family paper) was ofa political lumpenproletariat, a scabrous crew.
As to other legislatures, Senator Estes Kefauver found representativesof the vulpine Chicago Mafia ensconced in the Illinois legislature, which has beenrocked by one scandal of the standard variety after the other off and on for seventy-fiveor more years. What he didn't bring out was that the Mafians were clearly superiortypes to many non-Mafians.
Public attention, indeed, usually centers on only a few lowerlegislatures--Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, California and Illinois--and theimpression is thereby fostered in the unduly trusting that the ones they don't hearabout are on the level. But such an impression is false. The ones just mentionedcome into more frequent view because their jurisdictions are extremely competitiveand the pickings are richer. Fierce fights over the spoils generate telltale commotion.Most of the states are quieter under strict one-party quasi-Soviet Establishmentdominance, with local newspapers cut in on the gravy. Public criticism and informationare held to a minimum, grousers are thrown a bone and not many in the low-level populaceknow or really care. Even so, scandalous goings-on explode into view from time totime in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Missouri and elsewhere--no states excepted.Any enterprising newspaper at any time could send an aggressive reporter into anyone of them and come up with enough ordure to make the Founding Fathers collectivelyvomit up their very souls in their graves. 10
The territorial base of the Establishment lies in the low-downone-party states. Ten have been found by careful political scientists to be generallyone-party. They are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi,South Carolina, Texas, Vermont and Virginia. Twelve were found to be practicallyone-party: Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota,Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Tennessee. 11 Ignoringfor the moment still others that alternate over long periods as one-party jobs, likeFlorida recently, it is noticeable that the above array is nominally Republican aswell as Democratic. Among the clearly Republican one-party strongholds are Vermont,Iowa, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon and South Dakota. At leasttwenty-two states, then, or nearly half, are one-party setups, with some dozen otherscoming very close to qualifying. Public political scandals, it will be noted, aremuch less frequently heard of in the one-party states. Here it is as in one-partycountries.
The single point to emphasize here is that Senator Clark isentirely correct, even reserved, in his sweeping reference to the legislatures. Hedoes not exaggerate. As the lawyers would say, he is a sound witness. He does not,however, delve into the processes that brought such uncomely personnel into the legislativebodies. How did the honest electorate come to elect such canaille? That is,manifestly, another story, and is left to the next chapter.
As Senator Clark sees it, there is no continuing disciplinein Congress whereby a majority of the members of a party are able, by simple vote,to discipline recalcitrant members interested only in blocking national measuresand in feathering their own nests. The recent Powell and Dodd cases were token ceremonies.Although the parties have various committees, the policy committees give out no policies,the steering committees do not steer but block; and, in general, every man is forhimself. And yet, important decisions are made.
The Congressional Establishment
The Congressional Establishment "consists of those Democraticchairmen and ranking Republican members of the important legislative committees who,through seniority and pressures exerted on junior colleagues, control the institutionalmachinery of Congress. . . . The official leadership group of the Congress--Speakerof the House, Senate Majority Leader, et al.are usually captives of the Establishment,although they can sometimes be found looking out over the walls of their prison,plotting escape." 12
"It is important to note that the views of the CongressionalEstablishment are not shared by a majority of their colleagues, who, left to theirown devices, would be prepared to bring the Congress into line to cope with the necessitiesof our times." 13 This, as we shall see) may be gravely questionable.
The Senate Establishment is "almost the antithesis of democracy.It is not selected by any democratic process. It appears to be quite unresponsiveto the caucuses of the two parties. . . . It is what might be called a self-perpetuatingoligarchy with mild, but only mild, overtones of plutocracy.
"There are plenty of rich men in the Senate, but only afew of them are high in the ranks of the Establishment; and none of them would admit[sic!] to a belief that the accumulation of great wealth is a principal object oflife. This is another distinction between the American and the Congressional Establishments.The former [consisting of the prime beneficiaries of the status quo] has,despite its slightly liberal orientation, definite overtones of plutocracy, althoughits tolerance is much more for inherited than for recently acquired wealth."14
Senator Clark now comes to the ties that bind the CongressionalEstablishment. They are: a common militant belief in white supremacy, a strongerdevotion to property-ownership rights than to rights of the person, strong supportof the military establishment at all times, marked belligerence in foreign affairsand an absolute determination to block internal congressional reform.
"A substantial number of the members of Congress in bothparties are the product of political forces which give them a rural, pro-business,anti-labor, isolationist, conservative perspective with an attitude toward civilrights which ranges from passive unconcern to outright hostility." 15
It is plain that the legislative strength of the Big-BusinessEstablishment is, ironically, mainly in the agrarian districts. What are the "politicalforces" to which Senator Clark here refers in a somewhat opaque manner? Theymay be summed up in a word: money. The rural legislator--not directly tied to thebusiness system, which is invariably weak in his home district (few stockholders,consumers, corporation employees or factories are found there)--has something tosell: his vote. And he sells it in a circumlocutional way, wrapped in some rococoprinciple such as states' rights, sacred privacy, economy, government anti-centralism,economic individualism or plain pure Americanism. This is the kernel of support byrustic solons for softly regulated big-city industrialism.
Politics, popularly thought to consist mainly of elections,really begins only after elections, when those elected come together to divide thespoils. The meetings of any legislative body, as of a floating crap game, must beunder rules, which like laws themselves must emanate from the legislative body itself.The Constitution does not stipulate how Congress must govern itself. This is a "politicalquestion," wide open.
One of the Senate rules is that there may be unlimited debate;no senator may be silenced, unless, under Rule XXII, two-thirds of the senators presentvote to terminate debate. With all senators present, this rule requires 66 votesto end debate. If only 35 refuse to limit debate, those who have the floor may goon talking endlessly, in relays. Such filibustering blocks all business until anagreement is reached to withdraw some proposal disliked by a sometimes very smallminority.
As Senator Clark notes, the United States Senate is the onlyopen legislative body in the world under such an extravagantly absurd rule, whichcalls to mind the veto power held by any member in the House of Nobles of the oldPolish Kingdom. There the rule, more severe than ours, so effectively paralyzed thecountry as to leave it an easy prey to neighboring Prussia, Russia and Austria.
From 1789 to 1806 the Senate rules included the motion for theprevious question, as provided for in Jefferson's Manual. On two occasionsit was used to close debate. Since 1811 the motion has been used frequently in theHouse to end debate and is provided for in House Rule XVII. Virtually all the statelegislatures allow the procedure, which, as Jefferson pointed out, was used in theBritish Parliament as early as 1604. It is not, as Senator Clark reminds us, aliento hallowed Anglo-Saxon parliamentary procedure. It is, in truth, almost sacred andnot to allow it full rein is ground for the deepest suspicion.
May a majority of the Senate at the beginning of a new Congressvote to terminate debate in order to pass on a change in the standing rules? Thisquestion was put point-blank as recently as 1963 by the vice president as the presidingSenate officer. In response there were only 44 ayes and 53 nays, with no roll call.The Establishment had triumphed, by a clear majority. (The question has since beenput at the opening of every term with a similar outcome.)
Early in 1964 on a cloture petition that would have ended furtherdebate on the question of a change of the rule--and which, under the rule, requireda favorable vote of two-thirds of those present--the Clarkian majority lost by 54for and 42 opposed. Senator Clark draws comfort from the fact that, including 4 absentees,the Senate at the time stood 56-44 in favor of cloture, only 10 short of the necessarytwo-thirds. But the earlier vote, with 53 nays, showed the full fire-power of theEstablishment on the bedrock issue. On such showdowns the Establishment has thusfar been able to muster far more than a third--pointedly, more than a half.
The Establishment itself is not a majority but it can, owingto the many strings in its octopal fingers, pull many unhappy non-Establishment senatorsinto line when all the chips go down. On basic questions affecting its own powerit is, in sober fact, a majority.
The sole contemporary full-face defeat of the Establishmentwas on the Test Ban Treaty, which came to a vote September 24, 1963, after a longdebate. Two-thirds of those present and voting were required for ratification underthe Constitution. The vote was 80 to 19 in favor.
Those who voted "No" at the time constituted the stone-facedcore of the Senate Establishment in Senator Clark's view: Russell and Talmadge ofGeorgia, Stennis and Eastland of Mississippi, Long of Louisiana, Byrd and Robertsonof Virginia, Byrd of West Virginia, McClellan of Arkansas, Thurmond of South Carolina,Curtis of Nebraska, Goldwater of Arizona, Simpson of Wyoming, Jordan of Idaho, MargaretChase Smith of Maine, Bennett of Utah and Tower of Texas. Most of these were fromrule-by-terror states, nearly all from one-party states. Mundt of South Dakota, whousually votes down the line with the Establishment, defected.
But for changes in Rule XXII and cloture all of these, withMundt, voted "No," including the following Establishment people who haddefected momentarily on the Test Ban Treaty: Ellender of Louisiana, Hayden of Arizona,Holland of Florida, Johnston of South Carolina, Hill and Sparkman of Alabama, Cannonof Nevada, Cotton of New Hampshire, Williams of Delaware and Dirksen of Illinois.Half of these were also from rule-by-terror states; most were from one-party states.
It is the men mentioned in these two paragraphs, according toSenator Clark, who constitute the nucleus of the present Senate Establishment, whichhas its counterpart in the House. How one stands on Rule XXII determines whetherone is for or against the Establishment.
A few of those mentioned are not present as of 1968. Such absencemakes no difference to the Establishment because fresh replacements are always availableapproximately from the same states. When death approached Byrd of Virginia, the ailingsenator retired and had his fifty-year-old son appointed in his place--an hereditarysenator! Hardly any of the states represented by Establishment senators are industrialized--onlyIllinois and Delaware. The rest are predominantly rural and agricultural or extractive;most are nonurbanized and are of exceptionally low general educational levels--defectiveschools, few libraries and bookstores, mediocre newspapers, poor radio-televisionprograms, etc. Money for these is shot away nationally in wars. The core of the groupis the southern Democratic bloc, which has been said to be the South's revenge onthe rest of the country for the loss of the Civil War. But it has many members fromparts of the country that are as economically and culturally retarded--in general,the Bible Belt, which tends to look indulgently on terror and intimidation.
The Establishment people are not men of parts; they are devoidof generally esteemed talents. None, possibly excepting McClellan and Sparkman, isa persuasive speaker. Many such as Eastland show themselves conspicuously deficientin reasoning powers, confidently propounding howlers in elementary logic that wouldshame most college freshmen. Nearly all appear to be quite innocent of acquaintancewith semantics. Although most are members of the bar, none is rated high as a practicinglawyer. Few seem to be well read. None, as far as the record shows, is a writer;Goldwaters books of shabby notions were ghost-written. Few if any are soundly schooled.Their knowledge of the world--and of the language itself--appears to be meager. Theirtalents lean almost entirely to simple intrigue. Everett Dirksen is their prototypeof a prophet. They are a drab crew.
If these people did not band together as they do behind RuleXXII, if they relied on their own capabilities in open debate on the merits of issues,they would stand forth in all hollowness among more talented men. And this is onereason for the Establishment: It is a refuge for the untalented, a closed trade unionof the meagerly endowed.
What do Establishment members want? Are they merely interestedin preserving the ties that bind them together and give them factitious substance:Rule XXII, white supremacy, the celebration of property and military derring-do anda truculent stance in foreign affairs? So to suppose would be to credit them withvery limited, purely symbolical objectives. Actually, as Senator Clark stresses,many members of the Establishment go along with other measures, some with quite liberalmeasures, as long as Rule XXII and white supremacy remain inviolate. They are politicaltraders, keen for cheapjack opportunities.
When blockages arise under Rule XXII, the Establishment is ina position to trade. In return for concessions it becomes its turn to make demands,to enforce its gloomy will on the country.
Customary analyses of Congress distinguish Republicans fromDemocrats, Southerners from Northerners and Westerners and conservatives from liberals.The latter distinction suggests, misleadingly, that there are reasoned attitudespresent rather than rationalization for narrowly pecuniary self-interest. Politicalscientists are united in believing that national party affiliations are meaningless,that congressmen nearly all stem from purely local state and district factions. 16Nor is the regional distinction fundamentally any more important than that of party.
There are, in truth, more fundamental distinctions to be observed.There is, first, the Establishment and anti-Establishment distinction that SenatorClark brings to view, with most of the Establishment people organization men fromSoviet-style one-party districts or states. As unchaperoned strangers in them quicklydiscover, most of these states have extremely inquisitive polizei. Few suchstates are industrialized, few are very rich, and the rich ones, like Texas, arelargely absentee-owned, obvious colonies of Wall Street and State Street. In all,organized politics offers one of the few sure roads to personal affluence, functionallatitude and renown. In the industrial states there are many such roads.
Much about American politics would be clearer if one thoughtof a metropolitan and a colonial or provincial United States. Metropolitan UnitedStates consists of southern New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio,Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, California, perhaps the state of Washingtonand the very eastern portions of Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota. just about everythingelse is nonmetropolitan, culturally below par and holds nearly all one-party politics.It is more like eastern Europe than like eastern United States.
Economically, this division is generally made as between agrarianand industrial states. Yet the congressional politics of the representatives of theagrarian states are not distinctively agrarian. Elected by a politically illiterate,often very small electorate unaware of the true drift of affairs and with few vitaldemands of its own to make, congressmen from these states are far freer than thoseof the metropolitan states to place their votes where the most money is, on the sideof big property. For doing this they are allowed to join the propertied class bybackstairs methods and are impressively referred to as conservatives.
Leadership in the nonmetropolitan states is noticeably belowpar (one of their basic deficiencies) owing to the steady drainage of homegrown talentinto the metropolitan sector. It is not that the nonmetropolitan region fails toproduce talented leadership material. It does produce it but discourages it and losesit steadily to the metropolitan sector, culturally more attractive. New York, Chicago,Boston, San Francisco and other metropolitan centers fairly crawl with talented peoplefrom Georgia, Mississippi, Kansas and other retrograde provinces. On trips back homethey are careful to keep a tight rein on their tongues lest they face the prospectof being expertly tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail by the localauthorities, acting through local thugs.
Many organization politicians inside and outside Metropoliaare known to feel, self-righteously, that their party ties provide a democraticdevice for the distribution of some of the industrial wealth--to themselves. Theyare sadly mistaken. No distribution of wealth to public-spirited connivers is takingplace by this route. What is available, in various ways, is only a small percentageof the untaxed industrial revenues in the form of "campaign" contributions,gifts, fees and retainers. These are tips to menials.
It is not being suggested here that members of the Establishmentand their veiled supporters are in all cases primarily trying to gain affluencefor its own sake. Rather is it a fact that they must have affluence in order to functionon their chosen level. The organization men split their "take" with otherorganization men in the home party organization. Many, it can be plainly shown, areeager estate builders--Johnsons, Dodds, Dirksens, Kerrs et al. Some, probablymost, are a combination of the two. The prospect of money is definitely in the pictureexcept in a very few cases.
Money is needed to get into electoral politics. Money is neededto remain there. And money is needed to carry one over the bleak days if one is votedout.
In saying this, one is not saying something that would haveastounded the Founding Fathers. Under the Constitution as it originally stood, therewere property qualifications for voting even for members of the House of Representativesand the state legislatures. Only as the various states gave the franchise to thenonpropertied in the early nineteenth century was this qualification removed, thusopening the way to office for poor men. This was a dangerous development becausethe poor newcomers to politics, seldom themselves partisans of the poor, needed moneygoing far beyond the paltry pay of office, originally designed purely as honorariafor men of property and still on this level in many jurisdictions. The unpropertiedman in politics was in time, according to an unwritten convention, expected to useingenuity in providing for himself. Imaginative and defensible schemes were devisedby some, but the sheer logical possibilities of making adequate monetary provisionoutside of meager salary without going beyond the law or the proprieties are fewand largely boil down to writing, lecturing, making after-dinner speeches or practicingordinary law--all of which take some talent. Promotions in which the name of theofficeholder was used to confer prestige were legitimate--when the promotions themselveswere legitimate. But for most of the new off-the-soil officeholders, always withnoteworthy exceptions. it all boiled down to acquiring money in some questionableway. They were necessarily purchasable men. In the practice of law the purchase pricetook the form of heavy retainers from big interests.
In order to attain congressional or any political office onemust, as many experts have attested: (1) be independently wealthy either as an inheritoror a builder of better booby traps; (2) have the backing of a wealthy individual,group or organization; or (3) have the backing of a local party organization whichin turn has access to suspect supporting funds. Sometimes a "bad" organizationsupports a man of impeccable probity as a way of disarming critics. The supportingfunds, it is true, could come from thousands of "little people" chippingin quarters or dollars; but the "little people" are either not sufficientlyinterested, do not understand or cannot afford to contribute--or a combination ofthe three. They have money for booze, soft drinks, tobacco, cosmetics, gadgets, highinstallment interest rates and the whole range of stuff at Woolworth's but not acent as expense money for their tribunes. They may well suspect, too, that the candidateshave already been spoken for by higher bidders.
What I say here is by no means original with me, arising fromsome internal distemper. It is the consensus of sophisticated observers. "Manypeople are asking the question," says Drew Pearson in his nationally syndicatedcolumn, "'Do Congressmen steal?' Our answer is that they do not unlawfully takemoney from the government but they do take money lawfully for representing 'anti-government'interests. In this sense they do steal the right of the voters to have a man in Congresswho represents them, instead of representing his law firm and its big business clients."17 There are, however, many ways of legally putting money into a congressman'shands apart from attorneys' "fees" and "campaign" contributions.Attention will be given this lush aspect of standard garden-variety "democratic"politics further along.
The Establishment Method
How does the Republican-Democratic Establishment extend itswill over the rest of the Congress? It does this, first, by its power to block anything,which forces others to trade with it. But its general control derives from its minutecontrol over committee appointments. As the work of Congress is quietly done by committees,not through rational debate on the floor, such control is fundamental.
Any newcomer to Congress, whatever he has rashly promised hisconstituents, has as much to say over surrounding affairs as if he stepped into therush-hour crowd at Grand Central Terminal or into the midst of a Bombay riot. Ifhe managed to get the floor to make the most rousing speech ever delivered, therewould be nobody present to hear it except the bored clerks and some flabbergastedtourists in the galleries. As soon as he rose to deliver himself of his deathlessremarks, all the members would walk out as they customarily walk out on each other.
What he must do, Senator Clark informs us, is to keep quietand watch what goes on. And the way to "get along," he further tells us,is to "go along"--with the older hands. If he continually "goes along"with those who are solidly ensconced, he will soon find that he is a member of somefriendly bloc. It might seem that the smart thing to do would be to join the Establishmentat once but this cannot always be managed because Establishment ideas are under somedispute in the more crowded and variegated parts of the country. The next smartestthing to do is to be against the Establishment on the record but to support it onshowdowns, as many do in voting that a majority of a new Senate may not vote to closeoff debate in order to pass on a change in the rules. He can, also, be a "maverick"like the fortyfour senators of 1963, although not many of these are very far-ranging.
If the new member continually "goes along," particularlywith the Establishment, he finds that he is able to get various things done of interestto himself and to his standing in the eyes of his constituents. He may even be allowedto get his name on bills--the "Sascha Schmaltz Bill to Exterminate Poverty inOur Time" or something similarly astonishing. Also, his bank account, if heso desires, will steadily improve. His banker and broker will know he is now runningwith a well-heeled crowd.
Committee appointments, especially the powerful chairmanshipsover (not of) the most powerful committees, are commonly supposed to go tothe members with the most seniority. Senator Clark shows conclusively, citing chapterand verse, that the Establishment freely deviates from the seniority rule wheneverit wishes to push some member for reasons obscure to the observer.
Committee appointments are made by two party groups--the DemocraticSteering Committee and the Republican Committee on Committees. The Establishmentholds a majority of both, and, through its ability to entice new members, holds itspower as an hereditary fief.
The Democratic Steering Committee varies in composition fromtime to time. By custom its members serve until they die, resign or are defeatedat the polls, the last not likely in the one-party states and districts from whichthey emanate. As of 1959 it had fifteen members, seven southerners plus Lyndon B.Johnson, majority leader, and Carl Hayden, president pro tempore of the Senate,thus giving the Establishment a majority of nine. Johnson all along has been a 200-proof,sour-mash Establishment man.
Because the composition of Congress changed with the electionof 1960, bringing in more Democrats, Senator Clark wanted the Steering Committeechanged. He did get himself and three others put on, but the Establishment stillcontrolled with nine votes. In 1963 at a Democratic Conference, composed of all theDemocrats in the Senate, he proposed that the Steering Committee be increased tonineteen members.
Such an increase would have brought about geographical and ideologicalbalance, in Clark's view, and Majority Leader Mike Mansfield promised to supporthim. "To my chagrin and surprise, Mansfield opposed my motion and [Hubert] Humphreyfailed to support it. They told me later Bobby Baker had told them the votes werenot there to approve the increase. Perhaps this was right. . . . Had the MajorityLeader and Whip supported Senator Anderson and me, I believe we would have won."18 The point, though, is that they did not. On the secret ballot the Establishmentvote was highest.
Within the Democratic Conference itself on a secret ballot theforces of reform represented by Clark were outnumbered nearly 2 to 1. The Republicans,the nonurban element of them Establishment people from the cradle up, have no needof such stacking in their Committee on Committees, which Senator Clark finds to beregionally and ideologically representative. With the Democratic Party in the majority,the Republicans get few committee appointments anyhow. Yet their members plus thesouthern Democrats constitute the Establishment power.
As the Republican Party has been deflated to a minority since1932, it is clearly the congressional wing of the Democratic Party that is now thechief block to legislative forthrightness. Yet the Democratic Party is the one thatis popularly regarded as liberal, even radical. When the Republicans have a presidenthe usually sees pretty much eye to eye with the Establishment; but since the accessionof Democratic Lyndon B. Johnson as president, the Establishment is now in closestharmony with the White House. On the basis of Senator Clark's analysis, it wouldappear that the Establishment controls all the positions except the Supreme Court.
Through its power of appointment the Establishment in both houses"stacks" the committees of Congress with its supporters. "In the Eighty-sixthCongress [House] members from seven [backward] states controlled 97 of the 153 committeevotes." 19 As Senator Clark shows, the Establishment dominates allvital committees and keeps off non-Establishment men with seniority.
In the crucial committees of both houses there is a frequentinstallation of the same pro-Establishment men, although in the Senate no personmay be a chairman of more than one committee. A small percentage of pro-Establishmentmen hold majority votes, with few exceptions.
The effect throughout, from the party committees to the standinglegislative committees, with only minor exceptions, is as though a permanent bureaucracywere installed, Senator Clark notes. In Russia the same sort of phenomenon, differentlyarrived at, is known as the Politburo. What Senator Clark calls the Establishmentis indeed very much like the Politburo in its permanence and indestructibility, althoughnot perhaps in its specific objectives. The methods of holding and wielding powerare similar. But one does business in rubles, the other in dollars.
Owing to the large number of intra-party and legislative committeesthe Establishment people sit on, they are heavily worked. Russell, leader in recentyears of the Establishment as the most senior member, always managed the opening-sessionstruggle against changing Rule XXII, master-minded meetings of the Democratic SteeringCommittee, was active in the Policy Committee, chairman of the Armed Services Committee,was a member of the Appropriations Committee and chairman of its subcommittee ondefense, member of the Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee, the joint Committeeon Atomic Energy and a member of the commission to investigate the Kennedy assassinationand of the Boards of Visitors to the Military, Naval and Air Force Academies. Andsimilarly with other Establishment people. 20
Senator Clark makes much of the distinction between liberalsand conservatives in the Senate, but just how little it signifies was shown in 1966on the vote to allow the Foreign Relations Committee and Appropriations Committeeto share supervision of the Central Intelligence Agency with Senator Russell's ArmedServices Committee. Russell was opposed to the change; Senator Fulbright, chairmanof Foreign Relations, favored it.
Russell won on the show-down, 61 to 28. While no Establishmentpeople sided with Fulbright, plenty of liberals sided with Russell, namely: Andersonof New Mexico, Douglas of Illinois, Magnuson of Washington, Neuberger of Oregon,Pastore of Rhode Island, Ribicoff of Connecticut (all Democrats) and Kuchel of California.(It is this sort of thing that earns liberals the label of "fuzzy-mindedness.")Clark and Scott of Pennsylvania were not present-not that it would have made theslightest difference .21
The CIA is ideologically a straight Establishment agency, designedas an identical opposite number to the Soviet para-military intelligence network.Whatever its model, the Soviet apparatus, does the CIA can and does do as well--orbetter.
The committees of the Senate are rated in order of prime importanceabout as follows: Finance (taxes), Armed Services (military supplies), Foreign Relations(world markets), Appropriations (domestic allocation of money), Rules and Administration,Banking and Currency (monetary policy and credit), and judiciary and Government Operations.Committees such as Agriculture and Forestry, Commerce, District of Columbia, Interiorand Insular Affairs, Labor and Public Welfare, Post Office, and Civil Service andPublic Service are far less important (possibly excepting Agriculture) because theyexert less leverage.
It is the power to block plus leverage in vital situations,often involving stupendous amounts of money, that makes certain committees paramount.Chairmen of committees are powerful because they are permanently installed as thesenior member, are alone empowered except in the case of a very few committees tocall committee meetings, and alone set agendas, call up bills for consideration,regulate bearings and terminate committee debates. Within the jurisdiction of eachcommittee the chairman is almost a dictator. He can kill any bill in his jurisdictionby simply pigeon-holing it. Although it is possible to call meetings at the demandof a majority of committee members, practically this is rarely done because mostcommittee members are more handpicked than the chairman, with whom they have manyconvenient understandings. They may even have been picked by the chairman himself.Until a bill is reported out by a committee it cannot come before the Senate unlesstwo-thirds of the senators want it out. A bill could be ordered out on a majorityvote, of course, but only if the Establishment approved.
In the House the chief committees are Rules, Ways and Means(taxes), Armed Services, Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Banking and Currency, Appropriationsand Judiciary. Before going to the floor, unless a hard-to-get majority votes tobring it out, a bill must first be reported out by the Rules Committee. Most proposedbills, many of them having wide public approval, are never reported out. Filed withthe Rules Committee, they might just as well have been dumped in a wastebasket. Amajority of the House may order a bill discharged from committee, but ordinarilysuch a majority is hard to get.
Even though the House does not allow unlimited debate it hasa more complex set of rules than the Senate. These rules are used to strangle orwhittle down proposals unwanted by the House Establishment.
"Committee and subcommittee chairmen have more naked powerin the House than in the Senate," Senator Clark notes. "There is no taxlegislation if Wilbur Mills of Arkansas, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee,doesn't want any, nor a wilderness bill against Aspinall's wishes." 22
The various committee chairmen are kingpins in the House andform the nucleus of its Establishment. "While power seems more fragmented inthe House than in the Senate," Senator Clark remarks, "it is probably becausethe former body is so much larger. Thus it is easier for chairmen to become morepowerful. For the same reason there is less cohesion. There appears to be less senseof a 'band of brothers.' While the South is to some extent in the saddle, it seemsless obviously so." 23 Still, the men from the nonmetropolitan sectorrule.
Yet the Establishment coalition "operates on many an occasioneven more effectively in the House than in the Senate" and has killed or whittleddown a long line of useful bills--federal aid to education in 1960, area developmentin 1963, the Mass Transit Bill and Youth Opportunities Act, health care for the agedin earlier versions, improvement of foreign aid. "It cannot stop civil rightslegislation because of the urban and suburban Republicans. But it can usually stopif it really wants to what the Establishment likes to call 'spending programs.'"24
It did not, however, stop or whittle down Administration requestsin 1965 and 1966 for additional appropriations for the undeclared presidential warin Vietnam. Although costing some $20 billion or more annually, the Vietnam operationis not construed as a "spending program." It is, more properly put, a patrioticprogram. Opposed to expenditures for domestic improvement programs, the Establishmentin both houses is religiously devoted to all military spending, sometimes votes morethan is asked for by the president.
Committee control and the two-thirds rule are only part of theEstablishment method. The American constitutional system at best, as all scholarsknow, yields a cumbersome government that operates much like a Rube Goldberg threshingmachine. With everybody giving his best the machine will work according to the intentionof the designers, not efficiently but surely. But when the delays inherent in thechecks-and-balance system are added to, as by Rule XXII and other contrivances notfound in any parliamentary manual, the machine simply stops.
Rule XXII and the dominance of committee chairmen in the Houseby no means constitute the only devices of delay.
As Senator Clark notes, certain procedures have been adoptedthat use up more than half the time of Congress with a view to keeping new businessfrom coming up even if it could be dislodged from the dilatory committees. Thereis, first, a requirement that the Journal of each Senate session must be readthe following day unless unanimous consent to skip it is obtained. Says Clark: "Itis utilized only for purposes of delay . . . ." 25 Next, the morningperiod reserved for minor business, using up a valuable legislative hour or more,"makes for delay." 26 Senators speak at exhaustive length; Clarkbelieves speeches should be limited to two hours. Often the subjects talked abouthaven't the remotest connection with anything taking place; they may be a descriptionof the scenery of the solon's native state, memories of boyhood, a disquisition onthe culinary arts, the national flower or the care of dogs--all with a view to usingup time.
Again, "A motion to take up a bill on the calendar madeby the Majority Leaders should be determined by vote without debate. At present sucha motion is subject to unlimited debate, thus giving the opponents of the bill twochances to filibuster instead of only one. . . ." 27
Establishment senators, with a keen instinct for wasting time,introduce all manner of irrelevancy in their speeches, violating the rule of Jefferson'sManual that "No one is allowed to speak impertinently or beside thequestion, superfluously or tediously." Says Clark: "No other legislativebody in the world, so far as I have been able to discover, operates without a ruleof germaneness." 28
Clark's staff in a survey of the Congressional Recordfor 1961 found that nongermane speeches, excluding written insertions made only forthe record, took up one-third of that gangrenously swollen publication.
While the Senate is in session, committees may not sit. Thuscommittee work can be delayed. When quorum calls go out, senators check in on theSenate floor, then fade out, leaving nobody to vote on measures. Thus arises theamusing distinction between a "live" quorum and a pro forma or on-the-recordquorum.
The Appropriations Committee, however, sits continuously. Itobtains unanimous consent at the beginning of each session to sit at any time whetheror not the Senate is in session. It would be just too bad if appropriation billswere not ready for railroading on time.
Still another way of slowing down the legislative process isby requiring separate House and Senate hearings on the same bills, thus making witnessesappear twice at different times. As Clark points out, such time-consuming duplicationcould be eliminated by joint hearings.
Again, when there are joint House and Senate conferences witha view to harmonizing different bills, Establishment leadership sees to it in bothhouses, very often, that the representatives of the stronger bill are men who votedagainst it and are unsympathetic to it. These men tend to favor the weaker bill andto compromise accordingly.
It is sometimes an election ploy by a rival for his seat tocharge a House congressman especially with a long series of absences from roll callsand votes, implying that he has not been attending to business. But if he is nota member of the Establishment and does not have many committee appointments, thereis really no need for him to be present most of the time. He knows the votes on mostmatters coming up are cut and dried in advance. There is no issue on which his presencecan make a difference. The sensible thing to do is to be absent until such time ashe can function meaningfully.
It would look better on the record, it is true, if he hung aroundand answered the roll calls. But such roll-call response can be misleading with respectto the significant activity of a congressman. Some merely sit and read and entertainvisitors in their offices between roll calls and votes.
I have given here only a taste of Senator Clark's revealingwork. The student of American government, steadily fed on formalistic pap, can dono better than turn to it, read it, memorize it, put it into blank verse and setit to stately music.
Why doesn't somebody, it may be asked, point out in detail tothe senators themselves precisely what is taking place? As men of goodwill, the naivewill suppose, they will quickly respond and mend their ways. Senator Clark, however,has already performed this bootless task, without avail. 29
Clark's books offer many concentrated grotesque details--tabulationson the stacked committees, on the ages of the principals, etc. Congress in truthis ruled by a collection of old men, like a primitive tribe. The average age of chairmenof leading Senate committees in 1963 was 67.5 years, with one chairman aged 86 andthe youngest 51. 30 In the same year the average age of chairmen of theimportant House committees was 68.7 years, with the oldest 84 and the youngest 54.31 A reason advanced by agile Establishment spokesmen against the invariableapplication of the seniority rule is that it would, unless relaxed from time to time,leave senile dodderers in charge. Yet such are in fact left in charge despite variationsin application of the rule to others.
In general, these committee chairmen are unimaginative, insensitive,uncultivated, set in their ways and nurture a vision of social reality long sincevanished--always with the inevitable exceptions such as J. William Fulbright of theForeign Relations Committee, Clinton P. Anderson of the Aeronautical and Space SciencesCommittee and perhaps a few others.
The preponderance of the lawless South on key committees isclearly evident. There were twenty-three Democratic senators in 1963 from Dixie--elevenConfederate states plus Arkansas and Oklahoma (23 per cent of the Senate). Yet theyheld 50 per cent of the seats on the Appropriations Committee, 42 per cent on ArmedServices, 55 per cent on Finance, 42 per cent on Foreign Relations, 47 per cent onthe Democratic Steering Committee and 33 per cent on the Democratic Policy Committee--thislast their true proportion among sixty-seven Democrats. 32 Among Democratson the committees their disproportion is far greater than given above.
Something not realized by Senator Clark and his on-the-recordanti-Establishment cohorts (generally styled liberals and reformers in both parties)is that they themselves lend plausibility to the Establishment game, which is toseem part of a representative body. Without Clark and his stalwarts, playing accordingto the democratic book, Congress would be visible to all as a heavy-handed affair,like a Russian Constituent Assembly, redolent of the hangman. As it is, the anti-Establishmentopposition makes it look at times like a representative legislative body, full ofenticing nuances and shadings. The opposition gives the Establishment a brisk dialecticalworkout from time to time, keeps it on its toes. Whenever it wishes to, the Establishmentcan submit its power to a test vote, play for real and knock the opposition throughthe floor with solid "democratic" votes.
Agreeing with Senator Clark's analysis, up to a point, I mustdissent from the final chapter of his magnum opus. There, no doubt remorsefulfor the way he has thrown a scare into the stray American reader by showing how heis ruled by nothing very different from a grim Politburo, he gives way to optimismand looks forward to changes. Simply the many required conditions for changes thathe mentions show that it is an all but impossible dream.
Actually, if only thirty-five senators were as demonically opposedto Rule XXII as the Establishment is in favor of it they could destroy it in a matterof weeks, perhaps days. All that a determined opposition need do is to start filibusteringon the first item of Establishment business brought to the floor. When there finallycame a call for a termination of debate, by the Establishment this time, on the showdownvote there would not be the necessary two-thirds. The hardy thirty-five (or more)would stand adamant. So the filibuster would go on, if necessary for weeks, and Senatebusiness would grind to a halt. Appropriation bills would not get passed and thegovernment would need to resort to financing through the banks in a large way.
As the price of ending the filibuster all the opposition woulddo is to demand the end of Rule XXII. If the rule stayed, the filibuster would continue.
It is highly doubtful if thirty-five senators, or even fifteen,are this resolutely determined to end Rule XXII. They have, it is true, no mandatefor such action from their constituencies. The latter for the most part do not evenknow of Rule XXII. The non-Establishmentarians are not so determined to abolish itas the Establishment is to keep it, nor are they sufficiently numerous. It followsthat the Establishment rules completely, with no sign of an early break in its grip.Such a break--when, as and if it comes--is not likely to develop on the basis ofa Clarkian appeal for fair dealing. It can come only as a consequence of some profoundupheaval in American society.
The discarding of Rule XXII would not in itself break the powerof the Establishment, although the alignment of forces within it would no doubt shift.One sees this by looking at the House, which is run by full-time self-centered intrigantswithout resort to unlimited debate as a threatening weapon. Rule XXII, while convenient,is not really needed.
The remedy for all this, some will say, is in the electoralprocess before the people. How inadequate a refuge this is one can see by notingthat most of the members of Congress occupy "safe" seats, are always virtuallysure of election. In the House, supposed paladin of the people, hardly more thana hundred seats are ever in doubt, as Senator Clark admits. More than three-quartersof the occupants know they will invariably be re-elected. An even larger proportionof the Senate holds completely safe seats. Under the impact of a social cataclysmas awesome as the Depression, seats change hands slowly, and after the cataclysmthe new incumbent is usually in for the rest of his life.
Such exceptions as there are can be cited from only a few highlycompetitive, transitional and variegated regions, mainly California and New York,New Jersey and Connecticut, etc. Inertia in the stuporous electorate is a large factorin holding seats. Not only do the voters usually dislike change but they see no reasonfor it, can discern no more merit in new contenders than in incumbents. All promiseheaven. Unless one can raise the strong suspicion that an officeholder is a Communist,a homosexual, a freethinker, a dabbler in science, a sexual athlete, a practitionerof divorce, a reader of prohibited books or something equally esoteric, he will behard to dislodge if he has conducted himself according to the established routinesof the electoral game.
Senator Clark, like others who feel as he does, lays great stresson public opinion, the need to mobilize it in order to put the government on a courseconducive (as he sees it) to the long-term interests of the people and the very safetyof the Republic. Such stress on the need for an informed public opinion is an indirectconfession of the inadequacy of representative government. If everyone must be fullyinformed on every question and press insistently for government action, it meanswe simply now have a more cumbersome form of the New England town meeting when thepopulace as a whole was the legislative body. If public opinion must be so rampant,and at variance with its own standards, what is the need of representatives? Whynot submit all proposals to direct popular vote?
The Establishment in Action
Devoted conscientiously to blocking adjustments in the ramshacklestatus quo, the Establishment can be cooperative and quick-moving when itwishes. It is most cooperative and retiring, Senator Clark points out, in time ofwar. Then it endorses anything asked for remotely likely to help in crushing theenemy. War, in fact, seems most effective in unlocking its springs of action, inquickening its pulse, in arousing its ardor. It is as bellicose as any Prussian Junkerverein.It equates patriotism with war.
Bills affecting its special pets among the finpols alsoget rush-order treatment. Thus, the emergency bill to exempt Du Pont stockholdersfrom the capital gains tax in the distribution under Supreme Court mandate of GeneralMotors stock held by E. I. du Pont de Nemours was galloped through prestissimo,as Senator Clark notes, It was as though the Establishmentarians knew that now theywere being watched by the gentry and were anxious to show what really fine work theycould do--all of which was no doubt very reassuring to Wilmington, Delaware.
How the Establishment works to ensnare the country in somethingthe electorate finds distasteful is more interesting and more revealing of Establishmentways and is best shown in the matter of taxes.
Congressmen in general are not well informed on taxes--or onmuch else, for that matter. They are, to put it bluntly, conveniently ignorant anddepend on the word of floor leaders, whips and committee chairmen.
Needless to say [as the infinitely expert Eisenstein remarks] members of Congress are not as well versed in taxation as they should be. Of course, they are also inadequately informed on other matters which are entrusted to their care. It is no secret that votes are commonly cast without a firm grasp of the issues involved. In taxation, however, knowledge comes with unusual pain and suffering. The statutes are enveloped in a peculiar verbal fog of their own. The Internal Revenue Code, indeed, is a remarkable essay in sustained obscurity. It has all the earmarks of a conspiracy in restraint of understanding. The conspiracy never ends because amendments never cease. Year after year many minds combine anew against the grave danger of being understood. . . . Surely, the nimblest member of Congress can hardly hope to perceive in a day what the alleged experts are unable to understand over the years. Most members are soon lost and bewildered when they move beyond the rates and personal exemptions. As Representative Patman gently understated the ignorance of Congress, "the tax laws are passed with the Members not knowing exactly what they mean." 33
Rank and file Republicans and Democrats, right and left, complainedat its submission that they did not understand the tax law of 1954, 34which still provides the main base.
A vote on a tax bill, then [says the legist Eisenstein] is an act of faith. With few exceptions the members of Congress helplessly approve whatever the tax committees may choose to offer. They "must take the word" of the committees. While the committees usually provide reports for each bill, the reports hardly qualify as guides for the perplexed. As a rule, they merely fortify the sense of organized confusion. If the members look for enlightenment during debate, they rarely learn much more. Complex tax bills are poorly discussed and hastily enacted. At times there is no discussion at all. . . .
The House, in fact, proceeds on the theory that individual members should generally abstain from thinking for themselves. This principle of parliamentary behavior is known as the "gag rule." The members are discreetly denied the right to offer any amendments or to vote on separate sections of a bill. They can only accept or reject the bill as a whole. Since their function is so limited, they have little incentive to be enlightened. In any event, too many questions cannot be asked because debate is carefully curtailed . . . too often the explanations on the floor sound as if the halt were leading the blind. 35
Within the tax committees and among their technical staff writers--thepeople who compose taxese or tax prose--there is a clearer view of affairs.Among them, Republicans and Democrats alike, there is full understanding of the workingsof special dispensations or "loopholes." 36
"The story is always the same," Hubert Humphrey admittedwhen he was a senator. "Higher rates are imposed and at the same time loopholesare carefully framed which permit the wealthy to get out from under the higher taxes."37
Says a leading tax expert: ". . . the average congressmandoes not believe in the present high rates of income tax, especially those applicablein the upper brackets. When he sees these rates applied in individual cases he thinksthe rates are too high and therefore unfair. . . . True believers in these rateswould long ago have torn down the tax shelters and resisted all pressures for specialrelief. Instead, the reverse is true." 38
Astronomic rates, headlined hysterically by newspapers, impressthe general public. The rich , it is presumed, are being made to bleed and disgorgeby a stern socialistic or at least fanatically liberal government. Rightists fulminate.With the left hand, however, a trucksize loophole is chopped that cancels the highrate, in some cases allows no tax at all to be paid.
For one oil and gas virtuoso, for example, on a total incomeof $14.3 million in five years, all subject prima facie to a 91 per cent tax,the total taxes were only $80,000 or 3/5 of 1 per cent. Still another artist in oildid even better. He tenderly groomed properties that brought in nearly $5 millionone year--on which there was no tax due. "In escaping tax on his oil income,he also escaped tax on most of his other income. His total taxes for the period wereless than $100,000, but his income from sources other than oil averaged about $1million a year." 39 At the same time the lowest rates for ordinarytaxpayers, the fevered patriots in the streets--rates they could not escape--rangedfrom 19 to 23 per cent. Theirs not to reason why. . . . Some ultra-large oil companiesfind the tax at times so infinitesimal that they do not even list it as a separateitem in reports to stockholders. 40
The politically illiterate common man pays what others do not.The government always gets all the money it says it needs. It never permits a "raid"on the Treasury.
The committee process by which the rambling Internal RevenueCode is amended is childishly simple, yet difficult and fatiguing to follow, muchlike a long-drawn tournament between chessmasters. Like a chess game, too, it istedious to describe in its inwardness for noninitiates owing to the ramifying effectsof simple little moves.
It is in committee hearings that one sees men of C. Wright Mills'sexecutive "power elite"--all figures of distinctly secondary rank, manyof them subject to the pleasure of the president as temporary appointees in the ExecutiveBranch. If committee chairmen or members feel like it, they rake them with sarcasm,challenge them point blank, give them the lie direct.
Before these committees a good deal of careful deference isshown by visiting executives and lawyers. It doesn't all run one way because thereis a good deal of reciprocal respect and there is the knowledge among committee membersthat the witnesses are, after all, connected as underlings with big distributorsof pecuniary patronage. Such knowledge is not always controlling because, as thefront men in well-entrenched one-party state political factions, the committee membersalready have plenty "going for them" both politically and financially.If he felt sufficiently irked, one of these committee chairmen could tell the DuPonts, Rockefellers and Mellons combined precisely where to head in and never feeleven slightly threatened by the possibility of any successful electoral reprisal.It has been done, simply as a bravura finger-exercise.
Critics charge that the major tax forces represent narrow andselfish private interests as against public and presumably broad and generous interests,But as Eisenstein points out, it is not possible to isolate public and private interestsas separate determinate essences.
In the eyes of these critics, "The taxing process emergesas an unceasing struggle between good and evil. The 'general taxpayer,' the 'generalpublic,' the 'People' are on one side; 'organized groups,' 'special groups,' 'pressuregroups,' on the other." But "The 'public' or the 'people' necessarily consistof individuals, and individuals fall into various groups. Not even the adherentsof ability insist that all taxpayers should be similarly treated. If they are notto be treated alike, they must be treated as distinctive groups." 41
Some groups, each of the tax proponents feels, are more vitalto the public interest than others, and are entitled to special consideration. This,basically, is the point. Some people count, most do not.
How it plays out is well shown by Eisenstein:
The same generalities are perennially repeated because they are vacant expressions. Everyone may freely put into them whatever he wishes to take out. That is why they are beyond dispute. For the same reason they are also very useful. Dispensations may be broadly condemned and then selectively approved without fear of engaging in any contradictions. Senator Wiley of Wisconsin, for instance, declares that taxes "should be as fair and equitable as possible." They should be "based primarily on ability to pay," and they should not discriminate "as between different groups." But at the same time the senator also maintains that taxes should, "as a matter of principle," provide a "reasonable incentive to earn, to grow, to expand." Therefore, he warmly recommends such special dispensations as a credit for dividends and a reduced rate for income from foreign investments. Apparently dispensations which remove barriers and deterrents do not discriminate "between different groups." The public interest similarly enables Congressman Mills to distinguish between one dispensation and another. Our income tax, he charges, is "riddled with preferential benefits." The statutes are "full of special provisions through which a shrewd or lucky taxpayer can often escape paying anywhere near his full share." But having said all this, Congressman Mills indicates that it would not be "desirable to eliminate all the special provisions that we now permit." Those who fail to pay their "full share" may also serve the public interest. 42
Whatever is said at these tax hearings, and whatever one maythink about what is said, the result (whether explicitly intended or not) is clear:Most of the tax burden is shouldered over, directly and indirectly, on the nonpropertied,free-spending labor force, which constitutes the main body of patriots upon whichthe future of the Republic depends.
After protracted hearings the tax committees go into "executivesession," excluding the profane. Staff writers get their instructions. Whateveris not of sentimental appeal is put into the customary opaque language, but whatis of sentimental appeal such as high rates on the big incomes and baited deductionsfor blindness, medicine, children and superannuation is left crystal clear.
When ready the bill is reported out on the floor near the endof the session, when a great many other bills, equally suspect under careful analysis,are also awaiting passage. There is here the usual "logjam" of importantlegislation, with members impatient to get home to sweet-talk low-IQ voters. The"heat is on" for swift passage.
If anyone wishes, he may suggest amendments, which may or maynot be voted down. The votes are there, the floor managers know, to pass the bill.The word is passed to the stalwarts, all ready to act. At the signal, the bill iseasily pushed through.
The Senate Finance Committee in 1966, of which Russell Long,an Establishment stalwart, was chairman, consisted of 17 members. Six were identifiedby Senator Clark as of the Establishment core, 6 were from the South, 8 were fromone-party states and 12 were from outside Metropolia. Only 7 were clearly non-Establishmentariansand only 6 would ordinarily be classified as liberals or rationalists.
The House Ways and Means Committee under the redoubtable WilburMills of Arkansas had 11 members out of 25 from one-party states, many more fromone-party districts, 8 from the South and 13 from outside Metropolia. The back countrywas clearly in the saddle. As the committee is under the mesmeric control of Mr.Mills, much like the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein, it is not necessaryto carry the analysis further. It is all an Establishment affair.
Oddly, what radicals call Wall Street tax laws are largely putinto final form by men from the swamps, bayous, tundra, bogs, crossroads, pastures,plains, bills, ravines, badlands and backwoods of the country. These men with someexceptions have not attended fancy law schools or studied at the leading universities;there is about few of them any taint of sickly intellectuality. They are, one mightsay, as common as any drug-store loafer. Nor did any of them, so far as I can ascertain,ever have to meet a flabbergasting payroll in private business. None was ever a super-salesman,a super-lawyer or a big-time entrepreneur. One can safely say that none has had eitherfirsthand or theoretical knowledge of economics, finance or business affairs. Asfar as taxes are concerned they only know what they may have alertly picked up byhearsay in their committee rooms from visiting monetary sophists.
Yet, when all is said and done, they are well able to distinguishcampaign contributors from unsound, unkempt and uncouth, not to say openly literate,ivory-tower theorists.
Contrary to common supposition a majority of those inthe House and Senate enjoy incomes vaulting far beyond their relatively modest salariesof $30,000 a year plus office expenses, travel allowances and other extras. Merelyat this salaried minimal they are already in the upper 1 per cent of income receivers.43 Income-wise they make members of the Mafia look like bashful Boy Scouts.
Much of this congressional income--by all signs probably most--isobtained in ways that, although technically legal, would be condemned by almost anycitizen having ordinary claims to respectability and even by many of the more high-tonedswindlers who comb the bistros for hard-to-get victims.
So many, indeed, are the ways on record congressmen have offunneling furtive lucre into their pockets that they defy description at any seemlylength. Some attempt must be made, however, to comprehend what goes on among politicalentrepreneurs in order to understand the weltaunschauung of the men who confectour tax laws.
Congress is largely but not exclusively staffed by assiduousoff-the-soil moneymakers who use government as a tool in their profit-seeking operationswith the gusto of a pack of hypertonic pickpockets assailing a convention of paralytics.In so doing, manifestly, its members are engaging in wholly unfair competition withthe business and professional classes, especially with the small and medium-sizedportions. Most business people, high or low, and even Mafians, do not have such readytoll-free access to the inner valves and spigots of government.
I am far from contending that money-making congressmen (whomust be distinguished from a civilized minority genuinely concerned about the fateof the Republic) are primarily athirst for lucre. So to say would involveme in a bootless squabble with degree-flaunting sages about the tenuous and whollyirrelevant question of primacy in motivation--of possible interest only to psychologists.Whether congressional absorption in money-making is first or last in order of emphasisit is patently materially the largest and most assiduously pursuedof all congressional interests.
These possibly truistic prefatory remarks are inspired not bysome hostile, foreign, pagan and blasphemous un-American influences such as the godlesswritings of Karl Marx, Nicolai Bakunin, V. I. Lenin or Leon Trotsky but by first-hand,on-the-scene, carefully put together reports in such solidly established, churchlybourgeois publications as the New York Herald Tribune and the Wall StreetJournal. On the score of method it would be difficult to find sources more homeyand comfy unless one had it all in the form of a unanimous opinion of the UnitedStates Supreme Court certified in blood by the National Association of Manufacturers.
A bastion of old-line conservatism that yearned for the returnof the mansard roof and the Stutz Bearcat, the Herald Tribune was until itsdemise the nonpareil Republican organ of the country.* (* The discontinuanceof the valued Herald Tribune was announced as the consequence of a prolonged, complicatedstrike involving ten labor unions and two other newspapers. New York Times,August 13, 1966; 1: 6-7.) The Journal is to Wall Street what Pravdaand Izvestia are to the Kremlin, although it is a tremendously better paperprofessionally. None of this, of course, is a guarantee of pinpoint accuracy. Butneither publication could be suspected of unorthodox or vagrant leanings in politicsor social conceptions. If there was error in the political facts it sprung from inadvertencerather than ignorance or un-American, pro-intellectual bias. Although ornaments ofthe corporate press (the Tribune was owned by John Hay Whitney, a vintagesuper-millionaire), they are not to be confused with the "mass media,"the chief task of which is to portray the world as a never-ending sideshow whilefostering mass illusions about the great day that is just around the corner, dueto dawn right after the election of John ("The Louse") Outhouse.
Such publications belong to what sociologists modishly dub "theelite press." Of such there are some dozen to eighteen in the country (I myselflean to the first figure). Among hundreds this is not many but it represents thelevel of press seriousness. Although sections of this elite have been accused fromtime to time of editing news in favor of their own point of view, it has never beenso much as whispered that they are "un-American" or anything but wholeheartedlycommitted to the Constitution, profits and godliness. Error, yes; heresy, never.
Even though these elite papers are corporate entities, and assuch are subject to the usual reservations, in recent years their owners, who oncefelt safe under Mark Hanna and Calvin Coolidge, have become dimly but increasinglyaware that they are insidiously threatened simply as flesh-and-blood by much thatis taking place--by events internal, external and technical. As a screwball societyof demoralized citizens gradually comes unglued under ideologically justified neglectby its repeatedly sworn dung-hill guardians, the wealthy and their family membersare also affected. Long unable to trot their horses through Central Park owing tothe descent upon it of hordes of the demented, they, too, in or near the vicinityof their homes now are increasingly robbed, assaulted, raped, kidnapped, blackmailed,swindled, intimidated by servants and plug-ugly labor leaders, assassinated, rundown by unregulated cars, poisoned by offbeat drugs and foods full of additives,overcharged, misled, misdirected, engulfed in half-shot planes and the like. Onecould compile imposing lists of wealthy victims within just the past five years,some with prolonged pedigrees and valuable Roman numerals after their names.
Again, this isn't the half of it. They are now, wealth or nowealth, subject to common industrial hazards of the population as a whole: air pollution,smoke inhalation, water pollution, unpleasant regional odors, public-service strikes,gratuitous noise, equipment failures right and left, chemical leakages, explosions,water shortages, area "blackouts," public crowding, riots, radiation poisoning,possible atomic warfare and the like.
And if elected government officials are conveniently purchasable,it is always possible, even probable, that they will be purchased by adversely hostileinterests burrowing under established cushy positions.
As there is no Stock Exchange quoting officials' prices (whichwould be a great convenience) one never knows for sure at what figures the politicalbidding begins and ends. Nor does one ever know when one has a firm acceptance. Boughtmen sell out again at higher figures--which makes sense. All of which promotes muchdispleasing uncertainty and anxiety even among general beneficiaries.
Established wealth, in order to realize its potentialities tothe maximum, needs orderly, intelligent and principled government. It does not havethat now, but is caught in something of a more efficient continuation of the catch-as-catch-cannineteenth century; government is now more systematically and organizedly waywardthan it once was. Although after the Civil War the rising magnates engaged in plentyof funny business with the politicians, the latter had not yet organized on a rationalsemi-corporate basis to put the vacuum cleaner systematically on rich and poor alike.Hence, in part, the rising concern in what are, seen from the street, high places.
If government is thoroughly unprincipled and is at the sametime pretty much out of control, if the butler and the rest of the help are freelyhelping themselves to the vintage stuff and giving their lip to their betters, establishedwealth is itself in some danger of being clipped. As the Herald Tribune somewhatprimly observed, "An anarchistic moral climate prevails in Congress." Thecomplaint is not, then, that the congressmen are Bolsheviks but that they are dedicatedanarchists, which is surely just as bad or worse. If government men kick up theirheels in wild abandon, the rule of the jungle, using government as a handy bludgeon,has returned and, as Thomas Hobbes said, life for everyone tends to become "nasty,brutish and short." If, as it turns out, government officials are surreptitiouslyenmeshed in a tangle of distractingly profitable involvements, where anyone comesout in the ensuing melée is chancy. Here the problem of government takes onparticularly seamy hues, as much--in some ways, more--for the rich as for anyoneelse.
But if the elite press expected a public uprising on the heelsof these probing exposures, recalling the best efforts of the old-time "muckrakers"such as the famed Lincoln Steffens, the editors showed little knowledge of the politicalsystem or the public. Proved money-grabbing by elected officials in the atomic agepiques a disoriented public far less than the latest amours of the Hollywoodset, ax murders in Brooklyn or the birth of two-headed quintuplets. As long as thereseemed some possibility of sandwiching "call girls" into l'affaireBobby Baker a few years ago, public interest momentarily stirred. It faded as soonas the impresarios failed to produce the cash-minded damsels in undress. Tabloidreaders sulked at being deprived of an American Profumo Affair.
In what follows it should always be remembered that there isno question of illegality involved, Everything reported is strictly legal, just asHitler's extermination of the Jews was legal--a little point I mention merely tosuggest how much weight one may attach to the notion. And until further notice everythingthat follows is taken from the unreservedly patriotic Herald Tribune of June9 through June 15, 1965.
"Anyone who wants any legislation, buys it with cold, cold cash. I don't mean you go up to a Senator and ask him if he'd like to make $5,000 by voting for your bill. That's out today. So are broads and booze."
The words were those of a well-known veteran Washington lobbyist who was explaining his modus operandi.
"What you do is arrange to meet him alone somewhere--but not at his office. I almost never go up on the Hill, except maybe to show friends or relatives around.
"You don't tell him what you want. He knows. You tell him you understand he has a tough campaign coming up--or he has had a tough campaign--and you'd like to help cover the costs. Then you leave an envelope with cash in it. The real reason you are giving the money is never mentioned.
"Of course, you can't do this with all Congressmen. But generally it takes only a couple of votes in subcommittee to swing a bill one way or another. After you've been here awhile you know who to deal with." 44
As there are more than 4,000 registered lobbyists in Washington,nearly eight to a congressman, it is evident that there are plenty of paymasters.While bribes are illegal, random gifts are not; but to be fully legal they shouldbe reported on income-tax returns. Presumably they are not. And presumably they comeout of capacious expense accounts provided lobbyists by their principals, whoeverthey may be. "Campaign" contributions are legal but should be reported;many are not.
An al fresco way of receiving gifts was disclosed byT. Lamar Caudle, an assistant attorney general who was convicted in 1956 of tax-fraudconspiracy. Caudle told the FBI that he customarily parked his car with the windowopen and was always pleasantly surprised that "somebody kept putting presents"in the back seat. The Herald Tribune doubted that congressmen use this method,which seems overly conspiratorial; the congressional deals are more apt to be rightover the counter, thus disarming untutored observers.
Lobbyists stand so high in Washington that they constitute aninformal branch of government. Thus, Dale Miller, long a successful lobbyist, "isone of President Johnson's closest friends. The president accorded Mr. Miller, afellow Texan, a signal honor by naming him chairman of the 1965 inauguration committee.Myron Weiner, lobbyist for the ocean freight forwarding industry, shared his Washingtonapartment for a while with Sen. Harrison Williams, D., N. J. During the Bobby Bakerinvestigation it was disclosed that Mr. Weiner split a fee with Mr. Baker, even thoughthe former Senate majority secretary reportedly performed no special service forit."
And so it goes. The Herald Tribune continued:
The relationship between Congressmen and lobbyists is based on reciprocity.
Lobby organizations are the big campaign contributors and the buyers of most seats at political fund-raising banquets. In an age of skyrocketting campaign expenses, Congressmen need the financial handouts which lobby groups offer. ["Campaign expenses," while real, are in part a euphemism. As Frank R. Kent mordantly noted long ago, campaign-fund collectors have "sticky fingers"--that is, they pocket part of the money and divide it with cronies. Frank R. Kent, The Great Game of Politics, Doubleday, Page & Co., N.Y., 1923, pp. 131-33--F.L.]
On their part, lobbyists require the support and votes of the lawmakers if their clients are to prosper in the fiercely competitive business world. [What happens when face-to-face competitors each bid for lawmakers' support was not inquired into.--F.L.]
Generally, lobbyists solicit aid through "persuasive education," stressing the merits of their position; by wining and dining lawmakers and their aides, and by subtly offering rewards.
The era of the outright bribe, when the little black bag stuffed with greenbacks was left on the desk, is fading with age.
Few lobbyists try brazenly to buy votes with cash across the table. Instead, the lobbyist seeks to make the Congressman beholden to him. Should the lawmaker be on the fence, uninformed or indifferent concerning a measure, it is presumed he will feel obliged to favor the stand promoted by his lobbyist friend.
One lobbyist said the latest ruse among his colleagues was to work through lawyers.
"The lawyer-client relationship keeps everything confidential. The lawyer, who is never registered as a lobbyist, simply calls up the Congressman and says he represents a client on a matter in which the Congressman might be interested." 45
Corporation lobbyists have two main objectives: to influencelegislation and to dampen enforcement of existing laws by federal corporate regulatoryagencies such as the Federal Power Commission, the Federal Communications Commissionand a long string of others the average rank-and-file nitwit believes to be standingvigilantly on guard. Simple inquiries by congressmen have the effect of deflectingthe hand of law enforcement, because all these agencies are financed through appropriationsvoted by congressmen. The hostility of even one congressman can lead to severe reductionof an agency's needed funds, can even cause official heads to roll. In consequence,virtually all regulations on the books are only selectively applied.
As to legislation, it was brought out in 1963 that John R. O'Donnell,a promoter of Philippine sugar interests, had bankrolled more than twenty congressmenin 1960 to insure passage of a dubious $73-milhon Philippine war claims bill forwhich he expected a fat commission. (Cases cited are only typical examples from amongmany offered; this text does not profess to be an exhaustive treatise, which wouldfill volumes if it went back over more than two or three years.)
O. Roy Chalk, president of Trans Caribbean Airways, the D.C.Transit System and other projects, is a chum of Representative Abraham Multer, Democratof New York, the Herald Tribune asserted. Multer achieved a certain amountof notoriety as an echo of Chalk's views, so much so that when a subway system towhich Mr. Chalk is piously opposed in Washington was suggested Mr. Multer owlishlywarned all and sundry that building it would surely increase the capital's crimerate.
Stanley L. Sommer, a Washington public relations man associatedwith Morris Forgash, head of U.S. Freight Forwarders, admitted, said the HeraldTribune, that "many Senators" have been entertained on board the Forgashyacht "Natamor." Among other tidbits which the paper said Mr. Sommer related,he had picked up the tab for Senator Everett M. Dirksen, Mrs. Dirksen and her sisterfor a frolicsome Labor Day weekend in 1963 at the Carousel Motel, Ocean City, Maryland.The hotel was owned by Bobby Baker, ousted former secretary to the Senate DemocraticMajority of which Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson was a free-wheeling ringmaster.
It is noticeable throughout that it is mainly Establishmentand fellow-traveling Legislators who are enmeshed in this sort of far-ranging entrepreneurialactivity. The Establishment forms the spiderweb out of which operations are conductedand to which the operator returns for protection. Men banding together for protectionare one source of Establishment power.
Members of the House and Senate are of several economic categories.They are, first, of independent, partly or wholly hereditary means, well educated,who have acquired a general rational interest in government; some of the best ones,intellectually and morally, can be found in this group. In their various outlooksmany of these recall the Founding Fathers, nearly all men of property. Unfortunately,they are greatly outnumbered by the dung-hill climbers whose political task it isto gyp their dung-hill constituents. There are, too, moderate-sized business andprofessional entrepreneurs, most of them unable to distinguish between their businessand governmental duties; they use government as a tool of their businesses, a practiceopenly defended by the late Senator Robert Kerr of Oklahoma, an oil man who was oftenreferred to as "The King of the Senate." There are, finally, those withoutmeans or firm business connections. Most of these, excepting only the conspicuouslyeducated, are "on the make," looking upon the government much as brokerslook upon the Stock Exchange: an opportunity to feather their nests and thus gainwitless public esteem, status. A difference, however, is that brokers do not functionunder oath.
And it is because congressmen have taken an ostentatious oaththat one is entitled, without listening to any sophomoric mush about "humanfailings" as the orchestra plays "Hearts and Flowers," to subjectthem to sharp scrutiny and judgment. What one might be inclined to overlook in abroker, or even a banker, one cannot sensibly treat as "just one of those things"in a legislator or other official if one values reasonable civil security.
In the passing of loaded legislation, many instances of whichwere cited by the staid Herald Tribune, the lawmakers manifestly act eitherfor their own account or, as brokers, for the account of others. As the record shows,they function in both roles.
Apart from direct gifts of money, which perhaps are what givemost Establishment congressmen their financial starts, the prime way outsiders, mainlycorporations, mobilize their zeal is by means of retainers through their law firms.Of 435 representatives and 100 senators, the Herald Tribune noted, 305 arelawyers. The firms of nearly all are under lucrative multicorporate retainer.
While one cannot show in every case that a lawyer-congressmanis supporting a client of his firm on the floor or in committees, it can be shownin many cases. In some instances one would be hard put to show a one-one connectionbetween a client and a legislative beneficiary. The client-attorney relationshipsof the congressmen, however, show that both client and attorney are running out ofthe same corporate stables, flying the same battle flags. The congressmen, if notfull-fledged corporate men, are so close to it in their thinking that they are indistinguishablefrom the officials of the United States Chamber of Commerce. Nobody has to tell thecongressmen how to think, for example, on the subject of taxes if they think aboutthem at all; they think that way spontaneously.
The law-retainer racket, often combined with threatened extortion,is very old and is touched upon by Charles Francis Adams II, one-time president ofthe Union Pacific Railroad, in his Autobiography (1916). In Washington onbusiness for the railroad Adams at once encountered "a prominent member of theU.S. Senate" who was still alive, retired, when Adams wrote: ". . . hehas a great reputation for ability, and a certain reputation, somewhat fly-blown,it is true, for rugged honesty. I can only say that I found him an ill-mannered bully,and by all odds the most covertly and dangerously corrupt man I ever had opportunityand occasion carefully to observe in public life. His grudge against the Union Pacificwas that it had not retained him--he was not, as counsel, in its pay. While he tookexcellent care of those competing concerns which had been wiser in this respect,he never lost an opportunity of posing as the fearless antagonist of corporationswhen the Union Pacific came to the front. For that man, on good and sufficient grounds,I entertained a deep dislike. He was distinctly dishonest--a senatorial bribe-taker."
This sort of thing is virtually standard legislative practicein the United States and was the thought in the mind of the The Nation (June26, 1967) when it charged that the nature of the case made against Senator ThomasDodd before he was censured by the Senate had been largely a cover-up. John Stennis,chairman of the Ethics Committee, The Nation charged, had steered the Senateaway from considering the more serious charges against Dodd: "that he had (1)threatened to investigate the movie industry but, after taking a political contributionfrom the Motion Picture Association, dropped the probe; (2) threatened to investigatethe television industry, but dropped the matter after taking money from a major memberof the industry; (3) taken money from insurance companies while supposedly investigatingthem; (4) taken money from the firearms industry, and thereafter cooled in his ardorto control interstate shipments of guns; (5) used an airplane belonging to McKesson& Robbins, the drug makers, while sitting on an antitrust subcommittee investigatingthe drug industry; (6) taken a gift from Westinghouse's lobbyist while sitting ona judiciary subcommittee probing price fixing in the electrical industry; (7) soughtfavors and jobs for a number of groups and individuals who had contributed to hisseemingly bottomless need for money."
Dodd, in fact, was a fairly typical legislator, fitting rightinto the history of the American congressional system.
Apart from the incentives of surreptitious gifts, campaign contributionsand law retainers, congressmen ferret out independent legislative and bureaucraticincentives strictly for their own account. Not only brokers, they are entrepreneursand promoters as well. They are especially concentrated in the building-and-loan,television, insurance, local banking and credit fields, all subject to regulationand franchising by governmental agencies. Some are also personally interested ina variety of other government-regulated business activities, including the jugglingof oil lands. They are, not to put too fine a point on it, estate builders. Estatebuilding represents their philosophic horizon.
First a word about law firms.
Aware that some question of propriety might arise, some congressmenare related to two-name law firms. There is, first, their original firm. There is,also, a newer firm listing all partners' names except their own but occupying thesame office, employing the same personnel, using the same telephone number and thetwo sets of names on the same door. The Herald Tribune photographed some ofthese novelties.
It is presumably through the newer firm that business aboutwhich there might be some question is siphoned. The congressman does not participateon the books in such business. But, also presumably, his partners in the old firmare grateful. Presumably he is given a compensatory share in the old firm, doingbusiness with nongovernment-connected clients, and is excluded from direct participationin the juicy second firm. Thus appearances are preserved.
But, even so, the single-name law firm prevails. Most congressmendon't care about appearances.
As the Herald Tribune noted, Senator Everett Dirksen,a big Establishmentarian and like his close friend Lyndon B. Johnson an ardent publicpartisan of prayer and God, is a member of the obscure Peoria, Illinois, law firmof Davis, Morgan and Witherell. This little firm numbers among its clients the formidableInternational Harvester Company, Pabst Brewing Company, the National Lock Companyand the Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Company, a sprawling giant.
"During a 1959 Senate debate on pending legislation tobar pressures on Federal regulatory agencies, Sen. Dirksen said he would continuecontacting them for constituents until such time the law provided he could be 'putin jail for doing it.'" 46
"In addition to his public chores, he is a . . . directorof the First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Chicago. . . .
"Sen. Dirksen's business ties meshed neatly with his politics,earlier this year, with the appointment of Carl E. Bagge, a Chicago railroad attorney,as an industry-oriented member of the Federal Power Commission. It was on the Senator'srecommendation that President Johnson appointed Mr. Bagge." 47
The Herald Tribune then recalled that the Dirksen lawfirm represented Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line, which "falls within the jurisdictionof the FPC." Dirksen, therefore, is seen to play a variety of roles. Everybody--legislator,president, law firm, corporations, commissions and lobbyists--is rolled togetherin the same capacious bed.
Dirksen, although nominally a Republican, bobbed up in severalparts of the Herald Tribune inquest. In 1962 he received, according to thisrockribbed Republican newspaper, concentrated campaign contributions from membersof the pharmaceutical industry: officials of the Warner-Lambert Pharmaceutical Company,the Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation (Squibb) and G. D. Searle and Company, drugmanufacturers.
"During this period," said the Herald Tribune,"Sen. Dirksen was leading the opposition against Sen. Estes Kefauver's campaignto regulate the cost and safety of consumer drugs.
"In his book, The Real Voice, on the late Sen. Kefauver'sdrug fight, author Richard Harris says that Sen. Dirksen became known as the defenderof the medical and pharmaceutical interests." 48
Representative Claude Pepper, Democrat of Florida, former senator,a practicing lawyer with three Florida offices, and an officer and director of theWashington Federal Savings and Loan Association of Miami Beach, in 1963 introducedtwo bills authorizing savings and loan associations to buy tax-exempt securities.He was at the time a member of the House Banking and Currency Committee which passedon the bills. Sitting on the board of Pepper's Savings and Loan Association was ArthurCourshon, one of the chief savings and loan lobbyists in Washington. One bill wasenacted into sacred law in 1964.
Pepper lost his Senate seat in 1950 after fourteen years' incumbencyin an election that achieved some fame owing to the novelty of the charges againsthim by George Smathers. The latter bawled to the swampwater electorate that Pepperhad a sister who was a "thespian" and before his own marriage had "practicedcelibacy." One wonders what would happen in the outlands if some candidate wereever accused of being a carnivore, heterosexual and biped who had caused his wifeto undergo parturition. Very probably he would be lynched before a dictionary couldbe ordered from Sears, Roebuck. Many congressmen, in sober fact, are paranymphs.
Not a few statesmen like Senator Smathers, Democrat of Florida,although no longer active as lawyers, nevertheless "promote legislation favorableto their law firm's clients. Over the years Sen. Smathers has supported bills beneficialto Standard Oil of New Jersey, International Telephone and Telegraph Corp., Pan AmericanWorld Airways, the Florida East Coast Railway and several insurance companies, allclients of the Miami law firm which bears his name." 49 He is a realcorporate fan.
Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr., Democrat of North Carolina, a memberof the judiciary Committee which had held hearings on four of nine sitting SupremeCourt justices, argued as a paid attorney against the government before the courtfor the Milliken textile interests. 50
Two businessmen-Senators--Wallace F. Bennett, R., Utah, and Edward V. Long, D., Mo.--have successfully blocked the "truth-in-lending" bill which Sen. Paul Douglas, D., Ill., and a host of other Senators have been sponsoring since 1960 [said the Herald Tribune ]. Sen. Bennett, former president of the National Association of Manufacturers, is head of an automobile distributorship and director of an insurance company. Sen. Long, a director of a St. Louis bank, has been a vocal supporter for savings and loan institutions since he served in the Missouri legislature. [More recently he has been shown tied up with James Hoffa's Teamsters' Union.]
U.S. Controller of Currency James Saxon once commented that about two-thirds of all Congressmen are involved in savings and loan associations. An aid later reported Mr. Saxon's estimate was somewhat exaggerated but that a substantial number of Congressmen were indeed connected with savings and loan groups.
He said that of the 1,200 or so inquiries which the Controller's office receives annually regarding bank charters and branch applications, at least half come from Congressmen. Most of the inquiries, the aid said, were simple requests for information without any suggestion of pressure.
But as pointed out by George B. Gallaway, author and government expert, "A telephone call from a Senator or Congressman can paralyze the will of a government executive and alter the course of national policy.
In other cases, Sen. Jennings Randolph, D., W. Va., an insurance company director, has taken an active role in debate on proposed medical insurance legislation. His deciding vote killed medicare in the Senate in 1962.
Rep. Multer, chairman of the subcommittee on bank supervision, is privately associated with banking operations. 51
Senator B. Everett Jordan, Democrat of North Carolina, is chairmanof the strategic Rules Committee and frequently has argued on the Senate floor againstallowing increases in competing foreign textile imports as recommended by the TariffCommission. Increasing such imports is part of a supposed national policy of knittingtogether a raveled world.
The senator is himself a domestic textile man, an officer anddirector of the Sellers Manufacturing Company of North Carolina.
It was before his committee that the case of Bobby Baker, hiredsecretary to the Senate Majority, was brought for investigation. Baker was accusedof improperly using his position in personal out-of-bounds windfall moneymaking schemes.And it was Senator Jordan who abruptly closed the inquiry as the trail grew hot withthe historic remark: "We're not investigating senators."
"Would Bobby Baker have been able to engage in shadowybusiness deals if his Senate bosses had been above reproach?" the HeraldTribune asked rhetorically. 52 Baker, in the view of sophisticates,merely paralleled the operations of his masters, from whom as a very young man hehad learned everything he knew about anti-public skulduggery.
Alluding to the Bobby Baker case, the Herald Tribunesaid it "raised doubts about the moral fiber of the government right up to thesteps of the White House." 53 It was, indeed, precisely as attentionwas directed toward the Senate group of which Lyndon B. Johnson had been a rabidlyprayerful member that Senator Jordan abruptly closed off the tepid Baker investigation.
The television industry embraces many congressmen. It has beenestimated that 75 per cent of congressmen have interests in television-radio broadcastingfranchises. The Herald Tribune found that nine senators and fourteen representativeshad direct or family-related interests in broadcasting stations. "While he wasin the Senate, the family of Lyndon B. Johnson held the only television broadcastinglicense in Austin, Tex."
The Case of Lyndon Johnson: A Paradigm
According to the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Johnson's large-scaleproperty-dealing activities began when be was a representative back in the 1930's.54
"Unofficial estimates," said the Herald Tribune,"pegged the President's fortune, accrued mostly through his radio-TV holdings,from nine to 14 million. Last August in a public statement he listed his net assetsat $3,484,098. A month later, Mr. Humphrey, who sometimes refers to himself as an'unemployed druggist,' reported his net worth as totaling $171,396." 55
Earlier Barry Goldwater, Republican presidential candidate,disclosed that he and his wife were worth $1.7 million mostly in stocks, all of itinherited money.
Johnson, by contrast, was a poor boy who made good-in politics.Back in the 1920's he worked on Texas road gangs as a laborer and was variously employedin catch-as-catch-can jobs until he went to Congress in 1934 after a brief stintas state director of the depression-born National Youth Administration. Those werelean days but, as the Democratic song promised, happy days were returning and sooneverything would again be as it was before the dismal crash of 1929. Once on thegovernment payroll Johnson, like many of his colleagues, was never pried loose.
The Johnson fortune, and the miracle of its growth despite themonkish immersion of its architect in steamy affairs of state, came in for a greatdeal of sudden press attention. What figures are available on it were unprecedentedlydisclosed during the presidential campaign of 1964. This revelation resulted frommany rumors of the vast magnitude of the Johnson holdings and particularly from acold-eyed 7,000-word analysis in the Wall Street Journal of August 11, 1964.The editors of this elite feuilleton had assigned a three-man assault teamof ace reporters to invade Texas and find out what caused all the aroma. Their reportheightened the worst fears abroad in the land, leading to the later somewhat perfumedself-disclosure reported in the New York Times on August 20, 1964.
The Journal led off its findings with the following rollickingheading:
HIS HOMETOWN COTERIE
WHEELS AND DEALS IN
LAND AND BROADCASTING
THEY BUY INTO AUSTIN BANKS,
TRADE PROPERTY WITH LBJ
AND PLAY SOME POLITICS TOO
DIRECT LINE TO THE WHITE HOUSE
What engages our attention here is not what might interest apolitical partisan: the fact that this was about the holder of the highest competitiveoffice in the land. It would be a grave mistake to look upon Mr. Johnson's financialaffairs as rarely exceptional. They are, rather, a baroque pattern of a CongressionalEstablishment man's affairs. I remarked earlier that none of these men operate alone.One man could not juggle all this stuff. Behind practically each Establishment figureis organization: a standard political organization of the Republican or Democraticvariety and a personal political-financial organization of long-time cronies.
This area of our politics has not been studied, as far as Iam aware, by our political scientists. What shows on the surface in Washington isonly the tips of the various icebergs. These personal political-financial networksshow what politics are about to most of their successful professional practitioners:chiefly a way of self-enrichment. The pubpols are trying to become juniorfinpols.
So, taking what the Journal found out as a paradigm ofapproximately what would be found in practically every Establishment case, therewas disclosed the following:
The Johnson affairs revolved around the hitherto obscure Austinlaw firm of Clark, Thomas, Harris, Denius and Winters, "patronized by giantnational corporations." A separate lawyer, A. W. Moursund of Johnson City, wasfound to be Mr. Johnson's personal attorney, realty partner and a key figure in hisaffairs. He was "linked by private telephone circuit to the LBJ Ranch and theWhite House." All the lawyers interviewed talked themselves down, jocosely."I'm just a country lawyer," said Moursund. "I'm just a poor boy,born and raised in East Texas, trying to make an honest buck," said Don Thomasof the law firm. Said Mr. Ed Clark: "Spell my name right--I need the business."
Mr. Johnson, the Johnson family, these lawyers and other cronies,the Journal found, held parallel or interlocking interests in television-radioproperties, vast tracts of land made valuable by federal electrification and Johnson-sponsoreddam projects over the years and shares in clusters of Texas banks that gave the groupenormous credit resources. Said the Journal: "According to experts ofthe American Bar Association it is unusual for law firms to invest substantiallyin bank stocks, but perfectly legitimate."
There was, first, the Texas Broadcasting Company, a name substitutedfor The LBJ Company when Mr. Johnson unexpectedly became president of the UnitedStates. This outfit owned the various radio and exclusive television stations ofthe Johnsons. A "competing" radio station, working out of the same address,had been long before set up by Johnson associates and employees: John Connally, nowgovernor of Texas, Walter Jenkins, Merrill Connally, Willard Deason, Melvin Winters(the Johnson City contractor who is a trustee of the Johnson foundation), RobertL. Phinney (an old Johnson college roommate who became Austin's postmaster and morerecently director of the Internal Revenue Service for the region), and various otherJohnson employees or associates.
The Journal was piqued by two contrasting strands itfound in Johnson affairs: the pattern of monopoly as in the television broadcastingstation and concentrated bank holdings, and the pattern of apparent competition withinthe group itself.
The broadcasting enterprises are housed in a modern office buildingat Tenth and Brazos Street in Austin owned by the Brazos-Tenth Street Corporation,a holding company held in the name of Don Thomas of the law firm. Mr. Thomas deniedpoint-blank that he was just a "front man" for LBJ. Yet he is also thesecretary and a director of the broadcasting company, and a trustee of The LBJ CompanyProfit-Sharing and Incentive Plan and of the Johnson City Foundation, an LBJ creation.
The Brazos-Tenth Street Corporation, the Journal found,figures in baffling big land deals with Mr. Johnson. Court records showed that itbought property from The LBJ Company and resold it the same day to Lyndon B. Johnsonin person. It engaged in a series of such land deals with the then vice president,as local records showed, and in some cases acted as the buyerseller in deals betweenMr. and Mrs. Johnson. The Journal explained them as possible tax maneuversthrough a "conduit agency."
Other deals were recounted in which parcels of land were soldover the years in a circle extending through Johnson companies and employees andthen winding up again in the hands of the original owner, Donald Thomas of the lawfirm.
Money for the various deals, said the Journal, was suppliedby banks in which the "members of the Johnson inner circle have an interestand a voice."
Mr. Moursund himself was found to be a big dealer in land tracts,held fifty-fifty with The LBJ Company. According to Mr. Thomas, the president ownedabout 5,000 acres of land, most of it ranch land but 27 acres of it bought back inthe 1930's for about $300 an acre and now worth about $20,000 an acre, a rise from$8,100 to $540,000. In addition to being a partner of LBJ in big land deals Mr. Moursundwas a trustee of the broadcasting company stock and of the Johnson City Foundation,the philanthropic distributions in one year of which were found to total $8,000 outof $11,000 income and an increase of $89,000 in asset value.
Both Mr. Moursund and the law firm were found to be extensivelyinterested in regional banks, and the Journal reporters found the belief strongin the muted region that Mr. Johnson was an eminence grise in the background.Mr. Moursund, his mother, his law partner, Mr. Thomas of Austin and the Brazos-TenthStreet Corporation acquired control of the Moore State Bank of Llano, Texas, soonafter Messrs. Moursund and Johnson had paid it a visit.
"Lyndon's associates own or manage stock in all eight ofAustin's banks," said the Journal. "Here in Johnson City, at aboutthe time Lyndon Johnson was being inaugurated as Vice President, Brazos-Tenth acquiredfour-fifths of the stock of the town's only bank, Citizens State (resources: about$3 million). On the board sit Mr. Thomas, Mr. Moursund and another key member ofthe inner circle, Jesse Kellam, president of the Johnson broadcasting company."Kellam is a college chum of Johnson's, succeeded him in 1934 as Youth Administrationdirector, helped him with his first congressional campaign, now owns stock in fourAustin banks and is a director of one of the biggest, the Capital National.
But the big man at Capital National was Ed Clark of the lawfirm, a former Texas secretary of state, lobbyist and political and legal troubleshooterfor Mr. Johnson. Clark and his partners are big stockholders in Capital National.
Mr. Moursund is a director of the American National, anotherbig Austin bank of which the Johnson Profit-Sharing Plan and the Johnson City Foundationare also stockholders. "The Johnson foundation also has holdings in three otherAustin banks; its total of bank stock comes to roughly $137,000."
In Austin National, the biggest bank in the region, Brazos-Tenthhas a stockholding foothold.
John Connally served as the first president of the ostensiblycompeting radio outfit, KVET. Connally had been secretary to Representative Johnsonprior to 1948 and was manager of the presidential bid of LBJ in 1960. As governorof Texas he is now conceded to have complete Establishment control of the state,having routed the liberals. Connally originally subscribed to half of the new radiostation's stock for $25,000, which he borrowed from Ed Clark's Capital National Bank.Mr. Clark was also a founder of the radio company that entered the field againstthe Johnsons' KTBC, headed by Mrs. Johnson.
The Federal Communications Commission, the Journal noted,apparently did not notice KVET had the same address as KTBC and numbered among itsfounders KTBC personnel. It is illegal for the owner of one station to hold evenminority interest in a competing station in the same town. Walter Jenkins, lateran administrative aid to President Johnson, was an early stockholder in the Connallystation.
Difficulties in Washington connected with the new station werequickly cleared. Its bid for a wavelength held by a San Antonio station, seventymiles away, was quickly resolved by the FCC; KVET got the desired wavelength. "Thenthe Civil Aeronautics Administration complained erection of the 210-foot broadcastingtower would 'present an undue hazard for the safe operation of aircraft.' But twoweeks later it changed its mind.
"KVET, like Lady Bird's KTBC, had no trouble getting networkaffiliation, signing up with Mutual. To this day these two remain the only networkoutlets in Austin, though the city now has seven radio stations."
Connally in 1955 became attorney for Sid Richardson, the multimillionaireFort Worth oilman, thus cementing the relations of the group with the inner-circledepletion-allowance crowd, of which Mr. Johnson in the Senate was always an ardentsupporter. At this time Mr. Connally turned over his control in KVET to Willard Deason,old Johnson school chum.
"Those who drop in to visit station president Deason nowadayscan hear his cheerful view of competing with the Johnsons and his cozy recollectionsof how it all came about. They can see two pictures adorning his office. One is abrown-tone photo taken in 1932, of schoolmate Lyndon. The other is a large autographedportrait of the President of the United States."
It was hard on the heels of this instructive report that Mr.Johnson took an unprecedented step for a president of the United States by disclosingfigures on his financial position. The principal, assets shown consisted of the TexasBroadcasting Corporation and real estate. The total valuation placed on them was$3,484,098. Ownership titles were split among the family so that the president apparentlyheld $378,081 of assets, his wife $2,126,298 and the two minor daughters close to$500,000 each. No mention was made of the Johnson City Foundation.
As the Times pointed out, original ground-floor costswere used in arriving at valuations and the auditors themselves noted that the methodused was "not intended to indicate the values that might be realized if theinvestments were sold."
Unfeeling and obviously partisan Republicans called the valuations"incredibly low" and charged that the method used was "like the cityof New York listing the value of Manhattan Island at $24," the original pricesupposed to have been paid to the Indians.
Financial analysts in general contended that merely the holdingsshown were worth up to $15 million or more.
There were internal discrepancies in the report as published.Texas ranch properties listed among total balance-sheet assets were set at $502,478,a figure carried forward from an erroneous computation that on the basis of the itemizationgiven should have added up to $1,445,822. Either the total given is wrong or theitems composing it are erroneously stated, as anyone may ascertain by consultingthe Times.
In the preceding decade the family had received admitted cashincome exceeding $1.8 million, irrespective of the pro forma quadrupling invalue of assets. The original cost of the broadcasting enterprise was $24,850 inthe period 1944-47. Undistributed profits of $2,445,830 after the deduction of purelypotential capital gain taxes were solely used to bring its valuation to $2,470,680.Capital gain tax will never be paid unless the broadcasting enterprise is sold.
The broadcasting company, it was shown, is wholly owned by Mrs.Johnson and her two daughters. It owned or had an interest in broadcasting facilitiesin Austin, Waco, Bryan and Victoria in Texas, and in Ardmore, Oklahoma.
Both in type of personal holdings and those distributed amongkin there was nothing to differentiate the statement from that of any Wall Streettycoon except the numerical details. The president and his wife held respectively$159,270 and $239,270 of tax-exempt state and local government bonds. Each held ranchproperties valued at $227,114 and minor amounts of "other assets."
Properties owned by Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were placed in trustin November, 1963, immediately after he assumed the presidency. They will be so helduntil he no longer holds federal office. Yet, he held high federal office beforethe creation of this trusteeship, which has the sole effect of placing the propertiesunder the management of nominees. It does not represent a divorce.
Knowing he is the beneficiary under this trusteeship, is thepresident's mind so free of property influence that he is likely to come out for,say, strict government regulation of television advertising or the end of tax-freeoil? Is he likely to agree with Kennedy appointee Newton Minow that television isa "wasteland"?
Said the New York Times editorially on September 25,1964, about this arrangement:
The property has been placed in trust while the President is in office, and Mr. Johnson will unquestionably take special pains to avoid any charge of improper influence over the F.C.C. But a conflict of interest remains as long as the nation's chief officeholder possesses a stake, direct or indirect, in a property he is charged with regulating.
This property was acquired when Mr. Johnson was in Congress. He was doing what many other Congressmen . . . have done. There is, unfortunately, no law against Congressmen owning television and radio facilities or having a financial interest in other franchises or businesses that are either regulated by Federal agencies or dependent on Government contracts. But the very fact that Mr. Johnson set up a trust when he assumed the Presidency indicates that ownership of Government-regulated business suggests a conflict--for members of Congress as well as for the occupant of the White House.
The Times suggested "divestiture" of the propertyas a way out, without suggesting the nature of such legerdemain. If it were soldthe president would realize a handsome profit. If it were given away for charityit would defeat the intended purpose from the beginning.
The insight given by the Johnson financial statement, as faras it went, into the affairs of a big Establishmentarian and career politician whothirty years before was as poor as the proverbial church mouse enabled reflectiveobservers to see where rhetoric leaves off and substance begins in the thinking ofthe Establishment. The energy devoted to putting together from scratch and shelteringthese properties should be some guide to personal motivation. What was disclosedbore none of the earmarks of a part-time hobby.
What is even more strange is that even as president Mr. Johnsonhas continued large-scale land and cattle purchases through agents, paralleling value-bringingstate highway and bridge-building projects, according to the New York Timesin an extensive report of December 26, 1966 (23:2-3). This report of total holdingsmore recently of 14,000 acres in five separate ranches led Washington wits to saythat Mr. Johnson has been the biggest real estate operator as president of the UnitedStates since President Jefferson's "Louisiana Purchase."
Despite his single-handed involvement of the United States ina big Asiatic land war, long held by the Chiefs of Staff as something to be avoidedat all costs, Mr. Johnson is nevertheless hailed by many as the architect of "TheGreat Society," an apparition that is due to materialize no doubt at about thesame time as grass-roots communism appears in Russia and the Soviet state "withersaway." just how much stock one should take in the Great Society fantasy wassuggested at the annual get-together of the American Political Science Associationin 1965, as reported by the New York Times:
Although a high proportion of them unquestionably voted for Mr. Johnson last fall, the comments of the political scientists indicated a shocking skepticism about Washington's earnest belief that this President has introduced--through his Great Society programs, his style of vigorous personal leadership and his invocation of the virtues of one "great big party"--a dramatic new element in American politics.
Nelson Polsby of Wesleyan University captured the prevailing view when he remarked:
"There's nothing new about all this. All you really have is a swollen Congressional majority, that Barry Goldwater handed the Democrats, passing programs that have been kicking around since New Deal and Fair Deal days."
A colleague from Wesleyan, Clement E. Vose, compounded the heresy, saying that the Johnson record "is not one of innovation, but of ratification of ideas that have been germinating since the time of Henry Wallace." 56
So much for "The Great Society."
Other Political Horatio Algers
Before closing the books on the Horatio Algers in politics,some further nuggets from the valuable Herald Tribune series, Put togetherby ace reporter Dom Bonafede, should be exhibited:
"Civic participation" by applicants is one of theyardsticks used by the Federal Communications Commission in granting TV licenses,and being a congressman is interpreted as "civic participation" given weightin licensing--a doctrine that Democratic Senator William J. Proxmire of Wisconsincalled "an amazing proposition." 57
Representative William E. Miller, Republican candidate for vicepresident in 1964, was on the payroll of the Lockport Felt Company while in Congress,where he had "openly promoted legislation favorable to the company on the floor."He was made a vice president of the company two weeks after leaving Congress. 58
Senators Spessard Holland and George Smathers of Florida andB. Everett Jordan and Samuel J. Ervin, Jr., of North Carolina were co-sponsors ofa bill in which the Florida Power and Light Company was "the prime mover"to exempt from federal regulation private utilities not directly linked with outof-statetransmission networks. 59
Until he recently sold the bulk of his holdings, Sen. Warren G. Magnuson, D., Wash., the Commerce Committee chairman, was part owner of a Seattle broadcasting station. One of the committee's functions is to oversee operations of the FCC.
Sen. John L. McClellan, D., Ark., the famed rackets-buster, is chairman of the subcommittee investigating the Federal banking system, even though he is a bank director in private life. Another subcommittee member, Sen. Sam J. Ervin, D., N.C., also holds a bank directorship.
Rep. William C. Cramer, R., Fla., spoke against the Administration's war [sic!] on poverty almost from the program's inception. But his protests appear to have been muted ever since a laundry service he heads in St. Petersburg was awarded a contract with Women's job Corps. 60
Although the Corrupt Practices Act of 1925 requires congressmento report campaign contributions and expenditures, limiting what can be spent to$5,000 for representatives and $25,000 for senators, large numbers of members ofboth Houses report "none" on the required forms after each election. 61
Yet carloads of money are nevertheless spent, or at least collected,in congressional campaigns. Only $18.5 million was formally reported as collectedfor the 1962 "off year" campaigns, but an expertly estimated $100 millionwas collected. 62
Political money is really tossed about in a large way.
"Newly elected Rep. Richard L. Ottinger, D., N.Y., a multi-millionairein private life, spent almost $200,000 through 34 committees to win his seat. Yet,his campaign report lists expenditures of $4,500 and no contributions." 63
Although there are criminal penalties prescribed for negligentfailure to file a report or to file a false report, there has never been a prosecutionunder the Act of 1925.
"Ingenious methods of raising campaign funds are developed.. . . Card games are held in which a portion of the pot from each hand is set asidefor a campaign committee. For many years, Rep. Michael J. Kirwan, of Ohio, HouseDemocratic Campaign Committee Chairman, staged a St. Patrick's Day party for thepurpose of soliciting campaign funds." 64
Cocktail parties are a standard fixture where lobbyists arepanhandled for handouts to support democracy. One lobbyist told the Herald Tribunethat it usually cost him $100 for a single drink "and a "cold shrimp ona toothpick," which was perhaps cheap.
A generally favored swindle is to run $100- to $1,000-a-platetestimonial dinners, production cost about $10 apiece, and to send twenty-five toa hundred tickets to various corporate people, who generally grab them like mannaand distribute them to the office help. If the corporate boys fail to remit theysuspect an undeserved demerit may be entered against their names in some little blackbook.
While a direct gift of money in excess of $3,000, except (asthe courts have percipiently ruled) expensive presents to a lady friend, are subjectto tax, a gift in recognition of "public service' is not so taxable. Althoughsuch gifts are not lavished on low-paid scientists, artists, military officers andprofound cogitators, who may be supposed to have rendered some public service, theyare rife in the case of officials, especially congressmen. It is not necessary topass them money in some back alley. What is done is to stage a glittering publicaffair, with hundreds of well-heeled customers present, and to present the modestrecipient with a large certified check as the cameras flash the scene for posterity.What results are photographs reminiscent of Renaissance paintings titled "Adorationof the Infanta." Diners leave with the vague semi-alcoholic feeling that theyhave participated in a religious ceremony, have at least paid homage to a gloriousRepublic once sadly betrayed by wicked, wicked, wicked Benedict Arnold.
Lest any strait-laced, dyspeptic methodologist charge that Iam drawing my data from only two sources which, although highly orthodox, could bewrong or wrong-headed, let the future historian know that among many other sourceson congressional skulduggery there are the nationally syndicated Washington columnsof Drew Pearson, a practitioner of the journalistic craft for more than forty years.
Not only do we encounter many members of the cast we alreadyare familiar with in the Pearson columns but a host of new names ooze into view weekafter week.
"Any pressure group that is rich and powerful enough canfind a champion in Everett Dirksen," said Pearson. "It is his convictionthat the special interests are entitled to a voice in the Senate. His office hasbeen headquarters for almost every major group--the drug industry, gas and oil combine,food packagers, etc.--that has had a legislative problem.
"To no one's particular surprise, Dirksen's law firm infaraway Peoria, Ill., has collected retainers from many a giant corporation whoseinterests the Senator has served in Washington." 65
A few other nuggets from the Pearson columns--the nuggets alonewould fill a book--are as follows:
Representative William H. Harsha, Jr., Republican of Ohio, hasbeen a strong opponent of the Federal Mass Transportation Act, designed to developrail and commuter services for clogged cities. His law firm represents the GreyhoundBus Lines. The congressman favors limiting imports of residual fuel oil. His firmrepresents Phillips Petroleum and Ashland Refining Company. 66
Representative Charles Chamberlain, Republican of Michigan,introduced a bill to repeal the manufacturers' excise tax on cars and trucks. Hislaw firm represented the United Trucking Service and the Detroit Automobile Inter-InsuranceExchange as well as the Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Company of Texas, which like othercompanies appears to make use of many congressional law firms. 67
In the 1940's Representative Victor Wickersham, Democrat ofOklahoma, asserting "I am a poor man," advocated increased congressionalsalaries. Despite still moderate congressional salaries, he was more recently seton getting back into office. In an application filed with the Federal CommunicationsCommission to buy radio station KREK in Sapulpa, he stated his current net worthat $1,579,789, placing him among some 90,000 millionaires. Pearson traced varioustypical flourishes in the financial efflorescence of Wickersham over the years. 68
Upon the impending retirement of Representative Oren Harris,chairman of the House Commerce Committee, to accept a presidential appointment asa United States judge, Pearson noted that Harris was a stockholder in Station KRBBof El Dorado, Arkansas, and as a close associate of Ham Moses of the Arkansas Powerand Light Company "had introduced more special-interest legislation than anymember of Congress."
Because of the inability to find a suitable replacement forHarris, said Pearson, the lobbyists asked Senator McClellan to intervene and holdup at the White House Harris's appointment for the stated reason of a "ticklish"election in Arkansas. The president obliged.
"This will help Madison Avenue, but it puts the Presidentin a bad light in regard to his family radio-TV property in Texas. He has claimedthat he has kept aloof from influencing the Federal Communications Commission; butnow he continues in power the congressional chairman who has slapped down the commissionon behalf of the big networks.
"Note--It's significant that Mr. Johnson has been verychummy with the big networks, as witness the repeated White House dinner invitationsto network executives. . . ." 69
How it may work out when anyone drives a high-placed officialinto a tight corner was shown in the case of Senator Thomas J. Dodd of Connecticut,as reported by Pearson. The FBI had been informed of documentary data in Pearson'shands and photographed and rephotographed it.
[Pearson's subaltern had] been working with half a dozen prospective witnesses, all former Dodd employees. . . . These were young people who had been shocked at what was happening in Dodd's office and departed. They felt under moral obligation to report what was happening.
The G-men called on the witnesses all right, but didn't ask a single question about Dodd, his conduct, whether he had diverted funds from testimonial dinners to his own pocket or whether he had acted on behalf of an agent for a foreign power, Gen. Julius Klein.
Instead, the FBI crossexamined these young people about the alleged theft of Dodd's documents. They also heckled them about other stories Jack Anderson and I had written.
As fast as the FBI discovered the identity of the witnesses, they were bullied and badgered, hounded and harassed. One lost his job on a House committee; the news of his dismissal came from Dodd's office. Another . . . since submitting his resignation . . . has been unable to find another job. Others have had their jobs threatened. One woman, seven months pregnant, was grilled by agents for three hours.
Agents hauled some witnesses right into Dodd's office for cross-examination and behaved as if they were working for the Senator. Other witnesses were alternatively soft-soaped and threatened with Federal prosecution.
I have been around Washington a long time, but have never seen such an example of police state operation.
Such investigations, of course, do not happen by accident. They usually go beyond the Attorney General, Mr. Katzenbach, an awfully nice guy but a bit wishy-washy when it comes to standing up to the White House or the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Tom Dodd is a member.
Such investigations usually go right up to the President himself. Johnson has on his desk a direct private phone to J. Edgar Hoover. They are very old friends, dating back to the days when I used to visit in Johnson's home when he was a gawky young Congressman from Texas living just across the street from Hoover's well-appointed bachelor abode.
Johnson is not only a friend of Hoover's but he is a friend of Dodd's. It takes a real friend to make the two trips he made to Connecticut to speak at testimonial dinners which raised $100,000 for Tom's personal bank account.
Johnson did all right for Tom. He hoisted him to a choice position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, ahead of other Senators, a vantage point from which he was able to work more effectively for Gen. Klein. And he almost picked Tom to run with him for Vice President. 70
While much more along the same line could be cited it is timeto close the books on this phase of our quest for enlightenment. Suffice it to saythat a majority of members in both Houses are tainted with what is euphemisticallyknown as a "conflict of interest." There is, however, as readily seen,really no conflict of interest involved. The line of interest is clearcut and unambiguouslypointed in one direction--to personal nest-feathering at public expense. Nor areonly overt Establishment people involved. Democratic Senator Thomas Dodd was nevera recognized Establishment man, perhaps one reason he was made an object of gingerlyinquiry by the Senate for actions little different from those of others except thathe involved himself with a registered agent of unholy foreign interests and steppedinto delicate areas subject to foreign policy and the jurisdiction of the ForeignRelations Committee under vigilant Chairman J. William Fulbright.
But where is the line to be drawn on congressional self-dealing?What difference does it make whether the havoc caused is international or domestic?
Some fairly feeble solutions have been proposed for this parasitismat the heart of the political system. One is that congressmen be required to disclosetheir personal financial holdings so that the public may evaluate their votes, thusdetermining whether they are cast on the merits of a case or for personal Profit.This proposal has been supported by Senators Clark, Wayne Morse, Paul Douglas, CliffordCase, Jacob Javits, Kenneth Keating, Maurine Neuberger and others--all non-EstablishmentariansIn the House it was supported by Edith Green, Ogden Reid and John V. Lindsay. SenatorsClark, Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania, Stephen Young of Ohio, William Proxmire of Wisconsin,Morse of Oregon and Mike Mansfield of Montana have voluntarily disclosed their personalfinancial holdings and Paul Douglas rendered an annual public account of his incomeand expenditures. They have had few emulators.
Senator Dirksen predictably objected to the proposed law onthe clownish ground that it would be "an invasion of privacy" and wouldmake him a "second-class citizen" into whose private affairs every vagrantPeeping Tom could penetrate.
Apart from the fact that the Establishment, as a sovereign forceeffectively unchecked by any knowledgeable electorate, will never enact such a measure,if it did who would enforce it?
Again, if congressmen disclosed their holdings, such disclosurewould not portend much even if it was made annually. For the source of the poor-boycongressman's original stake consists in most cases obviously of under-the-countergifts, ambiguous campaign contributions, legal retainers, public testimonial awardsand benevolent bank loans. And all such, if subject to disclosure, could be keptin the names of wives, parents, daughters, sons, cousins and the like.
Actually, any man may have vast holdings with nothing set downanywhere in his name. A man can own a million shares in a big corporation withouthis name ever appearing on the books. The stock can be held by obscure paid nomineeswho have signed, in blank, stock transfer certificates allocating these shares towhoever holds and fills in the certificates.
Any person interested in concealing assets can do even betterthan this, as we are reminded by that old reliable, the Wall Street Journal,of recent decades a most informative newspaper. Money can be transferred to one'sown neutrally named holding company, a "shell" company, in any one of anumber of places--Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Panama, the Bahamas--and deposited ina numbered Swiss bank account, the owner of which the bankers are forbidden by strictSwiss law to disclose. The Swiss bank, conducting all operations in its own name,can buy or sell securities, realty or other titles in any market without anyone knowingfor whom it acts. Profits are transferred to the owner direct or to the "shell"company, which cashes checks and turns money over to the true owner. The "shell"is in charge of low-paid employees, glad to perform this less than onerous occasionalservice. The money, if wanted in the United States, is simply carried home in one'swallet or is brought back by couriers.
This method, as a device for evading American income, capitalgains and inheritance taxes, is already used by many American business and professionalmen, Las Vegas gamblers, racketeers, some millionaires and owners of at least 10per cent of some corporations' shares among executives, according to the WallStreet Journal. It estimates that hundreds of millions of dollars are so involved,perhaps billions .71
The stacking away of tax-shy assets abroad is not confined tomarginal elements. As the New York Times informs in a special dispatch fromLuxembourg: 72
Along the Grande Rue and the Boulevard Royal, companies like du Pont Europa Holdings and Amoco Oil Holdings have nestled their "sièges sociales" (head offices) in filing cabinets next to 2,000 other Luxembourg holding companies.
With a few exceptions, the head office is the street address of a bank or a law firm. The lawyer or the banker may be a director of more corporations than are most captains of industry anywhere.
Some Luxembourg holding companies date back to 1929, when Parliament passed a law making it easy and inexpensive for them to be established and kept here. Not a few were or are facades for family businesses in nearby countries, shells to make possible the investment of income hidden from the tax collector.
Since this is not such an easy contrivance anymore, the reasons for setting up Luxembourg holding companies nowadays are likely to stem primarily from difficulties in carrying on essential business operations elsewhere.
This indeed has been the basis for the recent stir of holding-company activity by American corporate giants in this quiet, 999-square-mile Grand Duchy. With direct dollar sources of capital restricted by the American balance-of-payments restraints, Luxembourg has become a strategic base for raising needed investment capital in Europe.
Apart from basic tax advantages, the Duchy also provides a singular freedom from business regulation.
A holding company can be formed within weeks--days, says one American lawyer. The company is exempt from income and capital-gains taxes. Most important, Luxembourg requires no tax withheld [on payments to foreigners].
Actually, the only chance for a significant change in Congressand the stripe of elected officials generally is to get an altogether different typeof person into active politics, perhaps men of the type of the non-Establishmentarians.Considering all factors, including the fuzzy mentality of the electorate, this willbe very hard if not impossible to accomplish. The fundamental difficulty is institutional:the universal equal franchise that gives the vote-to clods.
It is not for lack of precept that congressmen conduct themselvesas they do while bringing a laudably strict set of standards to bear against appointeesin the executive and judicial branches. Thomas Jefferson laid down the rule in 1801when he was vice president and Senate presiding officer that "Where the privateinterests of a member are concerned in a bill of question he is to withdraw."This is just what a competent judge does if there is any question of his personalinvolvement in a case sub judice.
Such a rule assumes that the relevant body consists of gentlemenand, perhaps, scholars. The electorate, it is observable, does not usually supportsuch when they appear.
For the latter-day comers up from bayous, swamps, gutters andsties the rule was broadened by House Speaker James G. Blaine of Maine, who in 1874asserted astonishingly that a member might vote for his private interests if themeasure was not for his exclusive benefit but for the benefit of a group. (Blainewas exposed in 1884 as a bribe taker in connection with the securing of land grantsfor the Little Rock and Fort Smith Railroad.)
Said the Herald Tribune significantly in concluding itsvaluable series:
"Frequently a Senator or Representative's outside incomeresults directly from the fact that he is a member of Congress." 73
Political Sources of New Fortunes
That the transfer of moneys to congressmen is a long-term, standardaffair is attested by the Wall Street Journal of May 11, 1966, which saysthat "dozens" of congressmen "allow wealthy supporters to set up officefunds or let lobbyists for business and labor sponsor testimonials, anniversary celebrations,birthday parties and other occasions or excuses for fund-raising not necessarilyrelated to campaign needs--namely, office, entertainment and travel expenses."
Few legislators, the Journal noted, reject such helpfulemoluments, which come under the heading of perquisites of office. "But a majorityof legislators," continued the Wall Street Pravda, "regard contributionsmade outside regular campaign fund-raising channels as perfectly proper, always assumingthat the recipient doesn't mortgage his independence to the givers."
These statements come under the heading of "laying it onthe line" by Wall Street for those multitudes who are under some illusion abouthow, and why, the government is operated.
It is always well to remember that existing laws, passed byCongress and Congress alone, do not prohibit these activities. In fact, in many waysit would be tedious to probe, they encourage them. Congress no more navigates underany canon of ethics than does the Politburo. In this respect both bodies are on allfours. As in the case of any true sovereign, Congress is richly privileged. So, indeed,is the president.
Whatever Congress and the president are not specifically, indetail and under penalty, prohibited from doing they may do. So they do it, whateverit is.
The simple enumeration of powers of Congress in Article I, Section8, of the Constitution should show any doubter that, collectively, this is an awesomelypowerful assembly. Any small group such as the Establishment leaders that can byintrigue (the supreme method of practical politics) manipulate this dividedcollectivity internally, obviously has in its hands a formidable engine, with a wealthof modern technology at its service. The only restraints upon Congress, largely theoreticalas far as immediate or individual actions are concerned, are the Supreme Court andthe president. The latter, if he wants cooperation from it, must cooperate with it.
Difficult though it is to build a fortune by engaging in newbusiness ventures among the established corporate giants, there is a wide open roadto wealth if one knows how to worm one's way into politics. By all present indications,really big new fortunes in the future will be more and more politically based, andwe are already, perhaps, in the era of big emerging political fortunes. Should thisbecome so, it will be evident that the United States is reenacting parts of Romanand later European history when fortune-building was the perquisite of men associatedwith sovereign powers rather than of men more directly related to the market place.Much of such political fortune-building, it is notable, was in the past related tothe systems of taxation and government contracting.
Ex-Senator Paul Douglas, a careful student of congressionalethics, does not believe it would do any good to raise congressional pay but, lookingat the fat rewards given high executives by corporations to keep their wonder boysin line, one pauses to reflect. If congressmen were each paid $200,000 per year plus$50,000 expenses, all tax-free, they would at least know whence their good fortunecame. They would know for whom they were working. And such pay, by visibly exaltingthe office, might attract many others who under the present system do not wish toengage in the shabby dodges, the money grubbing, necessary to achieve substantialemoluments--that is, so-called financial security. The total public cost would berelatively slight, only $133,750,000 annually, a bagatelle compared with sums nowvoted for all manner of dubious projects, far less than the cost of elections.
Opposition to such a pay boost might be counted upon to comefrom two quarters--the frugal-minded rank-and-file citizens to whom the present $30,000annually plus expenses is in itself an astronomic sum, and the very rich. The latter--orat least their advisers and lobbyists--would in many cases probably oppose the ideabecause such pay would make congressmen truly independent of the patronage of therich. A senator who had served only six years could easily accumulate $1 millionof his own and could thereafter safely afford to stick his tongue out at ubiquitouspaymasters. True, such compensation would still not be enough for some, who wouldbe up to the old tricks, perhaps even more flamboyantly. But threatened loss of thecushy job, as in the corporations, would be a big deterrent to skulduggery. Corporateofficers, it can be shown, are personally far more straitlaced than most congressmen.
The Basic Deal
We are now in a position to understand the basic deal, arrivedat by unconscious but instinctively sure stages, among finpols, corp-polsand pubpols in the welfare-warfare economy.
In return for substantial camouflaged tax (and other) concessionsranging up to complete exemption for very large incomes (these being constantly soughtby the spokesmen for big wealth who appear before congressional committees) and forthoughtfully saddling most of the tax burden onto the politically illiterate lowerlabor force, the pubpols have been heavily financed on their road to financialindependence by "campaign" contributions, testimonial gifts, law firm retainersand simple donations. Without such financing the poor-boys-who-made-good in politicswould never have acquired the stake necessary to set themselves up as entrepreneursunder federal allocation of licenses (which they indirectly control), in building-and-loanoperations, television-radio broadcasting, consumer loan sharking, local bankingand insurance underwriting and subsidized speculation in oil and mineral lands. Andwithout retainers from grateful corporate clients many lawyer-congressmen would behard put to divert lucrative business from some of the less directly political lawfirms.
Just as the more impetuous racketeers when in difficult straitswith the law turn to skillful high-fee pleaders like Edward Bennett Williams or PercyForeman (in an earlier day they turned to the Max Steuers and Clarence Darrows),so the big corporations when they find themselves in a tight spot, legalisticallyspeaking, turn to the big-league law firms of Wall Street, State Street and La SalleStreet. While for routine matters the bush league of congressional law firms willdo, when the action gets really serious it is necessary to bring the big guns ofthe big-name firms to bear. Before such luminaries, entranced judges sit properlyspellbound at seeing it uncontrovertibly proved once again by law, logic and philosophythat wealth is virtue, poverty is crime. The lesser firms, however, are indispensablefor routinely guiding legislation or softening the touch of regulatory commissionsto a delicate pianissimo that would arouse the artistic envy of a Horowitz.
Naturally, with the big property owners given a large degreeof accommodation up to complete exemption, with loopholes liberally carved in theimposing tax wall, it is necessary to saddle the rising costs of the welfare-warfareeconomy onto the shoulders of the rank-and-file in the labor force. Hence the lopsidedtax structure, Wilbur Mills's "House of Horrors," that we have scrutinizedin only slight detail.
The signal contribution of the democratic politician here (andthis is well understood in such places as Wall Street) is that he is gifted withthe ability to flimflam this large collection of taxpayers with stupefying rhetoricalpyrotechnics and appeals to free-floating sentiment; he puts these gifts to workso that, even if not cheered, the public cannot grope its way out of the verbal barragein which appear all the gems of stale oratory. In addition, to show he is friendlyhe kisses babies, smiles, shakes hands endlessly and gobbles strange foods thrustupon him by the local constituency.
His brain in something of a fog, grasping desperately at somenotion of a lesser evil, the common man feels that the vote he is about to cast isthe best thing, everything considered, that he can manage in the hairy circumstances.So, perhaps not too happy about the whole thing, he stoutly votes for Horace "Bugsy"Latrine, "The People's Friend," and against John "The Louse"Outhouse, who slipped and allowed himself to be photographed giving candy to a Negrobaby, thus fomenting the sinister rumor that he keeps a harem of lascivious Negressescontrary to the laws of God and men.
Karl Marx, in an often quoted apothegm, thundered that "TheState is the executive committee of the ruling class." Although this is merelyredundantly truistic it is often disputed by bargain-counter sages. Yet the utterancehas misled many self-styled Marxists to believe that the finpols or big capitalistsissue direct whiplash orders to their docile minions in government, sometimes bypicking up a phone in Wall Street and barking harsh instructions over the wire. Nothingcould be further from the truth, even though direct wires from Wall Street to theWhite House have been known to exist during Republican Administrations up to thetime at least of Herbert Clark Hoover.
The process through which the finpols induce the pubpolsto march in lock-step with them is much subtler than this but not so Marxianly subtleas merely being common participants in a cultural climate; nor does it consist ofwinning them over by powerful logical arguments in favor of the free enterprise orcapitalist system. The finpols insure that the pubpols will be like-mindedby making it possible for the latter to become free--that is, government-licensedentrepreneurs themselves. The fusion of thoughtways is achieved this simply. Thatthe process is not more subtle anyone may observe by noticing how quickly a politiciancan change his outlook if the quid pro quo is not forthcoming. In such circumstancesself-styled conservatives can be led to stand for quite radical measures, let thecultural climate be what it may.
It is noticeable that congressmen and spokesmen for the richin general are much more impassioned in defense of the free enterprise system ofgovernment economic support than the prime beneficiaries. One seldom hears of a Rockefeller,Du Pont, Mellon, Ford or lesser luminary of great wealth bawling wildly to the countrysideabout the impeccable virtues of free and easy enterprise. This task is discreetlyleft to recent converts.
And while I believe there is much to be said for capitalismin some of the modified variegated forms it takes, particularly in Europe, and whileI also believe there is little, humanistically speaking, to be said for the Leninistversion of the vaguely outlined Marxist substitute, capitalism at its best can arousein the sensitive observer at most a cool and moderate sort of admiration. It didnot, contrary to the sly suggestion of its political friends, invent science andmachine technology (industrialism), launch the Age of Discovery or put in their placesthe natural resources of the earth. Rather did it impress these into its service.Nor did it foster the population boom, which is greatest outside its confines. Eventried-and-true capitalist economists of any stature do not trace to capitalism allnovel boons, whatever they may be, although anti-capitalists madly trace to it allevil.
It is left to recent off-the-street converts, beneficiariesof the big quick deal, the windfall, to discover overwhelming virtues in a systemthat, whatever its merits, is subject to evaluative analysis that brings to lightnot a few dubious aspects into which it is not edifying to delve.
Appreciations of capitalism by economists, it is always evident,are far more muted than those of its public political celebrants. For those who wonderat the emotional fervor of the politicos, the explanation is as simple as it is vulgar.Would not almost anyone except the rarely cultivated man be inclined to see, as ina Pauline revelation, vast merits in a system that suddenly, without any forewarning,showers down upon him personally, apparently from nowhere, vast rewards? Would notsuch a man--a Dirksen, perhaps--be dramatically and sincerely struck by the suddenlyrevealed beauties of the system? Would he not feel strongly impelled when the occasionpresented itself to draw upon whatever eloquence he commanded to defend and extolthat system? He was nothing, and he knows this; the system made him into something,perhaps a television pundit, perhaps a senator, even president. Here is ground fortrue belief.
There is a more immediate reason, too, for the pubpolsto see extravagant merits in the system, which plays the role of the goose that repeatedlylays the golden eggs--for them. Many economists, some in dismay, have observed howCongress is inclined to starve the public sector of the economy (as government nonmilitaryoperations are somewhat ornately styled) and to favor the private or corporate sector.Congressmen in general show little enthusiasm for schools, parks, hospitals, sanatoria,low-income housing, libraries and the like but immoderate enthusiasm for, say, armamentsentrepreneurs and bowling alley proprietors. While structures and programs in thepublic sector can be "milked" to a certain extent at their inception, asin the letting of contracts and buying land, the process cannot be repeated indefinitelyas with going concerns in the private sector.
With a going concern, such as a bowling alley, it is different.It can, first, be taxed continuously--a great advantage; schools and the like payno taxes but eat them up. Furthermore, the proprietor can be shaken down regularlyfor campaign contributions and off-the-cuff gifts in return for regulatory legerdemain.The proprietor is to a certain extent, at least as far as the courts will permit,at the mercy of the "democratic" politician and his little tin box.
And if the "democratic" politician has been thoughtfulenough to intersect two new superhighways at the door of the bowling alley, withmandatory long-cycle traffic lights installed, he is obviously deserving of a testimonialdonation for public service from the bowling alley proprietor.
Hasn't the business generated boosted gross national product?A politician who can do this and at the same time gain public plaudits for his sagacityis obviously a statesman who should be concretely recognized.
Cooperation, it is evident, is necessary between finpolsand pubpols if the system is to work as it does. Nor are showdowns betweenthe two ever necessary because all that is usually required to bring most of thelatter into line (if they stray) is money, the big grease of American politics. Insaying this, one is not saying that all pubpols are susceptible to the monetarytouch. It is not necessary to have all of them on the side of the big money. Theentire operation, indeed, looks better if there are some honest dissenters, evenvociferous dissenters. Such dissent appears to imply that positions have been taken,each way, on the merits of an argument. There are, perhaps, mysterious reasons onthe side of the majority, which consists of sound down-to-earth men like EverettDirksen and Lyndon Baines Johnson.
All that the big money needs is a "democratic" majority-ofa subcommittee of 3 to a legislative committee, of a legislative committee of 15to 25, of a caucus of 50 to 100, of a legislative body of 100 or 435. This is notmuch to achieve in a nation of some 200 million immortal souls. And even if thereis not a majority on the side of the money interest, all is not lost because anysuddenly flaring opposition can be blocked and stalemated by a minority under therules. If the money interest cannot have its way, neither can anyone else unlessthere has been a rare political upheaval induced by nontypical circumstances.
So much has been written about the veritable misdeeds of thecorporations, not without ample grounds, that there is a tendency among critics tooverlook the indubitable fact that business enterprises sometimes, even often, likeblack sheep of a family, act quite legally, properly and even meritoriously and arenevertheless clipped below the belt by the pubpols. It would take hundredsof pages to detail all the harrowing cases in this vastly neglected area, so I citea single recent major instance simply to remind the reader of what goes on.
L. Judson Morhouse, fifty-two, an authentic Anglo-Saxon andchairman of the Republican Party in New York State, was convicted and sentenced inJune, 1966, to two to three years of penal servitude on two counts of bribery, avery serious offense. The judge could have imposed a sentence of twenty years anda fine of $9,000 but, as he explained, the defendant until his conviction had an"unblemished" reputation and "has many good friends in most high placeswho have willingly come forward to urge leniency." The judge also noted thatMorhouse "was a man who wielded tremendous governmental power and influence"which, as the judge himself volunteered, he had "perverted" for "personaland private gain." According to the prosecutor, Morhouse was an "influencepeddler"--not uncommon in politics.
The specific charge against Morhouse was that he induced formerState Liquor Authority Chairman Epstein to accept an illegal $50,000 for grantingthe Playboy Club of Chicago a New York liquor license and that he, initiator of thedeal, assisted the Playboy group in bribing Epstein. The Playboy Club was a legitimatetaxpaying enterprise--not even a sweatshop--that sought to do legitimate taxpayingbusiness in New York City. Yet it was required to pay toll to do legitimate business--acommon occurrence as between small and moderate-sized businesses and politicians.This is one reason (rather than labor costs) many enterprises move from one partof the country to another, especially out of big cities, although after they getwell settled in a new location they often have the "bite" again put onthem by local politicos. Sometimes, though, the "bite" is smaller in oneplace than another so moving may be advantageous. One can refuse to pay and insteadfight for one's rights in the courts, but experience has shown that this processcan be so costly as to be ruinous.
Morhouse took his sentence stoically, although his lawyer saidhe had been punished enough by merely being put on trial (a strange doctrine) . Againstthis contention, the prosecutor cited a long list of other instances in which Morhousehad received "fees" ranging up to $100,000 from enterprises engaged inlegitimate endeavors, enough to give him success or what sociologists coyly referto as "upward social mobility."
So it is not, very evidently, necessary for a company to bedelinquent in some way in order to experience the exactions of politicians, althoughthe big corporations are seldom bustled about in the way the Playboy Club was. Morhousewould never have acted as he did in this case if the Standard Oil Company of NewJersey had wished to put up a gas station or refinery in some unseemly place. Whenthe big corporation wants anything out of the routine--and the Playboy Club did noteven ask that--it simply states its case "on the merits" in high placesand gets all or most of what it wants. As a matter of tactics it asks for a greatdeal more than it really wants in order to be roundly rejected in some way, thusmaking the regulatory commission, public executive or legislature look properly vigilantin the eyes of the public--a simple instance of finpolitics. The reason thebig enterprises no longer resort to crude bribery, except perhaps through remoteagents in minor situations where a local ordinance bars the road, is that they havethe ways already thoroughly greased all along the line through "campaign"contributions, donations-for-public-merit, testimonials, law business, foundationgrants to savants and other forms of patronage involving legal tender. The request,whatever it is, in substance slips through easily all the way up to and includingCongress. But if some random individual made an analogous request, he would be hailedbefore the nearest psychiatrist or, perhaps, jailed for jarring the dust on somemoth-eaten statute.
Morhouse, it should be made clear, did not suddenly suffer anyloss of esteem among those "in the know." He had simply been caught workingon a highly competitive street-New York City is Democratic and upstate New York Republicanand hostile to the city; Morhouse in the city was somewhat out of the jurisdictionunder his surveillance and up against rivalrous politicos. According to the well-understoodrules of the game, he had to serve as a scapegoat, thereby helping to reassure thepublic. My own opinion of Morhouse did not change in the slightest when he was convictedbecause I always assumed, on the basis of a long line of similar cases, that as astate party chairman he was doing something of the sort--if not this then somethingelse of a gamey order. What he did was hardly more than par for the course.
Just as the businessman is not in business for his health, thetypical American politician is not in politics for his health, the pay of officeor because he is enamored of the public. So to suppose would, in the light of muchevidence, strain credulity beyond the breaking point.
Money in Politics
That a great deal of money is bandied about in politics is wellknown. On this topic many extensive studies have been written that need not be summarizedhere. All, fragmentary though they are, show a steady avalanche of money. 74
What is now, today, causing concern about this telltale phaseof American political life is the rising cost.
It was estimated, for example, by Dr. Herbert E. Alexander,an authority on election costs, director of the Citizens Research Foundation andKennedy-appointed executive director of the President's Commission on Campaign Costs,that the 1964 national campaigns cost at least a whopping $200 million, not countingefforts by volunteers, unpaid efforts by public officials or amateurs and sidelinecommentary by telecasters, newspapers and other publications. 75 And campaigncosts, as we have observed, are not the only items of political expenditure. Thebill, it is evident, is running very high.
An incisive, brief updating of the situation was written byVictor Bernstein for The Nation, June 27, 1966, under the title of "PrivateWealth and Public Office: The High Cost of Campaigning." As it was shown, politicalmoney is not put up by the rank and file of citizens. In all its forms it invariablyComes from property owners and people of assured position-the upper 1 per cent ofincome receivers--apart from such money as has in recent decades filtered into thepot from labor leaders, themselves in the upper-income strata.
As Bernstein made clear, the electoral system, as distinct fromthe extra-legal politicians' system within government (another item of big expense),is extremely costly to operate. In the 1966 off-year, for example, $175 million werescheduled to be spent solely at the state levels. Again, a Senate seat, as Bernsteintestifies, can cost a million or more, and $2 million were spent to make John Lindsaythe able mayor of New York. This last leaves out of account what was spent to defeathim.
Noting that in order to be in politics one must be rich or haverich friends, some of the currently rich ones cited being the Kennedys, Harriman,the Rockefellers, Romney, Pell, Ottinger and Johnson (there are others), Bernsteinraised the rather marginal question of whether democracy (by which he meant the rundownU.S. political system) is "better served by relatively penurious politicianswho owe office to support by the rich" or by the rich in person. He did notnote the fact, significant in my view, that Johnson like many others not mentionedgrew rich while in, of, by and for politics.
Most congressmen, all now in the upper 1 per cent of incomereceivers, were at least originally impecunious. This is made crystal clear in DonaldR. Matthews's thorough study, U.S. Senators and Their World. According toMatthews, all except a handful of senators were the sons of men in middle-class occupations.76
On the basis of the mainly blurry class indices he cites--professional,proprietor and official, farmers, low-salaried workers and industrial wage earners--Ishould rather say most came from lower-middle-class and middle-class occupationalbackgrounds. This is made evident, first by the fact that among 180 senators in thedecade 1947-57 no fewer than 52 per cent were rural born 77 and at thetime of their birth none of the criteria of upper-middle-class status such as relativelyhigh income and prolonged schooling were ordinarily found in rural areas. "Placeslike Centerville, South Dakota; Isabel, Illinois; Ten Mile, Pennsylvania; RisingSun, Delaware; and Honea Path, South Carolina, nurtured more senators [in the groupstudied] than all the cities of the United States combined." 78 Mostof the remaining senators came from small towns, with the most overrepresented small-townersfrom places of 2,500 to 5,000 population. 79 The Senate, in brief, consistedlargely of pure hicks, ruling an urbanized, mechanized society.
As to class origins, "The children of low-salaried workers,wage earners, servants, and farm laborers, which together comprised 66 per cent ofthe gainfully employed in 1900, contributed only 7 per cent of postwar senators.[Owing to the disparity of birth rates between the upper and lower classes, the disparityin political life-chances, as Matthews notes, was "actually greater than thesefigures indicate."--F.L.] Only two of the 180 men, Senators Wagner and O'Daniel,were the sons of unskilled, urban wage earners. Wagner's father was a janitor ina New York City tenement; O'Daniel's father was a construction worker. Senator Purtellwas the son of a cigarmaker; McNamara, of a shipfitter; Daniel (S.C.), of a millwright;Welker, of a carpenter; Pastore, of a tailor; Cordon and Dirksen, of painters; Payneand Dworshak, of printers; Anderson, of a salesman; Myers, of a bookkeeper; Lennon,of a clerk; Margaret Chase Smith was the daughter of a barber." 80There were no Negroes, although Negroes constituted 10 per cent of the population.
"Among the sons of farmers, some were born in relativepoverty, yet it is virtually impossible to ascertain this in specific cases. It isstill possible to conclude that very few senators were born in working-class andlower-class families." 81
Yet 33 per cent of Democrats and 31 per cent of Republicanshad fathers who were farmers. 82 Farmers have never been considered uppermiddle class. And 16 per cent of Democrats and 7 per cent of Republicans had fatherswho were lawyers, not invariably an upper-middle-class index in the United States.
That most of these men are generically middle class, and assuch likely to be upward strivers and admirers of entrepreneurial as distinct fromrentier plutocracy, is also shown by the fact that just prior to their debut in theSenate 102 were job-holding political officials, 88 having started out as lawyersand 97 regarding the law as their principal nonpolitical occupation. 83By percentages, 26 per cent of these pre-senatorial officeholders were in law-enforcementoffices (prosecutors), 23 per cent in administrative offices, 17 per cent in statelegislatures, 11 per cent in the House of Representatives, 9 per cent in the governor'schair, 9 per cent in local elective offices, 3 per cent in some statewide electiveoffice and 2 per cent on the congressional staff. 84
For those hoping for a better day in politics with new upcomingmen, it should be noticed that the pipelines feeding high office are now filled withsimilar types. Anyone looking to the state legislatures for zeal in better governmentcan get a glimpse of the future in Congress that will induce sober second thoughts.
While class origin may be broadly indicative of outlook it isnot determining in every case, as is easily shown. Despite their humble origins EverettM. Dirksen and Margaret Chase Smith have all along been pillars of the Establishmentwhich Joseph C. Clark and a number of other propertied patricians sharply oppose.Johnson, once literally dirt-poor, was a leader of the Establishment. Looking furtherafield one sees that some of the leading oppressors of all time were of lower-classorigin: Hitler was a house painter, Stalin was a lower class theological studentand Mussolini was a one-time school teacher. On the other hand, Thomas Jefferson,perhaps the modern world's most forceful exponent of democracy, and Frederick Engels,collaborator and financial angel of Karl Marx, were both wealthy. Nearly all theoriginal Bolshevik leaders were middle-class and upper-class intellectuals; therewas not a true proletarian among them nor, be it noted, did they produce a pro-proletariangovernment. Most of the Fabian Socialists and, indeed, socialists in general, havebeen middle class, upper middle class or aristocrats like Lord Bertrand Russell andmany others duly certified as such in Burke's Peerage. Socialism is too remotein its aims for most workers to understand. Most lower-class people in politics,perhaps influenced by the cultural climate, act so as to deny their origins.
Although class origins, especially from the middle upward, dooften have an influence on political outlooks, what should be rationally determiningin judging politicians is the set of propositions they are willing to implement inaction. If they frame their working propositions rationally, in the light of theevidence and according to critically refined values they are, as I see it, jewelsbeyond price whether born and raised in a sty or a palace and whether styled conservative,moderate, liberal or radical.
Digressing a bit, let it be noted that Matthews brings out that84 per cent of senators went to college, and of those attending college 31 per centwent to the most highly rated institutions. No less than 45 per cent specializedin law. Of those specializing in law, 47 per cent went to law schools of the highesttype. As lawyers, then, many of these men were theoretically capable of understandingwhat a new statute meant. They could, if they wished, spot the loophole in a taxmeasure on first reading as though it were the Empire State Building. The point is:The tax laws are no accident or consequence of carelessness. They are as premeditatedby the Establishment as a bullet from a Colt .45, intended to kill. Most senators,in other words, usually know precisely what they are doing. What is in question isnot their intelligence but their values-in-action.
Professor Matthews is carried away by misplaced enthusiasm,however, when he notes that "Senators are among the most educated--in the formalsense of the word--of all occupational groups in the United States," with 85per cent of them having been to college against only 14 per cent in the entire population.85 It is true that he qualifies with the phrase "in the formal senseof the word," which merely indicates they attended school.
But, thorough, Professor Matthews makes clear that of thosewho attended but did not necessarily finish college 69 per cent attended other thanIvy League (20 per cent non-Ivy League eastern schools or the midwestern "BigTen" universities). While some of this 69 per cent may have attended, finishingor not, rigorous schools, most of them, as Who's Who shows, attended distinctlymakeshift swampwater colleges.*
(* Matthews, in his discussion of senators and lobbyists, pp. 176-96, illustrates very well the tendency of academic political scientists to avert their eyes from obvious unpleasant facts. He introduces his genteel discussion of this phase with a lobbyist's story about two women watching a senator and a lobbyist conversing innocently in a Senate waiting room. "O-o-h!" says one of the women, awed, "Is he bribing him now?" Although a very fine study, the Matthews book on this and similar phases we have examined reminds one very much of an old-time silent film drama in which the hero chastely kisses the heroine, who thereupon proceeds to have a baby. That anything else happened between kiss and the appearance of the little stranger was not suggested. Similarly, legislation to this school of political science seems to be the consequence of immaculate ratiocination. "Slush" is a word it does not recognize.)
That many of the senators are in no sense educated men, whatevertheir on-the-record schooling, I shall show by citing two salient cases.
Senator James Eastland, chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee,whom Who's Who reports as having attended without finishing the Universityof Alabama and Vanderbilt University, in 1962 published an elaborate report preparedby his staff purporting that various of the justices of the Supreme Court had inscores of cases made "pro-Communist" decisions and that the court as awhole had made such decisions no less than forty-six times. 86
In every instance the Eastland mode of logic adhered to thefollowing form:
"Communist officials are politicians.
"Republican and Democratic officials are politicians.
"Therefore, Republican and Democratic officials are pro-Communist."
No educated man could seriously make such a carefully premeditatedargument on a serious question.
Former Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson since enteringthe White House has shown the same sort of elementary confusion, especially on theVietnam question, thereby disturbing the professoriate from coast to coast. The Johnsonianwhirligig arguments in favor of its Vietnam action have been notoriously confused,contrary and contradictory, thus destroying the entire ostensibly reasonable structure.
The initial Johnsonian logical error about Vietnam did not concernform but content.
The argument was as follows:
"If people are bombed they will negotiate.
"These people are bombed.
"Therefore, these people will negotiate."
Although valid in form this argument was completely unsoundbecause its first premise was known to be factually false. Official studies of thebehavior of people and governments in England, Germany, Russia and elsewhere in WorldWar II, all known to the American military, showed in fact that if people are bombedtheir tendency to resist increases. Malta was bombed almost to extinction by theGermans yet never sued for peace.
The sound argument, dismissed out of hand by Johnson, who wasprobably not bright enough to grasp it, was as follows: "If people are bombedit is known they will resist more desperately (and not negotiate)."
This, in fact, happened, showing the value of logic-if one knowsit and applies it.
Mr. Johnson's educational attainments, on the formal record,go beyond those of Mr. Eastland. Mr. Johnson holds a Bachelor of Science degree--fromthe Southwest Texas State Teachers College.
Not only does the Senate (and House) consist mainly of hicksbut of poorly educated hicks even though they must be conceded to possess a certainlow animal cunning. The main sin of the majority consists of simple presumption inpresenting themselves as leaders of men.
As to money in politics, Bernstein quotes Robert Price, one-timehard-headed deputy mayor of New York, very precisely to the point that beyond a certainsmall amount from the national and county committees a congressional candidate mustrely on his own efforts. "If he commands a popular following, he can raise asubstantial sum from the small contributions of many people through a broadcast ormail appeal," said Price. "But usually for the bulk of what he needs hemust rely on friends, or friends of friends, or labor or business. The biggestgivers are likely to be firms with government contracts, or with hopes of gettingone; they are what I call the predators--the guys who, if you win, will want somethingfor their money." [Emphasis added.]
Noting that most campaigners are not so fussy as Mayor Lindsayof New York in turning down certain large offerings, Bernstein agrees with many observersthat "the higher and more influential the office sought, the more likely isthe contributors' list to be studded with the names of the wealthy." These givedirectly to many party committees, buy a full-page ad in a party pamphlet for $15,000at a clip (until recently tax-deductible), join the President's Club for $1,000 ormore and clamor to pay high rates for places at testimonial dinners.
Again quoting Mr. Price after reviewing the influence of moneyin politics, Bernstein continues:
"'It is in seeking the nomination,' says Robert Price,'that wealth or access to it, counts most for the candidate. Once he wins the nomination,he already has the attraction of a winner, and he has the party apparatus at hisdisposal; until then, he is more or less on his own.'" John F. Kennedy's triumphover Hubert Humphrey in the West Virginia primaries is given as a case in point.
There are jungles of laws governing the use of money in theelectoral process but, as Bernstein shows, they are full of holes, obviously premeditated.
A political committee is allowed to receive or spend only $3million in any year, but the law applies only to committees operating in two or morestates--not to state or local committees and not to series of interstate committees.A candidate could legally have a hundred committees collecting $3 million each, or$300 million in all. He could have a local committee that collected the whole $300million.
. Every political committee under federal jurisdiction mustreport to the House of Representatives all contributors of $100 or more and all recipientsof $10 or more, but the reports are kept in Washington (for a period of only twoyears) and are not subject to check or audit.
Each Senate candidate may spend personally up to $25,000, eachHouse candidate up to $5,000 but there is no limit on contributions receivableor on what others spend for him. Each can legally have an infinity of committeesreceiving unlimited amounts.
No national bank, corporation or labor union may contributeas much as a dime to the election, primary, pre-nomination convention or caucus campaignof any federal candidate but officers of such entities may legally contributewithout limit and may form any number of "educational" and "nonpartisan"organizations.
No government contractor may contribute to a federal candidateduring the negotiations for or the life of his contracts but an officer ofa contracting firm may legally contribute without hindrance or limit.
No individual whatsoever, in the entire universe, may contributemore than $5,000 to any one candidate or any one committee during any calendar yearwhatsoever but --any individual may make an infinite series of $5,000 giftsto as many candidates or as many committees for a single candidate as he likes.
What all this means, behind the legalistic verbiage, is thatthe sky is the limit and that any individual, corporation, bank, labor union or otherentity whatever can contribute by various channels as much as it wants to any singleman or collection of men seeking office. The laws governing the use of money in elections,like the laws governing the use of money in rewarding public officials, are purebalderdash as far as interfering with the practice. The sole purpose of the lawsas drawn is, as in the case of the tax laws, to appease uninstructed public opinionand at the same time permit popularly irksome practices to continue without let-up.
And what all this shows most saliently is that influence overor ready access to the makers of public policy has very high cash value.
For readers who may feel that the sources I cite on this pointare not sufficiently conservative and are therefore tainted, we may turn once againto the trusty Wall Street Journal, under date of September 20, 1960. There,on the subject of campaign money, it is duly set forth:
"Where does all the money come from? Despite growing stresson little gifts, fund-raisers still depend on wealthy contributors who give $500or more. That's why Republican Chairman [Thruston] Morton made a special plea lastweek to the members of New York Union League Club, calling the party's financialproblem 'most difficult.' And that's why some Democrats are worried over possibledefections of Texas oil men. As a measure of concern, a Democratic team made up ofSen. Smathers of Florida and Rep. lkard of Texas last month gathered 100 Houstonoil men together to reassure them: Don't worry about the platform; the Democratswon't hurt you." Smathers and Ikard spoke truly.
One can always say this to people of wealth about both parties:Don't worry about the platform; you won't get hurt because the little old Establishmentand, most likely, the president himself have everything under nice control. The platformis pure blarney.
What would happen if Congress, for instance, passed a thoroughlyequitable tax law? For one thing, the members of Congress who voted for such a lawwould quickly find their extracurricular emoluments ended. The rich, it is well tonote, make their political contributions out of part of their tax savings, thus servingto keep public policies as they want them and at public cost. Neat. . . .
A Note on Methodology
On the score of method many political scientists would no doubtbe inclined to fault me for highlighting what they call the seamy side of politics.What they are almost uniformly inclined to do in their writings is to put it all"in perspective" by sandwiching in passing reference to these dealingsamong a vast mass of routine formal details. The story, as journalists say, getslost. It is buried in the salad.
If sports writers used their method in reporting a prizefight,they would chronologically and even-handedly record every punch and movement fromthe beginning and terminate with the drab curt statement that the champion finallyscored a knockout with an illegal punch on the back of the neck. The headline wouldread: FIGHT AT THE CARDEN. This would be "objectivity," but of a crazysort.
Instead, able (and permitted) to sift the significant from thetrivial, the seasoned sports writer is more apt to begin his account:
"Scoring a knock-out in the second minute of the ninthround with the illegal rabbit-punch, Plug-Ugly Muldoon last night retained the world'sheavyweight championship as excited fans jeered and threw pop bottles. Apparentlythe referee did not see the illegal punch and therefore did not disqualify the championalthough the blow was clearly visible from ringside.
"From the beginning it was a dirty fight with the loser,Ratsy Schlemiel, freely butting in the clinches and Muldoon levering in low blowsof explosive force. Still, the referee, for whom many have suggested an eye examinationor a long vacation, did not see although he twice warned each gladiator. . . ."
The headline on this masterpiece would read something like:
MULDOON RETAINS CROWN
IN DIRTY BRAWL AT GARDEN
SCHLEMIEL K.O.'D WITH FOUL BLOW
Newspaper reporting of Congress, however, ordinarily tends tofollow the drab cue given by the political scientists.
If congressional reporting in general were as forthright assports reporting, a headline on a congressional session might read somewhat as follows:
CONGRESS IN NEW TAX SWINDLE
CLIPS LABOR FORCE
AS STOCK PRICES SOAR
BONE THROWN TO BLIND VETS
PROSPERITY FOR ALL
The text would be similarly to the point.
In Defense of the Politician
For any reader who is now ready to bring in a hanging verdictagainst the genus politician Americanus, let me interpose a restraining caveat.
Under the American theory of government the people are sovereignand have the right to boot out any officeholder in duly prescribed elections. "Throwthe rascals out," has been the battle cry in many rousing elections, often comingfrom the throats of other rascals trying to squeeze in.
The assumption behind this apparent permissiveness is that thepeople (by definition good) know, or can sense mysteriously, who is deserving betweentwo politicians. But as seasoned politicians know, meritorious service is not sufficientto retain the favor of the electorate.
This could be shown by the citation of scores of cases but Iwill here cite a single recent lamentable case. Senator Kenneth B. Keating, Republicanincumbent, was defeated in New York in 1964 by Robert F. Kennedy, Democrat. The electoratehad no particular distaste for Keating, who had functioned as a liberal, voted forall measures preponderantly favored by New Yorkers and was roundly praised beforeand after his defeat by a wide spectrum of editorialists. As Senator Kennedy himselflater analyzed his victory, Keating made a tactical mistake by not merely standingin dignity on his record. Instead, Keating in the course of the campaign launcheda panicky attack on Kennedy as a carpetbagger from Massachusetts, thus opening thedoor to attention-getting verbal counter-blows by Kennedy which he could not otherwisehave delivered with any good grace.
The downfall of the civilized but non-lustrous Keating showedonce again that electoral tactics and the appearance of an attractive new face maycount in an election more heavily than unquestioned merit in office.
Having seen this sort of thing happen many times, knowing theditheriness of the electorate, the impecunious man in politics usually guards againstit by clandestine counter-organizational measures and by seeing to it while in officethat he gathers something of value to tide himself over in the event he is brusquelyturned out. The politician, in the form of his personal profit enterprises, his organizationand the various Establishments going up the line in a hierarchy, belongs to somethingvery analogous to an underground trade union. Committed for life to the holding ofpublic office, he does not intend to see himself unemployed or, if suddenly turnedout, without ready means of self-support. He is, in brief, intelligent within hiszany environment.
If arrangements similar to those affecting the politician appliedto all employees they would be forced, every two, four or six years, to debate withrivals for their jobs before company stockholders, customers and assorted cranks.If these thought a new candidate looked fresher, younger, more clean-cut, sexieror was better spoken or more churchly they would vote him in. It is precisely todefend themselves against critical judgments of that kind that workers, wheneverthey succeed in organizing, vociferously stress job seniority and job security. Thequixotic democratic idea that an officeholder, a man of no hereditary substance,dependent only upon his salary, should be subject to offhand dismissal every fewyears at the hands of the hoi polloi, thereupon to join the throng of jobseekers in the open labor market, is one that has little appeal for the ordinary,up-from-nowhere, jerk-water politician. He therefore guards against such a dire eventualityin every way he can think of, some highly aromatic and far out in left field.
What happens in the case of many successful politicians is thatthey are so intelligently careful about their many defensive measures, and so lucky,that they reap far more than job security and carryover money for life's arduousroad. They become authentically rich, in a position to thumb their noses at the foolishpublic, which they freely if covertly do.
It should not be thought that I am offering an apology for thepolitician in thus presenting him, accurately, as a job-protecting specialized workeron his way up in the world. I am simply offering the perspective from his personalpoint of view. It is because of the position he occupies under oath, transcendingin importance that of the physician-surgeon, that one holds him, after everythinghas been said on all sides, to the strictest accounting. When a physician-surgeonis able to enhance his own security by deviating from the highest canons of medicalpractice, as by performing unnecessary, high-fee operations, society and his peersdo not forgive him merely because his financial problem is understood. In the sameway we can safely condemn the typical off-the-soil politician: He is betraying histrue responsibilities in order to achieve personal accommodation vis-à-visthe mob.
The Upside-Down Republic
In his great Republic, praised by some, derided by others,Plato laid out a reasoned scheme of government in analogy with what his primitivepsychology comprehended of the individual. A man, as Plato saw it, consists chieflyof a head or rational function, the chest or spirited function (heart and lungs)and the stomach or appetitional function. People, as he saw them, were classifiableas these functions dominated their temperaments.
Because the head was presumptively the better (because rational)part of a man, Plato deduced that the head should rule the state. Hence a philosopheror man of learning should be king, assisted by similar men of learning. Should aruler be a man of knowledge or an ignorant man? Obviously, he should be a man ofknowledge. The safety of the state and its people required it. Who would deny it?
Subject to these rational, informed rulers--men of learningand intellectuals--would be men of the spirit, whom Plato called guardians and auxiliaries.Guardians corresponded to our civil service employees and auxiliaries to soldiers.As Plato saw them, both regarded personal honor or prestige (status) as the highestvalue just as the philosophers primarily valued knowledge and insight.
These strata in the Platonic Republic would lead very asceticlives, would own no property, would never marry and would conduct sexual relationsonly on rare occasions when perfect children were desired. Women as well as men wereequally to be guardians and auxiliaries. Children of these strata would be broughtup by special teachers, would never be left under the corrupting influence of theirdoting parents.
Below these strata would be the common people, perpetual victimsof their insatiable appetites, who would lead their confused catch-as-catch-can livesunder rules laid down from above, although they might rise into the ascetic strataif they wished. The people of the appetites might own property, marry, have and mal-educatetheir own children and copulate blissfully with all the abandon of Hindus on a holiday.
It is from Plato that we derive our high ideals of the lawgiver,rarely approached in reality, as anyone can see.
But although Plato's scheme, intended only as a didactic device,is now widely ridiculed by trivial minds, it is worth noticing that what we havein the United States is its exact opposite--hardly an improvement.
The rulers, in our present scheme, are people of the largestappetites, to whom most public deference is paid. While appetites exist among all,their greatest strength is obviously among the most voracious acquisitors, the richand their sycophants in office.
Rated considerably below these in public esteem are our guardiansand auxiliaries: civil servants and soldiers.
And, popularly rated lowest of all, are our philosophers ormen of learning. One must admit that the public is a bit ambivalent and confusedon this score owing to some colossal breakthroughs scored in recent years by thelearned and by no one else; but as between a plutocrat and a politician on the onehand and a professor or vagrant intellectual on the other any popular survey willshow that the professor, proverbially absent-minded and inept, is low man in thetotem-poll. He is in most schools kept on a tight leash held by trustees. He is rarelya free agent.
We are confronted, it is evident, with an exact inversion ofthe Platonic scheme. Yet some persons unreasonably expect the common people of thelarger appetites installed at the top to conduct themselves like Platonic philosophers,guardians and auxiliaries, which is much like expecting a gorilla to conduct himselflike a Lord Chesterfield.
In voting, politicians have noticed, the American electorateis hardly attracted by any except the most general Jeffersonian propositions. Ifthe inclination of the electorate were toward true Jeffersonianism, actually an invertedaristocratic doctrine, politicians would conduct themselves differently and speakdifferently. Any even slightly successful politician is fully aware that any office-seekerwho liberally salted his speeches with specific Jeffersonian views, or composed hisspeeches of actual Jeffersonian quotations, would be lucky to escape with his lifefrom the nearest functionally illiterate mob. Radicals and civil-righters of variousstripes have tried it again and again and have been deluged with rotten eggs, overripefruit, stones and local police attentions. The broad public is simply not democratic,would find Jefferson repugnant if they could read him. If any stray reader doubtsthis let him dip into Jefferson's writings here and there or select common topicsfrom their indexes.
For Jefferson, extolled in the abstract at annual JeffersonDay fund-raising dinners of the Democratic Party, was very close to being a politicalbedfellow of at least one prominent side of the later-coming Karl Marx and practicallythe antithesis of Lyndon B. Johnson and almost every American president since Lincoln.
Even more than in the Declaration of Independence Jeffersonelsewhere explicitly preached an inherent popular right to make revolution, by forceand violence, without awaiting a green light from the Supreme Court. The Confederacyacted precisely according to this doctrine although it did not in its support ofslavery (its true love) subscribe to the notion of equality. Nor is civil equalitythe ideal of the broad populace today, as one can See from popular reactions to theordinary claims of Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and a variety of other ethnicor national minority groups.
As anyone can readily detect, such sentiments are subversiveand are hardly subscribed to by any discernible portion of the electorate, whichinstantly identifies them as akin to Bolshevism and unconducive to job security andquiet viewing of night baseball on TV.
Two unequal strains have been woven through American politicsfrom the beginning. There has been patrician Jeffersonianism, largely given lip serviceexcept by patricians themselves here and there. And there has been Hamiltonianism.Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804), our first Secretary of the Treasury, was an ambitiouspoor boy in politics, a self-appointed spokesman for plutocracy and outright corruptionin politics as a way of insuring its hold. Hamilton detested the common people withmore fervor than is usual among those who have emerged from among them and did morethan anyone else at the inception to give American economic affairs and much of politicalaffairs their gamey flavor.
Slain in a duel with Aaron Burr, Hamilton fittingly lies buriedin Trinity Churchyard at the head of Wall Street.
As far as ascendant trends are concerned, in the United Statesone openly talks John Locke and Thomas Jefferson but surreptitiously acts AlexanderHamilton.
A Plan for Improvement
It is not the duty of the critic to suggest ways of improvinga bad show. After he has pronounced upon it his job is finished. A wide public, however,thinks otherwise and believes it stymies a critic when it says: "How would youimprove the script?" The presumption is that this would be difficult or impossibleto do.
Many cut-rate sages on the political fringes adopt this attitudeand say: "Democracy [meaning the present system] may be imperfect but it isthe best system possible."
Denying this completely, I shall here, for the benefit of skepticalcogitators, sketch in a few strokes significant improvements that could easily bewrought in the American system, although such improvements would by no means produceeverlasting salvation.
It cannot be denied that the best government would be that whichwas run by the most qualified men. As we see in the case of the medical profession,the. greatest proportion of qualified men is produced by rigorous attention to theireducation and training. Standards are imposed which prospective doctors must meet--inthe medical schools, in post-school training and in state licensing examinations.Nevertheless, some bad hats slip through event in the strictest jurisdictions, andsome degenerate into bad hats, which cannot readily be guarded against.
If a set of proper educational standards for officeholders wereadopted, those who met them could be assigned to a public panel from which all candidatesof any party would have to be chosen. In reply to nitwit sages who will say thatthis bars poor boys, the instruments of major corruption in politics, my reply is:Poor boys unable to afford schooling might qualify merely by passing the examinationsgiven to the schooled. 87
Just as one would not think of licensing a man as a surgeonon his plea that he was too poor to afford medical school, so one would not in awell-ordered polity think of licensing a poorly schooled office-seeker.
Under the scheme I here propose bad hats would slip throughbut their number would be so significantly reduced that they would have a hard timefinding enough fellow-travelers to caucus.
Again, no matter how strict the qualifications were, they wouldby no means intercept all inept politicians. While I can readily devise qualificationsthat would block out a Harding, a Coolidge, an Eisenhower, a Johnson and a hordein Congress, I do not, unfortunately, see any way of devising qualifications thatwould block out a Wilson or Hoover without at the same time blocking out some verygood men.
In the matter of qualifications, law-school training would,as I view the prospect, count for very little but first-class degrees from first-classschools (the emphasis being on first-class) in social studies, humanities and generalthought processes would be essential.
In the matter of improvement, attention should also be paidto those who select officeholders, those who vote. Improvement beyond the presentlevel could here be attained by a simple scheme of weighted voting. Every citizenwould have one vote, as at present. Those who finished grade school would have twovotes, high school four votes and college sixteen votes. As the educated populationis not evenly spread through all voting districts I would take the national averageand re-weight the voting strengths in each election district so as to conform tothe national average, distributing the voting power pro rata. Those who did not havethe formal schooling might be admitted to higher voting brackets by passing the sameexaminations passed by the schooled.
An ancillary good effect of this scheme would be to enhancethe status of learning in the populace by equating it with political power. Any two-votecitizen could readily convert himself into a four-vote citizen simply by meetinghigh school requirements through self-study or part-time attendance at any of themany schools. The four-vote citizen could similarly convert himself into a sixteen-voter.
The more sophisticated the voter the more able would he be todecide on candidates on the already thoroughly screened panel.
I would extend the scheme to jurors, who would be full-timeprofessionals, publicly salaried, of specially educated men sitting on public panels.Six-man juries, judges of the facts in every case, could probably do the job. Barredwould be the present catch-as-catch-can juries of the witless who return too manydubious verdicts. The trained jurors, all skilled in evaluating evidence under thelaw, would provide a reservoir of future aspirants to elective office.
Such a scheme would not eliminate interest biases and classbiases from voting, but it would soften them and would tend to eliminate much ofthe present chicanery and gullibility from politics.
Let not any reader suppose that I believe these extremely excellentideas, for which I obviously deserve a high decoration and an ample public pension,will be seized upon and put into effect by the powers-that-be, who have other fishto fry. I simply set these notions down to make it evident that the present systemdoes not contain the ultimate in entirely workable and sensible political ideas.And, who knows, in some happier day they may bear fruit for the Republic.
Only those who would deny that the ascertainably most qualifiedpersons should run the government and should have greater weight in selecting governmentpersonnel can rationally oppose this plan, which can be put into force without anygreat disturbance to fundamental institutions.