Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Flashback: Strategizing two City Congressional Campaigns—Republican Hoellen vs. Democrat Pucinski on the Northwest Side and Republican Reed vs. Democrat Dawson on the South Side.

[Fifty years plus in politics for my kids and grandchildren].

As a born Chicagoan…but as one whose political experience had been limited to pure, pristine Minnesota…I determined to get the practical feel of city politics by strategizing for two congressional campaigns in 1966 in districts widely different: the city’s 6th (in 1966), basically the city’s north and northwest sides with some run into the suburbs, represented by Rep. Roman Pucinski (D), the city’s foremost Polish-American politician and the 1st, the South Side ward represented by Rep. William Dawson, patriarch of the black Democratic party whose move to that party from the GOP produced a massive shift of African American votes to the Democrats. I had no illusion whatever that Republicans could win the 1st but with unrest in white areas with the liberal Democratic party, the 6th was do-able if our candidate could work skittishly and avoid any taint of racism. Anyway, I wanted to get the feel. I wasn’t a paid operative, still continued by day job with Quaker but used my free time to strategize on these campaigns.

The 6th was do-able because in 1966 the fruits of LBJ’s outpouring of federal anti-poverty funds and liberal court decisions concerning busing were producing evidences of backlash in the white areas of the nation’s urban centers. The Republican nominee here was John Hoellen, a big, pudgy, Germanic Lutheran alderman with a volcanic temper; yet a well-educated, Northwestern law school grad whose family had a well-known shoe store in the 47th ward; who had joined the city council as a reformer, working first with Paul Douglas and later Robert Merriam against the Daley machine.

Hoellen was no red-neck, was sophisticated in the ways of Chicago, a sophisticated businessman and lawyer-litigator, no race baiter but when I scouted him he had an orator’s way of trying to capitalize on discontent in speeches to neighborhood crowds that gave me some pause. But what gave me more concern was the fact that he had hired for advertising and communications the number one grunt in the Republican party, Tom Drennan who was abetted by the number two, Jim Mack, then a public affairs executive with Illinois Tool but who was 100% allied in the effort to elect Sheriff Dick Ogilvie to the county board presidency. He had done it to ingratiate himself with the Ogilvie faction in hopes they would help him. In turn, they saw anything that Hoellen could do in the 6th as immediately beneficial to Ogilvie. The fact that I had the role of campaign manager was distinctly unfavorable to them because they wouldn’t be able to call all the shots unchallenged —although they agreed that it would be beneficial for one reason.

Billy the Kid called it. “They like you as campaign manager because you can get them—augggghh—money!” he said.

You like doing that, don’t you? I said.

The next noon at our first strategy-lunch while the two grunts devoured sandwiches on my bill at the M & M Club, feeding their faces with both hands and slurping coffee while kicking about the quality of food, Drennan brought it up first, between burps.

“Wherzzzzza auggggh? D’you think [burp] your boss’ll pop…” and he was forced to pull some food out of his mouth in order to breathe, an edifying sight, “for--.”

“…for money?” Mack supplied.

No I don’t. My involvement isn’t tied to that. He has enough to do as National Committeeman. This is for my own education, gentlemen. I’ve been in this work eleven years—in Minnesota, of course, not here—and I may be helpful but actually it’s a learning experience for me. I think I have something to supply in terms of experience and writing.

“Hows `bout trade [burp], trade `sociation augghh?” said Drennan.

Beg pardon?

“He means trade associations your company belongs to,” said Mack. “Their members give money.”

Look, you have a finance chairman don’t you?


He’ll look after the money. If I can be helpful in that department, I will. You guys should get over this thing about looking at people as sources of money which you decide alone how to spend. I realize that’s how you ordinarily work but that’s not going to be the way we work now. I’m a full partner in this thing not the money-tree or I’ll quit. And with it I suspect the National Committee might lose interest.

Drennan looked at me suspiciously as he slurped his coffee. “Izzzzat a augghhhr?”

I was learning how to interpret him by now. “Is that a threat?”

No, just the fact. This idea that you beckon your finger and say “more money, augghgh, burp” is famous, you know. Get the idea now that I’m not a 41st ward heeler living to follow your orders of “money aughhgh, burp.” We plan the strategy together or I’m out. Besides the next time we meet Hoellen had better be here and play a decisive role in this or I’m out. Your decision.

Drennan picked up a toothpick, grimaced and probed his teeth. “Smhiururttt.”


“He didn’t say anything,” said Mack.

The next time we met, Hoellen was along. I broached an idea that, believe it or not, was new at the time: lawn signs. Lawn signs had started in the suburbs of Minneapolis—Minnetonka, to be exact. Walter Judd was the first congressman to grab them; his lawns signs became famous to the point where a main full-page color ad in the Minneapolis papers was “here’s the famous Walter Judd lawn sign—rip it out and paste it up yourselves.” The next day along with our regular cardboard ones, the city’s front lawns were covered.

“What are they?” asked Hoellen, dubiously.

“Who prints `em [burp]?” asked Drennan.

“They’ll never work here,” said Hoellen derisively. “Never. They’ll be gone overnight.”

“Rnnmmnnn,” said Drennan.


“He said rain will take care of them,” said Hoellen.

All agreed except me. But I dropped the idea.

Which shows you how definitively dogmatic Republican so-called professionals were and can be which Chuck Percy himself described as “the attitude.” They were--and are--often wrong but never in doubt.

That was the 6th district. In the 1st, a group of young black professionals, all college-educated, were dissatisfied with the old-line Democratic party…tired of standing in line for everything: opportunities to run for office, notably and, having gone to Drake University in Des Moines with scholarships, were lifting their eyes beyond the usual black neighborhood inducements to questioning the Democratic party. They formed around one bright young man—David Reed—who kept asking pesky questions which irritated precinct captains and ward committeemen: (a) why if the Democratic party was so good for African Americans were the neighborhoods in such terrible shape…(b) why, if the Democratic party under Lyndon Johnson so good, were jobs so hard to get…(c) why, if the Democratic party was so compassionate, did its feudal structure require long years of apprenticeship to hacks before young people could move up?

Of course, Reed had figured it out. The answers were clear then and are clearer now, albeit accepted by only a few. To (a): the neighborhoods were in terrible shape because of discrimination from the downtown Democratic party of Richard J. Daley…to (b) jobs were so hard to get because the inner-city was almost entirely a prison of government institutions with USSR-style subsidies and little private industry…and (c) the ward committeemen-straw-bosses, headed by the big boss, 80-year-old Rep. William Dawson (D-IL), ruler of the entire black South Side had a vested interest in supporting only those sycophants who were willing to spend years serving in menial machine posts so that they themselves wouldn’t be dislodged.

I had bumped into Reed a year earlier and now he called me and said that he was willing to shake up the troops by running against Dawson for Congress: with little or no hope of winning but to emit a few sparks of resistance. Most of the “New Breed” were connected with the private sector anyhow and they had young people with them who wanted nothing better than to stage a revolution of sorts. Reed ran against Dawson the first time in 1964 in the Democratic primary; then, like Dawson himself, who had been a Republican but switched to the Democratic party, Reed became a Republican. He ran in 1966, got the nomination, and I served as a liaison between him and my boss, the Republican National Committeeman, Bob Stuart, and the Percy for Senate campaign.

We agreed that Reed would have his own set of issues unique from the Republicans’: he would support certain domestic ventures that were not part of either party’s specific program. Tax incentives for the inner city was one; probably more federal programs than the national GOP would like as a kind of sweetener—but most were concurrent with standard Republican doctrine. Frankly, Reed was less of an integrationist than white liberal Democratic dogmatists; he believed in pluralism and denied that black well-being depended on forced busing to white schools.

Instead he demanded for black schools the federal assistance that even in LBJ’s Great Society he proved statistically went to white schools. In a very real sense, Reed’s program was not inconsistent with John Hoellen’s. Hoellen opposed forced busing which was then new as did Reed. Both were eloquent about the discriminatory effects of the Democratic party of Richard J. Daley—Reed from the vantage-point of being a well-educated young black man and Hoellen from his berth as a prime opponent, with independent Democratic aldermen, to Daley’s machine.

It was with Reed that I first saw the corrosive effect of vote fraud to swell the already great Democratic numbers enabling the party’s statewide ticket to win. It was only six years after the narrow election of John F. Kennedy over Richard Nixon. Reed, who knew from the start what his electoral fate would be, had invited me to make a tour with him very, very early on the morning of election day, 1966 to see evidences of vote fraud. Accordingly, I went to bed early the night before at the Illinois Athletic Club and he picked me up at about 4:30 a.m. We made the rounds of his inner-city district where the polls were supposed to open at 6 a.m. A number of the polls were located in store-fronts. In those days, votes were cast on voting machines which had curtains that automatically pulled back to ensure privacy.

We swung by a number of the storefronts from 5 to 6 a.m. to view the scene through the storefront windows: precinct captains standing at the machines before opening of the polls, casting votes repeatedly with the curtains flying open and flying shut over and over and over again. That sight led me to join others to form an organization called Project LEAP (Legal Elections in All Precincts) which recruited honest judges of election and poll-watchers to try to stem the tide of vote fraud. But the sight of the curtains flying open and closing, open and closing repeatedly made me sick because it meant theft of and dilution of honestly cast ballots. No matter what you say about Richard Nixon, there is no doubt in my mind—because I had seen it—that this vote fraud duplicated throughout the entire city—elected John F. Kennedy to countervail the honest decision of the voters to elect Nixon. I calculated that on the basis of what we saw, at least up to 250,000 fraudulent ballots could well have been cast in Cook county alone.

To which the liberals, so dramatically shocked by any other abuse, have always maintained a good deal of humorous skepticism. One answer is that the blacks would have cast ballots for Democrats anyhow. Not in that avalanche number: not that many people were interested in going to the polls. And if they did go to the polls , why the need for such wholesale theft? Another is that then solidly Republican DuPage county was doing the same. Not in the slightest. Were Hinsdale’s precinct captains doing the same? Do you think Hinsdale’s Republican captains were beholden to a machine for jobs to the extent that they would get to the polls at 4 a.m. and run up the totals with the curtains flying open and closed? Com’on. The sins of Hinsdale involve other actions, not these. This was unique vote theft even if you acknowledge that corruption isn’t endemic to only one party. But the real answer as to the dispassion of liberals to corruption then and now is that they benefited.

The question I asked Billy the Kid later was: how can any Republican get in with such vote-fraud? How could Ogilvie get in?

“Hmmm,” he said with a wise smile. “How do you suppose?”

By cutting deals with the machine?

“The very idea!” he said in mock horror. “How could you imagine such a thing?”

Did you cut a deal with old man Daley when the Dems ran the low-key, uncharismatic and boring Judge Richard Austin in 1956?

“Daley thought he was giving me enough of a deal when he picked Austin who had no political ability whatsoever.”

You’re saying there was no vote fraud against you then?

“Are you kidding? But we minimized it.”


“What the hell are you—my confessor? I decline to answer. Pass the butter.”

Later it developed he had echelons of off-duty state troopers from across the state in plain clothes visiting city polling places to tamp down the fraud, even to the extent of banging on doors starting at 4:30 a.m. to stop the “early voting” but even then the vote fraud was great. That’s the stuff you had to put up with in the “city that works.”

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