Sunday, June 13, 2010

When Thoughts Flood In

Sheldon Spear. Daniel J. Flood: A Biography. The Congressional Career of an Economic Savior and Cold War Nationalist. Bethlehem, Pa.: Lehigh University Press, 2008.

Flood was an eccentric dresser, looking like a vaudeville actor. Flood knew this would help attract attention, so he played the role.

Flood won oration contests while in college. He became an attorney. He first spoke in public for Franklin Roosevelt’s election in 1932, speaking in a garage. He handled the Luzerne County Democratic Speakers Bureau in 1934. He served in some offices before being elected to Congress on his third try. He first had to win a primary with party organization support versus “Win the War” Democrats who complained that the candidates of the party organization all held state jobs.

Flood proposed establishing Palestine as a nation for Jewish people. He was the Congressional envoy to Jose Bustamanti Riveros’ inauguration as Peru’s President;. Flood urged Sweden not to give Lithuanians captured as German soldiers to the Soviet Union, arguing they had been forced into serving in the German army and he feared the Soviets might kill the Lithuanians.

Flood fought for anthracite coal stockpiling as something good for the national welfare. Labor Secretary Maurice Lohin feared such a designation could be used to crush mine workers strikes. Navy Undersecretary Dan Kimball feared this could increase the cost of coal, which was an important part of Navy’s budget. Flood’s efforts on this matter died in Congressional committee.

Flood opposed the St. Lawrence Seaway. This made it easier for ships to reach the Great Lakes. This also helped support the sale of anthracite coal to Canada.

Flood called for creating a Council on Chronic Unemployment in the President’s Executive Office.

Flood almost single handedly led an unsuccessfully effort to fight cutting the Voice of America’s budget by 90%.

Flood was accused of helping the Hazleton Steel and Tubing Corporation obtain $7.8 million. This company was operated in part by Benjamin Dowd, who had been previously accused of war profiteering. A Congressional investigation led to the funds being withdrawn. While Flood denied doing anything inappropriate, this helped led to his defeat in 1952 as his opponent, Hazleton’s Mayor Edward Bonin, used it against him.

Flood returned to Congress after the 1954 elections. The Political Education Committee of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Unions campaign hard for Flood.

Flood was a defender of the Panama Canal. He believed the U.S. has absolute sovereignty over the Canal. His support won alliance with many “right wing” and conservative groups. Flood also expressed support for the dictatorial government in Guatemala because it opposed communism, even if it was sometimes a brutal government.

The Eisenhower Administration stated that Panama had titular sovereignty over the Panama Canal. Flood responded that the State Department was controlled by “sustained surrenders” to communists. When President Eisenhower allowed Panama’s flag to fly within the Canal Zone, Flood threatened to have Eisenhower impeached. Others in Congress, including Sen. J. William Fulbright, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, argued that giving Panama a larger role in the Canal Zone strengthened the U.S. in the Zone by reducing Panamanian opposition to America’s governance.

The Knox Mine underground mine flood disaster of 1959 led to many mines closing. Flood sought to preserve anthracite coal mining. He got the military to stop Indiantown Gap military reservation from switching to oil instead of continuing to use anthracite coal.

Sen. Joseph Clark and other members of Congress joined in Flood’s effort to defend anthracite coal mining.

Flood worked to get interstate highways (todayI-80 and I-81) built to serve his district. The Federal government provided 90% of funds for new highways. Flood fought opponents who wanted to widen existing roads. Flood argued his plan would create a short route between New York City and Chicago.

Flood was devoted to his constituent work, He also saw that those with political connections received favors regarding military service requirements.

Flood was in favor of a strong military, although he did call the build-up of armaments between the U.S. and the Soviet Union as “overkill”. He supported a nuclear test ban. He was a staunch critic of Soviet oppression in Eastern Europe.

Flood’s influence could not prevent shifting Veterans Administration positions from Wilkes Barre to Philadelphia. Caseload need supported the shift and Flood was unable to prevent positions being transferred.

It is noted that when Flood was Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) that his district received less in HEW funds that the national average.

Flood made a priority of helping his district deal with flooding and its aftermath from Hurricane Agnes. He spent 14 workdays and answered over 15,000 correspondences concerning the flood.

Flood’s office was busy. They would type each of 6,000 congratulatory letters to high school graduates, among their other duties.

Flood favored economic development assistance to Haiti, despite that fact it was a dictatorship led by Jean Claude Duvalier. Some investors seeking to build gambling establishments in Haiti indicated they were required to illegally give money to Flood and Duvalier. The FBI brought no charges.

Flood was indicted on charges of accepting illegal funds to help a school get accreditation. A person pled guilty to bribing Flood and Flood’s aide Stephen Elko and then produced much evidence of bribery schemes that involved Elko. Flood, who was then sixth in seniority in Congress, was stripped of his powerful committee positions while awaiting trial. Elko testified to various bribes over several years. Flood’s health deteriorated during the scandal and trail. He spent over 200 days in the hospital, mostly from exhaustion. The first trial resulted in a mistrial. Flood pled guilty to avoid a second trail. Flood lived for another 15 years.


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