• U.S.

National Affairs: Blinks of Philadelphia

3 minute read

It was difficult to prophesy election results in Philadelphia. The effect of Philadelphia’s bootleg investigation had to be considered (TIME, Sept. 17 et seq.). In that citadel of Vare Republicanism the Volstead act carried all its ghostly, malevolent outriders. Flagrant police corruption had been exposed. Suspects in higher positions has ceased to wink, begun to blink. The Vare regime was receiving unwelcome, unpleasant publicity.

It was District Attorney John Monaghan who directed the Special Grand Jury’s investigation. During the eleven weeks before Election Day he arrested more than 40 policemen and racketeers.

He examined innumerable others. He jailed & fined two police captains and three district detectives on charges of extortion, bribery, conspiracy. He kept on gunning for culprits.

It was Matthew J. Patterson, portly Vareman, State Legislator, boss of the 19th ward, who found himself jailed for five years, fined $7,500. “Extortion, bribery & conspiracy” rang dismally in his ears.

It was Mayor Harry A. Mackey who was passive for a while, who scorned the idea that municipal extortionists could exist among the police or elsewhere. But at length he ordered a wholesale transfer of the police force. He compared the reports of new and old incumbents of the precincts. On the basis of later Grand Jury reports he suspended from office almost one half of the executive police officers—three out of five inspectors, 18 out of 43 captains. These men had been found “unfit to hold any position in the municipal government.” Their bank accounts revealed “unexplained wealth” amounting to $798,000.

It was Judge Edwin O. Lewis who started the investigation, who was its consistent supporter. He referred to the Grand Jury reports as “an amazingly sordid recital.”

It was Max “Boo Boo” Hoff who had been characterized as the bootleg tsar, Borgian in intrigue, monstrously and illicitly wealthy. But he declared himself bankrupt. And his lawyer suggested lavish Hoff philanthropy. Students of the situation wondered whether the term “philanthropy” included the hundreds of Christmas turkeys that policemen had received from “Boo Boo” in recent years.

It was Edward S. Goldberg whose Military Sales Company sold machine guns & bullet-proof vests to “Boo Boo” and others.

It was Joel D. Kerper who peddled drinkables to prominent Philadelphia clubmen & tycoons. Many of these flawlessly tailored citizens appeared to testify. ‘Legger Kerper went to jail for 15 months, paid a fine of $20,000.

Gin mills, racketeers, grafters were not all. Bordellos, roulette wheels & lottery dens also figured in the testimony. From time to time Philadelphians were treated to the graphic evidence of a gang murder, racketeer ructions in the purlieus of the city. Never before had Pennsylvanians read of such corruption in city government. It was enough to give any voter pause. Varedom was in jeopardy.

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