Corruption at the Capitol, 1910-style

Lewis Hine Schdy newsies 1910 halfton
Tne New International Year Book, “A Compendium of the World’s Progress for the Year 1910,” provides a neat little summary of the complicated dealings of Senator Allds, highlighted yesterday when I wondered about the headlines being displayed by Lewis Wickes Hine’s Schenectady Newsies of 1910. The Allds scandal had it all: bribery, bridge and sugar beet interests, thousands stuffed into envelopes, uncovering of additional corruption, and guilty legislators who had the good grace to die before all this came to light. So, from precisely a century ago, the New International Year Book’s summary of the Trial of Senator Allds:

The death of Senator John Raines in 1909 made it necessary to choose a new leader of the Republican majority in the Senate. This leader, according to custom, is made president pro tempore of the body. In January the Republican caucus selected Senator Jotham P. Allds from Chenango county in the middle of the State. A small group of Republican Senators refused to act with the caucus on the ground of personal objection to Mr. Allds. The caucus selection was, however, duly chosen and installed. Shortly afterwards, a highly sensational statement appeared in the New York Evening Post charging Senator Allds with having received bribes, the statement being based upon accusations made by another Senator, Mr. Conger. The latter was connected with bridge companies . . .

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which built and repaired bridges under the control of the county and
local authorities. Changes in laws affecting the matter of procedure by
the highway authorities in their respective localities would have a
bearing upon the business of the bridge companies and it was to their
interest to prevent the passage of certain amendments to the highway
laws. The bridge companies were said to have collected and disbursed
certain money to ward off undesired legislation and Senator Conger
asserted that Senator Allds had accepted certain amounts of this money.
Senator Allds denied this accusation and demanded a trial and
resolutions were at once passed providing for a hearing by the full
Senate sitting as a judicial body.

Senator Conger testified that in his presence Hiram G. Moe,
representing the interests of several bridge companies, including
Conger’s, had paid to Senator Allds, then the leader of the Republican
majority in the Assembly, $1000 to procure the killing of a bill which
was distasteful to the companies.  It appeared further from his
testimony that the total amount furnished by the companies was $6000,
of which $1000 was given to Senator Allds, and $4000 to Assemblyman
Jean L. Burnett, now dead. A second envelope containing $1000, he
testified, was given to S. Frederick Nixon, Speaker of the Assembly
from 1899 to the time of his death, 1905. Senator Conger testified that
the companies had raised funds to influence legislation not only in the
year in question, but in 1902, 1903, and 1905. The same bill, which
restricted the freedom of township officers in dealing with bridge
companies without specific authority from the people, had been brought
forward at every session and had been used, he alleged, to extort money
from the companies. He declared that in 1905 the legislators raised
their demand to $10,000, which the companies refused to pay. As a
punishment to them the bill was made a law. Senator Allds, on taking
the stand in his own defense, denied that he had received $1000, or had
ever taken a bribe designed to affect legislation. He declared that he
had never seen Moe and that the incidents testified to by Senator
Conger had never taken place.

After the hearing of testimony, which occupied seven weeks, the Senate
on March 29 voted upon the question whether the charges of Senator
Conger against Senator Allds had been sustained. Some hours before the
vote was taken Senator Allds resigned, by advice of his counsel. By a
vote of 40 to 9 the Senate declared that he was guilty. Four
Republicans and five Democrats voted in his favor.

Legislative Inquiry.
These revelations led to the introduction in the
legislature of bills for a broader investigation of legislative
conditions. These bills were passed and a committee of the legislature
was appointed to investigate any instances of legislative corruption
within their knowledge. Governor Hughes’s recommendation that the
powers of the legislative graft committee be enlarged were disregarded
by the legislature. The committee was made up from the membership of
the Senate and the Assembly, and the Hon. M. Linn Bruce, a former
lieutenant-governor was chosen as counsel. The committee was
practically confined, by the action of the legislature, to those
evidences of corruption disclosed by the Senate investigation during
the trial of Senator Allds and the investigation into insurance matters
conducted by Superintendent Hotchkiss. During the progress of the
inquiry a charge was made that Frank J. Gardner, a Republican member of
the Senate from Brooklyn, had attempted to bribe certain members of the
legislature to vote against race track bills passed in 1908. Gardner
was indicted and was arrested at Scranton, Pa., October 13. The
testimony upon which his arrest was based was that of Congressman Otto
G. Foelker, who in 1908 was State Senator. Foelker cast the deciding
vote in favor of the passage of the bill, arising from his sick bed to
do so. He charged that Gardner had sent for him and attempted to buy
his vote, remarking that he would pay him $2000 more than some other
senators would receive. Another witness testified that Gardner had
admitted to him that the opponents of the bills had used a corruption
fund of $500,000, which was placed in the hands of a man who now held
prominent office, and that this man profited by failing to keep the
agreements made with certain legislators. Gardner, on the witness
stand, refused to testify and was held in contempt of court.

In October Henry F. Zimmelin, formerly vice-president and
representative at Albany of the Lyons Beet Sugar Refining Company
testified before the committee that he had paid $3000 a year for the
last three years to the late John Raines, who was at that time the
leader of the Republican majority in the State Senate. he testified
also that $3000 had been paid to Jean L. Burnett, a Representative who
has since died, and that small sums were paid to other legislative
officials. The company was interested in a law giving a bounty for beet
sugar and wished to prevent a repeal of the statute. It was said that
in 11 years the State paid $545,000 in bounties for the manufacture of
beet sugar, but in 1908 payment ceased as a result of the opposition of
Governor Hughes, and that soon after this company went into bankruptcy.
There was also testimony showing the collection by assessment of sums
of money by the Street Railway Association for use at Albany and in
political campaigns. It was alleged that one assessment of $8000 paid
by the Metropolitan Street Railway Company had been disguised as the
payment of damages to an imaginary person for injuries received.

Insurance Investigation.

An investigation into the conduct of certain fire insurance companies
in the State was carried on in March by Superintendent Hotchkiss, the
head of the New York Insurance Department. In the course of this
investigation it was alleged that certain fire insurance companies had
paid large sums of money apparently for the purpose of influencing
legislation. E.R. Kennedy, a fire insurance broker, and a member of the
legislative committee of the New York Board of Fire Underwriters,
testified that in 1901 as a representative of the companies, he had
expended $13,311 at Albany, in connection with the passage and
enactment of a bill designed to exempt the re-insurance reserves of
fire companies from taxation. He testified also that about $5000 was
paid to influential politicians and that the same amount was given to
the Republican State Committee. It was said that during the six years
ended 1906, the insurance companies representing the New York Board of
Fire Underwriters had paid something more than $100,000 in “legal
expenses” at Albany in connection with legislation pending there, the
chief agent in these transactions being William H. Buckley, a
politician who had been a subordinate officer in the insurance
department. He admitted that in one year he had received $27,000 from
the companies for legal services, although he did not appear in any
proceeding as an attorney of record. It was shown also that he borrowed
large sums from officials of fire companies.

On April 11, Governor Hughes transmitted to the legislature a
preliminary report from Superintendent Hotchkiss relating to his
inquiry. The governor declared that Mr. Hotchkiss had come upon certain
suggestive facts which required investigation. He stated further that
he considered it a promising opportunity to investigate all alleged
corruption which had been carried on in recent years in the State
legislature. In accordance with his request the legislature adopted a
resolution providing for a comprehensive investigation by a joint
committee of three Senators and five Representatives, to report on
March 1, 1911.

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