24 MARCH 1967, Page 5

Keeping one senator poor


Washington—Could there be a better indication of the national inanition than that, since December, the Congress should have been occupied by the contemplation of no disorders other than its own internal ones?

The House of Representatives spent three months contending with the sins of Adam Clay- ton Powell and devised no way to avoid his returning unrepentant to the bar on intermit- tent occasions of embarrassment for the next two years; and now the Senate has been turn- ing to the sins of United States Senator Thomas J. Dodd of Connecticut. Senator Dodd admits that 470,00 dollars had been raised for his poli- tical campaigns between 1961 and 1965 and that he spent nearly 150,000 of them to pay his own private debts, improve his house, meet his per- sonal income taxes, take his wife to Miami, etc., etc., etc.

The Senator's trial ended for most purposes the day it began with his grey affirmation of the facts of his balance sheet; still it seemed likely to go on at least two weeks with the court proceeding listlessly towards a conviction and a suspended sentence. The afternoon of its second day, the buzzer sounded suddenly in the hearing room to announce that there was a roll call on the Senate floor; and the defendant Dodd was on his feet and out of the Chamber before any of his judges could get off the bench. We are witnessing the first great state trial in memory subject to interruption so the defendant and the jurors can all go out and vote together on matters affecting the national welfare.

Tableaux of this sort have been taken by the black nationalists and others of the innocent as indicating one standard for Senator Dodd and quite another for Congressman Powell, who was barred from any function in the House while he was at the bar. In fairness, there is a difference: Powell's was the trial of sincere shamelessness by false piety, while Dodd's is the trial of false piety by false piety, and it is basic to the common law that a defendant gets a fairer trial when his peers sit on his jury.

Then again, Congressman Powell scared the horses out of their wits; he appears in fact to be the sort of man who would think a private excess not worth indulging unless it were per- formed on television. Last January, every Con- gressman's mail indicated that more voters were exercised against Powell than cared one way or another about the Vietnam war. For another, he treated his judges with blatant contumely, while Dodd has muted his roars to his mimeo- graph machine, whose outpourings turn out rather touching in their wistful assurance that

voters are incapable of adding and subtracting. Then too, whenever Congressman Powell's friends argued that every Congressman does something he ought not to, they had to con- tend with the evidence that Powell had in fact done everything he ought not to have done.

Dodd's sins, in contrast, are notable less for their breadth than for their degree: without private wealth, no Senator can sustain the costs of office on his 35,000-dollar annual salary; private subsidies are so usual a custom that poor Dodd's are unusual only for the extreme penury they indicate and the desperation with which he solicited them. The Senate must punish him—the hypocrisies require no less— but it will do so with anything but the com- fortable sense that it is punishing a stranger: there is no chance of his expulsion.

Senator Dodd's legislative passions are con- centrated on the perils of communism and juvenile delinquency, a fortunate bias since they make him the object of the beneficent notice of businessmen who might otherwise find his loyalty to the domestic social programme of the Democrats somewhat offputting. The main witnesses against him were his former personal secretary, his former administrative assistant, and his former office manager, an alarming percentage of serpents to have sat unrecognised in the bosom of a Senator whose mission is. the detection of subversives. These apostates rifled the Senator's files after their departure, an act hardly calculated to make them attractive to other Senators but productive enough of evi- dence to make it impossible not to judge them compelling as witnesses.

The pieties these renegades have assaulted were perfectly expressed and defended by Arthur B. Powers, treasurer of a testimonial din- ner held for Senator Dodd in November 1961, with then Vice-President Johnson as the chief speaker. All of Dodd's friends knew, Powers said, that his finances were desperate and that only a one-hundred-dollar-a-plate dinner could

In? . . . Out? . . . In? . Out?

get his head above water. 'The Senator was very reluctant,' Powell said: 'he objected; his friends insisted.'

Earlier James Boyd, his defected administra- tive assistant, had indicated that Thomas J. Dodd had no friend quite as insistent as Thomas J. Dodd. The dinner's management was, he said, 'primarily Senator Dodd.' Dodd's office typed the names of 1,500 prospective guests, including 500 or so to whom the Senator had rendered some service—with a notation be- side each name of the service rendered—and sent it to his Hartford office for invitational purposes. The Senator was also responsible for

getting Mr Johnson to come and render him homage. 'Johnson could make or break the dinner,' Dodd said. Boyd recollects that the spontaneity of the vice-president's effusion took some cultivation; he had the embarrass- ment of returning to Dodd to report that Walter Jenkins, Mr Johnson's executive assistant, wanted to know what the money was for. 'He seemed upset that the question should be asked,' Boyd said. 'I told him that the vice-president had to have some method to protect himself. "Tell him," the Senator replied, "the purpose is to raise money for my cam- paign next fall. Tell him I may be presented with a gold watch".'

How lonely the American politician is and how dependent on his own devices. Those who helped in arranging the tributes which a grate- ful society incessantly rendered Senator Dodd all spoke of the friendship they bore him and their continual worry over the chaos of his private finances. But the business of collecting Dodd's purses seemed to fall exclusively on his employees and his creditors. The treasurer of Dodd Day in Connecticut (1963) was Paul V. McNamara, a devoted old friend from whom Dodd, in one of his more desperate moments, had borrowed 2,500 dollars. When these events were at an end and Dodd had collected 41,000 dollars from them, he gave treasurer McNamara 750 dollars of the receipts in cash towards the loan. The treasurer of the 1963 District of Columbia breakfast was Sanford Bornstein, a dazzling social eminence for the proprietor of one of those night clubs whose status in our culture is familiar to anthropolo- gists because they are located as close as pos- sible to interstate bus stations. Dodd owed treasurer Bomstein 5,000 dollars and gave him 750 dollars from the receipts as part payment. Our economy has reached that crest where a man's only friends are his creditors.

But still, after all these degrading struggles, Senator Dodd could report a net worth of just 54,000 dollars. And one remembered the correspondent who had seen Gandhi riding about India in a private railroad flat car sitting on a threadbare rug working his hand loom. 'If you only knew,' an Indian had said, 'how much it costs to keep Bapu poor.'