• U.S.

INVESTIGATIONS: The Other Chairman

3 minute read

In its four weeks of tracking down Washington’s influence peddlers, the Senate’s subcommittee on investigations had interviewed 32 witnesses and piled up 2,432 pages of transcript. Last week it wound up its hearings with testimony about relations between the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and the Democratic and Republican national chairmen.

H. Turney Gratz, Kansas City friend of Democratic National Committee Chairman Bill Boyle, was called to the stand to explain about his income. During the four years that he was a second-rung executive in the RFC, Gratz said, Boyle had paid him $11,000 for “outside work.” Boyle, at the time, was a private attorney representing, among others, clients trying to get RFC loans. Gratz insisted that he had earned the $11,000 by keeping Boyle’s personal books and handling his investments after hours, although he was neither an accountant nor an investment expert. He admitted introducing hundreds of friends to the right people at RFC, but never sought “favors” for any, he said. Boyle quit paying Gratz for his outside work in January 1950, when Gratz left RFC and went over to the DemocraticNational Committee as a paid executive assistant.

Guy George Gabrielson, chairman of the Republican National Committee, dropped in to explain why he has been getting paid $25,000 a year for looking after the $18.5 million loans of Carthage Hydrocol, Inc., a Texas corporation which makes petroleum out of natural gas. He is president and counsel of the company, Gabrielson testified, but has never tried to use “influence.” He called many times on Republican Harvey J. Gunderson when Gunderson was RFC director in charge of the Carthage Hydrocol loan. He called on RFC’s new boss, Stuart Symington, to talk about a delay on the payments. And in October 1950, after Gunderson got the news that the President wasn’t going to reappoint him to RFC, Gabrielson tried unsuccessfully to get him a job as president of the New York Stock Exchange.

Gabrielson expressed amusement that anyone would think his activities improper. “It is inconceivable to me,” said he, “to believe that a chairman of a party that is not in power could have any possible influence.” Some highly embarrassed Republicans in Congress didn’t think it would sound so inconceivable to the voters. With the backing of such old Gabrielson defenders as Colorado’s Eugene Millikin, and with no opposition from Ohio’s Bob Taft and Maine’s Owen Brewster, they tried to get Gabrielson to resign. He refused.

It was obvious that the issue of corruption and influence in the Truman Administration was shaping up as one of the G.O.P.’s strongest campaign weapons, and Gabrielson was showing a peculiar insensitivity to party welfare by clawing on to both his political job and Carthage Hydrocol. California’s Richard Nixon, a Republican member of the Senate subcommittee, put the point bluntly this week: “[Gabrielson’s] effectiveness as chairman of the minority party has been irreparably damaged because the charges against him will constantly be used to camouflage and confuse the issue . . .”

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