• U.S.


3 minute read

When Federal Trade Commissioner Lowell Mason spoke before the hardware manufacturers convention in Atlantic City last week, startled hardwaremen wondered if they were hearing aright. He addressed them as “fellow law-violators” and told them they were all probably violating the Supreme Court decision which FTC had won against basing points (TIME, July 19). He urged them to write their Congressmen to nullify the decision and ridiculed the FTC’s enforcement of it by reciting a jingle.

The hardwaremen were hearing aright, all right. Ever since he was named to FTC in 1945, gum-chewing, wisecracking Lowell Mason has been giving the other four FTC members a running hotfoot. He has usually dissented from their decisions, has continually talked and written against the whole method of FTC law enforcement.

How did such a bird ever get in FTC’s nest? As Mason tells it, that is quite a story. The son of Illinois ex-Senator William E. Mason, he went to Washington in 1934 as a lawyer with NRA. When that job folded, he was so broke that for a time he lived on Fig Newtons. Then his good friend Billy Richardson, part owner of the Washington Senators, gave him a free box alongside the dugout at the ball park.

Mason liked to ask in less favored guests from poorer seats, men like Harry Truman (then a Senator), Bob Taft and Arthur Vandenberg. Soon Mason’s box was their favorite hangout. Lawyer Mason’s business grew with his friendships. Many clients hired him to defend them before FTC. His income rose to $37,000 before he gave it up for his $10,000 job (as a Republican member of FTC) when good friend Harry Truman offered it.

Mason’s FTC colleagues take a dim view of his contention that FTC, instead of enforcing the antitrust laws, should “educate” business by telling trade associations how they should police their own houses. Mason argues tirelessly that it is “unfair” to prosecute one company while others are permitted to get away with the same thing. Grumbled one colleague: “I expect him to set that to music.”

Under FTC’s rotation system, Mason is due to become FTC chairman next January (for one year) but privately he fears that the other members* will stop rotating if he does not shut up. Nevertheless, this week Mason kept on talking. “Down in my shop,” he told the Boston Conference on Distribution, “it seems as though business is a pretty bad thing.” Then he recited another jingle:

Eenie meenie minie dink

Throw one merchant in the clink.

Eenie meenie minie moe

Let the other merchants go.

*Republican Robert E. Freer, Democrats Garland S. Ferguson, Ewin L. Davis and William A. Ayres.

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