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Tommy Corcoran

Tommy Corcoran


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Thomas Corcoran, the son of a lawyer, was born in Rhode Island on 29th December, 1899. He was educated at Brown University and Harvard Law School. Corcoran's most important influence at university was Professor Felix Frankfurter. He wrote that Corcoran was "struggling very hard with the burden of inferiority imposed on him because of his Irish Catholicism". Frankfurter was impressed with Corcoran's progress and introduced him to his close friend, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. After graduating in 1926 he was invited by Holmes to become his legal clerk.

In 1927 Corcoran joined the law firm established by William McAdoo. At the time it was run by George Franklin and Joseph Cotton. In 1932 Eugene Meyer, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, was looking for a general counsel for the newly established Reconstruction Finance Corporation. After talks with Franklin he appointed Corcoran to this post. Meyer resigned in 1933 and was replaced by Jesse H. Jones.

After Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover he asked Felix Frankfurter to assemble a legal team to review the nation's securities laws. Frankfurter selected Corcoran, Benjamin Cohen and James Landis for the task. Corcoran, a member of the Democratic Party, readily accepted the post. Together they drafted the legislation that created the Securities and Exchange Commission.

William E. Leuchtenburg, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (1963), has pointed out: "Corcoran was a new political type: the expert who not only drafted legislation but maneuvered it through the treacherous corridors of Capitol Hill." Ray S. Cline added: "Corcoran... says that his greatest contribution to government in his long career was helping infiltrate smart young Harvard Law School products into every agency of government. He felt the United States needed to develop a highly educated, highly motivated public service corps that had not existed before Roosevelt's time."

The following year Corcoran was involved in drafting the Public Utilities Holding Company Act. On 1st July, 1935, Owen Brewster claimed that Corcoran threatened to stop construction on the Passamaquoddy Dam in his district unless he supported the Holding Company Bill. Congress immediately ordered the rules committee to investigate the matter. The Senate investigation, headed by Hugo Black, eventually cleared Corcoran of any wrongdoing. Corcoran wrote to a friend: "Storms make a sailor - if he survives them."

Roosevelt's personal secretary, Louis M. Howe, died of pneumonia on 24th June, 1936. According to Corcoran's biographer, David McKean (Peddling Influence), Corcoran now replaced Howe as Roosevelt's most "trusted adviser and personal companion". Some of Roosevelt's ministers complained about Corcoran's growing influence. Henry Morgenthau, the Secretary of the Treasury, claimed that Corcoran was a "crook". As well as drafting New Deal legislation, Roosevelt used Corcoran as his "special emissary to Capitol Hill". Elliott Roosevelt wrote that: "Apart from my father, Tom (Corcoran) was the single most influential individual in the country."

In 1937 Corcoran used this influence to make sure Sam Rayburn of Texas became Speaker of the House. This was a difficult task as James Farley was advocating that John O'Connor got the job. Corcoran's increasing power was indicated by the fact that Franklin D. Roosevelt brought an end to Farley's campaign. This was the beginning of a very close relationship that Corcoran enjoyed with Rayburn and the Texas oil industry.

Franklin D. Roosevelt began to have considerable problems with the Supreme Court. The chief justice, Charles Hughes, had been the Republican Party presidential candidate in 1916. Hughes, appointed by Herbert Hoover in 1930, led the court's opposition to some of the proposed New Deal legislation. This included the ruling against the National Recovery Administration (NRA), the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) and ten other New Deal laws.

On 2nd February, 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt made a speech attacking the Supreme Court for its actions over New Deal legislation. He pointed out that seven of the nine judges (Charles Hughes, Willis Van Devanter, George Sutherland, Harlan Stone, Owen Roberts, Benjamin Cardozo and Pierce Butler) had been appointed by Republican presidents. Roosevelt had just won re-election by 10,000,000 votes and resented the fact that the justices could veto legislation that clearly had the support of the vast majority of the public.

Roosevelt suggested that the age was a major problem as six of the judges were over 70 (Charles Hughes, Willis Van Devanter, James McReynolds, Louis Brandeis, George Sutherland and Pierce Butler). Roosevelt announced that he was going to ask Congress to pass a bill enabling the president to expand the Supreme Court by adding one new judge, up to a maximum off six, for every current judge over the age of 70. Hughes realized that Roosevelt's Court Reorganization Bill would result in the court coming under the control of the Democratic Party. Behind the scenes Hughes was busy doing deals to make sure that Roosevelt's bill would be defeated in Congress.

Tommy Corcoran was giving the task by Roosevelt to persuade Congress to pass this proposed legislation. This included working closely with I. F. Stone of the New York Post. Stone, a strong opponent of the conservative Supreme Court, agreed to write speeches for Corcoran on this issue. These speeches were then passed on to Roosevelt supporters in Congress.

In the past Corcoran had relied heavily on the influence of his close friend, Burton Wheeler, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. However, Wheeler had now turned against Roosevelt. Wheeler even argued that Franklin D. Roosevelt had been behind the assassination of Huey Long. Corcoran continued to campaign for the Judicial Court Reorganization Bill but he failed to persuade enough to get it passed.

Even the most left-wing of all the justices, Louis Brandeis, opposed Roosevelt's attempt to "pack" the Supreme Court. Brandeis was also beginning to oppose some aspects of the New Deal that he believed "favored big business". However, members of the Supreme Court accepted they had to fall in line with public opinion. On 29th March, Owen Roberts announced that he had changed his mind about voting against minimum wage legislation. Hughes also reversed his opinion on the Social Security Act and the National Labour Relations Act (NLRA) and by a 5-4 vote they were now declared to be constitutional.

Then Willis Van Devanter, probably the most conservative of the justices, announced his intention to resign. He was replaced by Hugo Black, a member of the Democratic Party and a strong supporter of the New Deal. In July, 1937, Congress defeated the Court Reorganization Bill by 70-20. However, Roosevelt had the satisfaction of knowing he had a Supreme Court that was now less likely to block his legislation.

Corcoran later took credit for getting Hugo Black (1937), Felix Frankfurter (1939), William O. Douglas (1939) and Frank Murphy (1940) appointed to Supreme Court. He also played an important role in defending Black when it was discovered that he was a former member of the Ku Klux Klan. Corcoran later claimed he wrote Black's statement asking for forgiveness.

Corcoran also became involved in advising Franklin D. Roosevelt over foreign policy. Although he had liberal views on domestic issues, Corcoran was passionately anti-communist. This was partly because of his Roman Catholicism. Roosevelt initially favoured giving help to the Republican government in Spain. However, Corcoran was a supporter of the fascist movement led by General Francisco Franco.

As Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson pointed out in their book, The Case Against Congress: A Compelling Indictment of Corruption on Capitol Hill: “Long before Pope John and Pope Paul made it clear they were not in sympathy with the Catholic hierarchy of Spain, the reactionary wing of the Catholic Church in the United States had been conducting one of the most efficient lobbies ever to operate on Capital Hill. It was able to reverse completely American policy on Spain. During the Spanish Civil War, Thomas G. Corcoran, a member of the Roosevelt brain trust, worked effectively at the White House to keep an embargo on all U.S. arms to both sides.”

Corcoran knew that Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini would continue to provide both men and arms to Francisco Franco. Roosevelt's decision enabled fascism to win in Spain and become entrenched in Europe. Roosevelt later told his cabinet that he had made a "grave mistake" with respect to neutrality in the Spanish Civil War. Roosevelt was angry with Tommy Corcoran over his advice on Spain. He also began to see that Corcoran was becoming a problem for the administration. He had upset a lot of powerful figures in Congress with his arm twisting tactics. Corcoran had also tried to unseat those who attempted to resist Franklin D. Roosevelt. For example, Walter George of Georgia claimed that Corcoran had the "power of saying who shall be a senator and who shall not be a senator."

In June 1939, an article appeared in the Saturday Evening Post accused James Roosevelt of being a war profiteer. It was also claimed that the president's son helped Joseph Kennedy to obtain the ambassador to Great Britain. Corcoran, who was very close to James Roosevelt, got dragged into this scandal. It was not the first time that Corcoran had been accused of corrupt behaviour. Norman M. Littell, a high-ranking Justice Department official, told Anna Roosevelt that Corcoran had become a liability to her father: No quality is so essential in government as simple integrity and forthrightness. Ability and brilliance of mind are not enough."

Corcoran's fascist sympathies resulted in him becoming a firm advocate of isolationism. He told friends that Irish Americans liked him "remembered their parents' repression at the hands of the British". On one occasion, Harry Hopkins told Corcoran: "Tom you're too Catholic to trust the Russians and too Irish to trust the English."

Tommy Corcoran now found himself outside the inner circle. In 1940 he began telling friends that he was considering leaving government. He told Samuel Irving Rosenman: "I want to make a million dollars in one year, that's all. Then I'm coming back to the government for the rest of my life." Corcoran's plan was to become a political lobbyist on behalf of companies seeking to obtain government contracts. A large number of government officials had their jobs because of Corcoran. It was payback time.

One day in early October 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt told Corcoran that he wanted him to resign from the administration. He wanted him to carry out a covert mission and it was "too politically dangerous" to do this while serving in his government.

Roosevelt believed that the best way of stopping Japanese imperialism in Asia was to arm the Chinese government of Chiang Kai-shek. However, Congress was opposed to this idea as it was feared that this help might trigger a war with Japan. Therefore, Roosevelt's plan was for Corcoran to establish a private corporation to provide assistance to the nationalist government in China. Roosevelt even supplied the name of the proposed company, China Defense Supplies. He also suggested that his uncle, Frederick Delano, should be co-chairman of the company. Chiang nominated his former finance minister, Tse-ven Soong, as the other co-chairman.

For reasons of secrecy, Corcoran took no title other than outside counsel for China Defense Supplies. William S. Youngman was his frontman in China. Corcoran's friend, Whitey Willauer, was moved to the Foreign Economic Administration, where he supervised the sending of supplies to China. In this way Corcoran was able to create an Asian Lend-Lease program.

Corcoran also worked closely with Claire Lee Chennault, who had been working as a military adviser to Chiang Kai-shek since 1937. Chennault told Corcoran that if he was given the resources, he could maintain an air force within China that could carry out raids against the Japanese. Corcoran returned to the United States and managed to persuade Franklin D. Roosevelt to approve the creation of the American Volunteer Group.

One hundred P-40 fighters, built by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation, intended for Britain, were redirected to Chennault in China. William Pawley was Curtiss-Wright's representative in Asia and he arranged for the P-40 to be assembled in Rangoon. It was Tommy Corcoran's son David who suggested that the American Volunteer Group should be called the Flying Tigers. Chennault liked the idea and asked his friend, Walt Disney, to design a tiger emblem for the planes.

On 13th April, 1941, Roosevelt signed a secret executive order authorizing the American Volunteer Group to recruit reserve officers from the army, navy and marines. Pawley suggested that the men should be recruited as "flying instructors".

In July, 1941, ten pilots and 150 mechanics were supplied with fake passports and sailed from San Francisco for Rangoon. When they arrived they were told that they were really involved in a secret war against Japan. To compensate for the risks involved, the pilots were to be paid $600 a month ($675 for a patrol leader). In addition, they were to receive $500 for every enemy plane they shot down.

The Flying Tigers were extremely effective in their raids on Japanese positions and helped to slow down attempts to close the Burma Road, a key supply route to China. In seven months of fighting, the Flying Tigers destroyed 296 planes at a loss of 24 men (14 while flying and 10 on the ground).

Tommy Corcoran had originally been an isolationist. However, he now knew that he could make a fortune out of the arms trade. His first major client was Henry J. Kaiser, a successful businessman from California. Corcoran had helped Kaiser obtain lucrative government contracts while working for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.

Kaiser paid Corcoran a retainer of $25,000 a year. Corcoran then introduced Kaiser to William S. Knudsen, head of the Office of Production Management. Over the next few years Kaiser obtained $645 million in building contracts at his ten shipyards. Kaiser's two main business partners were Stephen D. Bechtel and John A. McCone. Kaiser had worked with Bechtel in the 1930s to build many of the major roads throughout California.

In 1937 McCone became president of Bechtel-McCone. On the outbreak of the Second World War McCone joined forces with Kaiser and Bechtel to establish the California Shipbuilding Company. With the help of Corcoran, the company obtained large government contracts to build ships. In 1946 it was reported that the company had made $44 million in wartime profits.

Corcoran was also informed that a great deal of magnesium would be needed for building aircraft. With the help of Jesse H. Jones, the boss of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, Kaiser was granted a loan to build a magnesium production plant in San Jose, California. After the RFC loan was secured, Corcoran sent Kaiser a bill requesting $135,000 in cash and a 15% stake in the magnesium production business.

Another important client was the Houston contracting firm of Brown & Root, owned by George R. Brown and Herman Brown. These brothers had been the major financiers of the political campaigns of Lyndon B. Johnson. Corcoran arranged for the two men to meet William S. Knudsen. Records show that Corcoran was paid $15,000 for "advice, conferences and negotiations" related to shipbuilding contracts.

In 1942 the Brown brothers established the Brown Shipbuilding Company on the Houston Ship Channel. Over the next three years the company built 359 ships and employed 25,000 people. This brought in revenue of $27,000,000. The government shipbuilding contract was eventually worth $357,000,000. Yet until they got the contract, Brown & Root had never built a single ship of any type.

Corcoran's work with China Defense Supplies caused some disquiet in Roosevelt's administration. Henry Morgenthau was a prominent critic. He argued that in effect, Corcoran was running an off-the-books operation in which a private company was diverting some of the war material destined for China to a private army, the American Volunteer Group.

Resistance also came from General George Marshall and General Joseph Stilwell, the American commander in Asia. Marshall and Stilwell both believed that Chiang Kai-shek was completely corrupt and needed to be forced into introducing reforms. Stilwell complained about Corcoran's ability to present Chiang in the best possible light with Roosevelt. Stilwell wrote to Marshall that the "continued publication of Chungking propaganda in the United States is an increasing handicap to my work." He added, "we can pull them out of this cesspool, but continued concessions have made the Generalissimo believe he has only to insist and we will yield."

Corcoran was also coming under pressure from the work he was doing for Sterling Pharmaceutical. His brother, David worked for the company and was responsible for getting Corcoran the contract. However, it was revealed in 1940 that Sterling Pharmaceutical had strong links with I. G. Farben. The FBI discovered that Sterling had conspired with Farben to control the sale of aspirin. In other words, had formed an aspirin cartel. According to one FBI report, Sterling were employing Nazi sympathizers in its offices in Latin America. Rumours began to circulate that Burton Wheeler would announce that he was appointing a subcommittee to investigate the relations between American and German firms.

Assistant Attorney General Thurman Arnold announced he was ready to prosecute any American company aiding and abetting a German company in any part of the world. On 10th April, 1941, the Department of Justice issued subpoenas to Sterling Pharmaceutical. Soon afterwards newspapers began to run negative stories about the company. One claimed that Sterling was helping the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels fulfill his pledge that "Americans would help Hitler win the Americas."

On 2nd June, 1941, Roosevelt appointed Francis B. Biddle as his new Attorney General. Biddle was a close friend of Corcoran's. The day after his appointment, Biddle accepted a settlement offer from Sterling in which the company would pay a fine of five thousand dollars. Later, it was agreed that Sterling would abrogate all contracts with I. Farben.

In Congress there was speeches made calling for an investigation into the role played by Corcoran in protecting the interests of Sterling Pharmaceutical. Senator Lawrence Smith argued: "It is common gossip in government circles that the long arm of Tommy Corcoran reaches into many agencies; that he has placed many men in important positions and they in turn are amenable to his influences."

Corcoran had also developed a close relationship with Lyndon B. On 4th April, 1941, Texas senator, Morris Sheppard died. Corcoran agreed to help Johnson in his campaign to replace Sheppard. This included helping Johnson obtain approval of a rural electrification project from the Rural Electrification Administration. Corcoran also arranged to Franklin D. Roosevelt to make a speech on the eve of the polls criticizing Johnson's opponent, Wilbert Lee O'Daniel. Despite the efforts of Corcoran, O'Daniel defeated Johnson by 1,311 votes.

On the suggestion of Alvin J. Wirtz, Johnson decided to acquire KTBC, a radio station in Austin. E. Kingsberry and Wesley West, agreed to sell KTBC to Johnson (officially it was purchased by his wife, Lady Bird Johnson). However, it needed the approval of the Federal Communications Commission (FCR). Johnson asked Corcoran for help with this matter. This was not very difficult as the chairman of the FCR, James Fly, was appointed by Frank Murphy as a favour for Corcoran. The FCC eventually approved the deal and Johnson was able to use KTBC to amass a fortune of more than $25 million.

Rumours continued to circulate about Corcoran's illegal activities. Harry S. Truman accused Todd Shipyards of hiring Corcoran to help win government contracts. In September, 1941, the New York Times reported that Corcoran was responsible for obtaining favourable treatment in the settlement of the Justice Department case brought against Sterling Pharmaceutical. Another newspaper reported that Vice President Henry Wallace "disapproves of the way Mr. Corcoran has capitalized on the government associations to promote his lucrative 'law' practice."

On 16th December, 1941, Corcoran appeared before the Senate Defense Investigation Committee. He admitted that business had been exceedingly good since he left Roosevelt's administration. Some members of the committee were convinced that Corcoran's activities revealed a need for more stringent lobbying restrictions. Senator Carl Hatch from New Mexico introduced a bill that would prohibit former government employees from working with government departments or agencies for two years after leaving government service. As David McKean points out in Peddling Influence, "the bill never made it out of the Judiciary Committee, presumably because Washington lobbyists persuaded their friends on the panel to kill it."

After the United States entered the war against Japan, Germany and Italy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Roosevelt selected Colonel William Donovan as the first director of the organization, who had spent some time studying the Special Operations Executive (SOE), an organization set up by the British government in July 1940. The OSS had responsibility for collecting and analyzing information about countries at war with the United States.

The OSS gradually took over the activities that Corcoran had helped set up in China. In 1943 OSS agents based in China included Paul Helliwell, E. Howard Hunt, Mitch Werbell, Lucien Conein, John Singlaub and Ray Cline. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, some OSS members in China were paid for their work with five-pound sacks of opium.

In a letter to the Senate Defense Investigation Committee in November, 1944, Norman M. Littell, assistant attorney general for the lands division, reported conversations between Tommy Corcoran and Francis Biddle that suggested that the two men had a corrupt relationship. Littell claimed that Biddle seemed to be following instructions from Corcoran. In the letter, Littell asked the committee: "What has Tommy Corcoran got on Biddle?"

Littell argued that during the investigation of the Sterling Pharmaceutical case, Biddle was "completely dominated by Tommy Corcoran". He added that this company was acting as "an agent of Nazi Germany" and that Biddle's decision to settle this case was "the lowest point in the history of the Department of Justice since the Harding administration".

This story was picked up by the national press and demands were made that the relationship between Biddle and Corcoran should be investigated. Sam Rayburn made sure that no committee held a hearing on this issue. Charles Van Devander reported in the Washington Post that: "Strong influence is being brought to bear to block an investigation by Congress into the affairs of the Department of Justice, including Attorney General Biddle's allegedly close relationship with lawyer lobbyist Tommy Corcoran."

One moth after the dropping the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Tommy Corcoran joined with David Corcoran and William S. Youngman to create a Panamanian company, Rio Carthy, for the purpose of pursuing business ventures in Asia and South America. Soon afterwards, Claire Lee Chennault and Whiting Willauer approached Corcoran with the idea of creating a commercial airline in China to compete with CNAC and CATC. Corcoran agreed to use Rio Cathy as the legal vehicle for investing in the airline venture. Chiang Kai-shek agreed that his government would invest in the airline. Corcoran anticipated he would own 37% of the equity in the airline, but Chennault and Willauer gave a greater percentage to the Chinese government, and Corcoran's share dropped to 28%.

Civil Air Transport (CAT) was officially launched on 29th January, 1946. Corcoran approached his old friend Fiorella LaGuardia, the director general of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). He agreed to award a $4 million contract to deliver relief to China. This contract kept them going for the first year but as the civil war intensified, CAT had difficulty maintaining its routes.

The OSS had been disbanded in October 1945 and was replaced by the War Department's Strategic Service Unit (SSU). Paul Helliwell became chief of the Far East Division of the SSU. In 1947 the SSU was replaced by the Central Intelligence Agency.

CAT needed another major customer and on 6th July, 1947, Corcoran and Claire Lee Chennault had a meeting with Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter, the new director of the CIA. Hillenkoetter arranged for Corcoran to meet Frank Wisner, the director of the Office of Policy Coordination. Wisner was in charge of the CIA's covert operations.

On 1st November, 1948, Corcoran signed a formal agreement with the CIA. The agreement committed the agency to provide up to $500,000 to finance an CAT airbase, and $200,000 to fly agency personnel and equipment in and out of the mainland, and to underwrite any shortfall that might result from any hazardous mission. Over the next few months CAT airlifted personnel and equipment from Chungking, Kweilin, Luchnow, Nanking, and Amoy.

In 1948, Lyndon B. Johnson decided to make a second run for the U.S. Senate. His main opponent in the Democratic primary (Texas was virtually a one party state and the most important elections were those that decided who would be the Democratic Party candidate) was Coke Stevenson. Johnson was criticized by Stevenson for supporting the Taft-Hartley Act. The American Federation of Labor was also angry with Johnson for supporting this legislation and at its June convention the AFL broke a 54 year tradition of neutrality and endorsed Stevenson.

Johnson asked Tommy Corcoran to work behind the scenes at convincing union leaders that he was more pro-labor than Stevenson. This he did and on 11th August, 1948, Corcoran told Harold Ickes that he had "a terrible time straightening out labor" in the Johnson campaign but he believed he had sorted the problem out.

On 2nd September, unofficial results had Stevenson winning by 362 votes. However, by the time the results became official, Johnson was declared the winner by 17 votes. Stevenson immediately claimed that he was a victim of election fraud. On 24th September, Judge T. Whitfield Davidson, invalidated the results of the election and set a trial date.

Johnson once again approached Corcoran to solve the problem. A meeting was held that was attended by Corcoran, Francis Biddle, Abe Fortas, Joe Rauh, Jim Rowe and Ben Cohen. It was decided to take the case directly to the Supreme Court. A motion was drafted and sent to Justice Hugo Black. On 28th September, Justice Black issued an order that put Johnson's name back on the ballot. Later, it was claimed by Rauh that Black made the decision following a meeting with Corcoran.

On 2nd November, 1948, Johnson easily defeated Jack Porter, his Republican Party candidate. Coke Stevenson now appealed to the subcommittee on elections and privileges of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. Corcoran enjoyed a good relationship with Senator Styles Bridges of New Hampshire. He was able to work behind the scenes to make sure that the ruling did not go against Johnson. Corcoran later told Johnson that he would have to repay Bridges for what he had done for him regarding the election. The Johnson-Stevenson case was also investigated by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. Johnson was eventually cleared by Hoover of corruption and was allowed to take his seat in the Senate.

In 1949 Sam Zemurray asked Corcoran to join the United Fruit Company as a lobbyist and special counsel. Zemurray had problems with his business in Guatemala. In the 1930s Zemurray aligned United Fruit closely with the government of President Jorge Ubico. The company received import duty and real estate tax exemptions from Ubico. He also gave them hundreds of square miles of land. United Fruit controlled more land than any other individual or group. It also owned the railway, the electric utilities, telegraph, and the country's only port at Puerto Barrios on the Atlantic coast.

Ubico was overthrown in 1944 and following democratic elections, Juan Jose Arevalo became the new president. Arevalo, a university professor who had been living in exile, described himself as a "spiritual socialist". He implemented sweeping reforms by passing new laws that gave workers the right to form unions. This included the 40,000 Guatemalans who worked for United Fruit.

Zemurray feared that Arevalo would also nationalize the land owned by United Fruit in Guatemala. He asked Corcoran to express his fears to senior political figures in Washington. Corcoran began talks with key people in the government agencies and departments that shaped U.S. policy in Central America. He argued that the U.S. should use United Fruit as an American beachhead against communism in the region.

In January, 1950, Civil Air Transport (CAT) relocated its base of operations to the island of Formosa, where Chiang Kai-shek had established his new government. The following month, the Soviet Union and China signed a mutual defense pact. Two weeks later, President Harry S. Truman signed National Security Directive 64, which stated that “it is important to United states security interests that all practical measures be taken to prevent further communist expansion in Southeast Asia.”

The support of the government in Formosa was to become a key aspect of this policy. In February 1950, Frank Wisner began negotiating with Corcoran for the purchase of CAT. “In March, using a ‘cutout’ banker or middleman, the CIA paid CAT $350,000 to clear up arrearages, $400,000 for future operations, and a $1 million option on the business. The money was then divided among the airline’s owners, with Corcoran and Youngman receiving more than $100,000 for six years of legal fees, and Corcoran, Youngman, and David Corcoran dividing approximately $225,000 from the sale of the airline.” Paul Helliwell was put in charge of this operation. His deputy was Desmond FitzGerald. Helliwell's main job was to help Chiang Kai-shek to prepare for a future invasion of Communist China. The CIA created a pair of front companies to supply and finance the surviving forces of Chiang's KMT. Helliwell w as put in charge of this operation. This included establishing the Sea Supply Corporation, a shipping company in Bangkok.

The CIA now launched a secret war against China. An office under commercial cover called Western Enterprises was opened on Taiwan. Training and operational bases were established in Taiwan and other offshore islands. By 1951 Chiang Kai-shek claimed to have more than a million active guerrillas in China. However, according to John Prados, “ United States intelligence estimates at the time carried the more conservative figure of 600,000 or 650,000, only half of whom could be considered loyal to Taiwan.”

After the war Tommy Corcoran continued his work as a paid lobbyist for Sam Zemurray and the United Fruit Company. Zemurray became concerned that Captain Jacobo Arbenz, one of the heroes of the 1944 revolution, would be elected as the new president of Guatemala. In the spring of 1950, Corcoran went to see Thomas C. Mann, the director of the State Department’s Office of Inter-American Affairs. Corcoran asked Mann if he had any plans to prevent Arbenz from being elected. Mann replied: “That is for the people of that country to decide.”

Unhappy with this reply, Corcoran paid a call on the Allen Dulles, the deputy director of the CIA. Dulles, who represented United Fruit in the 1930s, was far more interested in Corcoran’s ideas. “During their meeting Dulles explained to Corcoran that while the CIA was sympathetic to United Fruit, he could not authorize any assistance without the support of the State Department. Dulles assured Corcoran, however, that whoever was elected as the next president of Guatemala would not be allowed to nationalize the operations of United Fruit.”

However, political groups continued to resort to violence and in 1949 Major Francisco Arana was murdered. The following year Arbenz defeated Manuel Ygidoras to become Guatemala's new president. Arbenz, who obtained 65% of the votes, took power on 15th March, 1951. Corcoran then recruited Robert La Follette to work for United Fruit. Corcoran arranged for La Follette to lobby liberal members of Congress. The message was that Arbenz was not a liberal but a dangerous left-wing radical.

This strategy was successful and Congress was duly alarmed when on 17 th June, 1952, Arbenz announced a new Agrarian Reform program . This included expropriating idle land on government and private estates and redistributed to peasants in lots of 8 to 33 acres. The Agrarian Reform program managed to give 1.5 million acres to around 100,000 families for which the government paid $8,345,545 in bonds. Among the expropriated landowners was Arbenz himself, who had become into a landowner with the dowry of his wealthy wife. Around 46 farms were given to groups of peasants who organized themselves in cooperatives.

In March 1953, 209,842 acres of United Fruit Company's uncultivated land was taken by the government which offered compensation of $525,000. The company wanted $16 million for the land. While the Guatemalan government valued $2.99 per acre, the American government valued it at $75 per acre. As David McKean has pointed out: This figure was “in line with the company’s own valuation of the property, at least for tax purposes”. However, the company wanted $16 million for the land. While the Guatemalan government valued it at $2.99 per acre, the company now valued it at $75 per acre.

Corcoran contacted President Anastasio Somoza and warned him that the Guatemalan revolution might spread to Nicaragua. Somoza now made representations to Harry S. Truman about what was happening in Guatemala. After discussions with Walter Bedell Smith, director of the CIA, a secret plan to overthrow Arbenz (Operation Fortune) was developed. Part of this plan involved Tommy Corcoran arranging for small arms and ammunition to be loaded on a United Fruit freighter and shipped to Guatemala, where the weapons would be distributed to dissidents. When the Secretary of State Dean Acheson discovered details of Operation Fortune, he had a meeting with Truman where he vigorously protested about the involvement of United Fruit and the CIA in the attempted overthrow of the democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz. As a result of Acheson’s protests, Truman ordered the postponement of Operation Fortune.

Tommy Corcoran’s work was made easier by the election of Dwight Eisenhower in November, 1952. Eisenhower’s personal secretary was Anne Whitman, the wife of Edmund Whitman, United Fruit’s public relations director. Eisenhower appointed John Peurifoy as ambassador to Guatemala. He soon made it clear that he believed that the Arbenz government posed a threat to the America’s campaign against communism.

Corcoran also arranged for Whiting Willauer, his friend and partner in Civil Air Transport, to become U.S. ambassador to Honduras. As Willauer pointed out in a letter to Claire Lee Chennault, he worked day and night to arrange training sites and instructors plus air crews for the rebel air force, and to keep the Honduran government “in line so they would allow the revolutionary activity to continue.”

Eisenhower also replaced Dean Acheson with John Foster Dulles. His brother, Allen Dulles became director of the CIA. The Dulles brothers “had sat on the board of United Fruit’s partner in the banana monopoly, the Schroder Banking Corporation” whereas “U.N. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge was a stockholder and had been a strong defender of United Fruit while a U.S. senator.”

Walter Bedell Smith was moved to the State Department. Smith told Corcoran he would do all he could to help in the overthrow of Arbenz. He added that he would like to work for United Fruit once he retired from government office. This request was granted and Bedell Smith was later to become a director of United Fruit. According to John Prados, the author of The Presidents' Secret War, Corcoran’s meeting with “Undersecretary of State Walter Bedell Smith that summer and that conversation is recalled by CIA officers as the clear starting point of that plan.” Evan Thomas, the author of The Very Best Me; Daring Early Years of the CIA (2007) has added that: “With his usual energy and skill, Corcoran beseeched the U. S. government to overthrow Arbenz”.

The new CIA plan to overthrow Jacobo Arbenz was called “Operation Success”. Allen Dulles became the executive agent and arranged for Tracey Barnes and Richard Bissell to plan and execute the operation. Bissell later claimed that he had been aware of the problem since reading a document published by the State Department that claimed: “The communists already exercise in Guatemala a political influence far out of proportion to their small numerical strength. This influence will probably continue to grow during 1952. The political situation in Guatemala adversely effects U. interests and constitutes a potential threat to U.S. security.” Bissell does not point out that the source of this information was Tommy Corcoran and the United Fruit Company.

John Prados argues that it was Barnes and Bissell who “coordinated the Washington end of the planning and logistics for the Guatemala operation.” As Deputy Director for Plans, it was Frank Wisner’s responsibility to select the field commander for Operation Success. Kim Roosevelt was first choice but he turned it down and instead the job went to Albert Hanley, the CIA station Chief in Korea.

Hanley was told to report to Joseph Caldwell King, director of the CIA’s Western Hemisphere Division. King had previously worked for the FBI where he had responsibility for all intelligence operations in Latin America. King suggested Hanley meet Tommy Corcoran. Hanley did not like the idea. King replied: “If you think you can run this operation without United Fruit you’re crazy.” Although Hanley refused to work with Corcoran, Allen Dulles kept him fully informed of the latest developments in planning the overthrow of Arbenz.

Tracey Barnes brought in David Atlee Phillips to run a “black” propaganda radio station. According to Phillips, he was reluctant to take part in the overthrow of a democratically elected president. Barnes replied: “It’s not a question of Arbenz. Nor of Guatemala. We have solid intelligence that the Soviets intended to throw substantial support to Arbenz… Guatemala is bordered by Honduras, British Honduras, Salvador and Mexico. It’s unacceptable to have a Commie running Guatemala.”

Barnes also appointed E. Howard Hunt as chief of political action. In his autobiography, Undercover (1975), Hunt claims that “Barnes swore me to special secrecy and revealed that the National Security Council under Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon had ordered the overthrow of Guatemala’s Communist regime.” Hunt was not convinced by this explanation. He pointed out that 18 months previously he had suggested to the director of the CIA that Arbenz needed to be dealt with. However, the idea had been rejected. Hunt was now told that: “ Washington lawyer Thomas G. Corcoran had, among his clients, the United Fruit Company. United Fruit, like many American corporations in Guatemala had watched with growing dismay nationalization, confiscation and other strong measures affecting their foreign holdings. Finally a land-reform edict issued by Arbenz proved the final straw, and Tommy the Cork had begun lobbying in behalf of United Fruit and against Arbenz. Following this special impetus our project had been approved by the National Security Council and was already under way.”

Albert Hanley brought in Rip Robertson to take charge of the paramilitary side of the operation. Robertson had been Hanley’s deputy in Korea and had “enjoyed going along on the behind-the-lines missions with the CIA guerrillas, in violation of standing orders from Washington.” One of those who worked with Robertson in Operation Success was David Morales. Also in the team was Henry Hecksher, who operated under cover in Guatemala to supply front-line reports.

John Foster Dulles decided that he “needed a civilian adviser to the State Department team to help expediate Operation Success. Dulles chose a friend of Corcoran’s, William Pawley, a Miami-based millionaire”. David McKean goes on to point out that Pawley had worked with Corcoran, Chennault and Willauer in helping to set up the Flying Tigers and in transforming Civil Air Transport into a CIA airline. McKean adds that his most important qualification for the job was his “long association with right-wing Latin America dictators.”

The rebel “liberation army” was formed and trained in Nicaragua. This was not a problem as President Anastasio Somoza and been warning the United States government since 1952 that that the Guatemalan revolution might spread to Nicaragua. The rebel army of 150 men were trained by Rip Robertson. Their commander was a disaffected Guatemalan army officer, Carlos Castillo Armas.

It was clear that a 150 man army was unlikely to be able to overthrow the Guatemalan government. Tracey Barnes believed that if the rebels could gain control of the skies and bomb Guatemala City, they could create panic and Arbenz might be fooled into accepting defeat.

According to Richard Bissell, Somoza was willing to provide cover for this covert operation. However, this was on the understanding that these aircraft would be provided by the United States. Dwight Eisenhower agreed to supply Somoza with a “small pirate air force to bomb Arbenz into submission”. To fly these planes, the CIA recruited American mercenaries like Jerry DeLarm.

Before the bombing of Guatemala City, the rebel army was moved to Honduras where Tommy Corcoran’s business partner, Whiting Willauer, was ambassador. The plan was for them to pretend to be the “vanguard of a much larger army seeking to liberate their homeland from the Marxists”.

Arbenz became aware of this CIA plot to overthrow him. Guatemalan police made several arrests. In his memoirs, Eisenhower described these arrests as a “reign of terror” and falsely claimed that “agents of international Communism in Guatemala continued their efforts to penetrate and subvert their neighboring Central American states, using consular agents for their political purposes and fomenting political assassinations and strikes."

Sydney Gruson of the New York Times began to investigate this story. Journalists working for Time Magazine also tried to write about these attempts to destabilize Arbenz’s government. Frank Wisner, head of Operation Mockingbird, asked Allen Dulles to make sure that the American public never discovered the plot to overthrow Arbenz. Arthur Hays Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times, agreed to stop Gruson from writing the story. Henry Luce was also willing to arrange for the Time Magazine reports to be rewritten at the editorial offices in New York.

The CIA propaganda campaign included the distribution of 100,000 copies of a pamphlet entitled Chronology of Communism in Guatemala . They also produced three films on Guatemala for showing free in cinemas. Faked photographs were distributed that claimed to show the mutilated bodies of opponents of Arbenz.

David Atlee Phillips and E. Howard Hunt were responsible for running the CIA's Voice of Liberation radio station. Broadcasts began on 1 st May, 1954. They also arranged for the distribution of posters and pamphlets. Over 200 articles based on information provided by the CIA were placed in newspapers and magazines by the United States Information Agency.

The Voice of Liberation reported massive defections from Arbenz’s army. According to David Atlee Phillips the radio station “broadcast that two columns of rebel soldiers were converging on Guatemala City. In fact, Castillo Armas and his makeshift army were still encamped six miles inside the border, far from the capital.” As Phillips later admitted, the “highways were crowded, but with frightened citizens fleeing Guatemala City and not with soldiers approaching it.”

As E. Howard Hunt pointed out, “our powerful transmitter overrode the Guatemalan national radio, broadcasting messages to confuse and divide the population from its military overlords.” There was no popular uprising. On 20 th June, the CIA reported to Dwight Eisenhower that Castillo Armas had not been able to take his assigned objective, Zacapa. His seaborne force had also failed to capture Puerto Barrios.

According to John Prados, it all now depended on “Whiting Willauer’s rebel air force”. However, that was not going to plan and on 27th June, Winston Churchill, the British prime minister berated Eisenhower when a CIA plane sank a British merchant vessel heading for Guatemala. The bombing had been ordered by Rip Robertson without first gaining permission from the CIA or Eisenhower. Robertson had been convinced that the Springfjord was a “Czech arms carrying freighter”. In reality it had been carrying only coffee and cotton. Frank Wisner had to make a personal apology for the incident and the CIA later quietly reimbursed Lloyd’s of London, insurers of the Springfjord , the $1.5 million they had paid out on the ship.

Arbenz had been convinced by the Voice of Liberation reports that his army was deserting. Richard Bissell believes that this is when Arbenz made his main mistake. Jacobo Arbenz decided to distribute weapons to the “people’s organizations and the political parties”. As Bissell later explained: “The conservative men who constituted the leadership of Guatemala’s army viewed this action as the final unacceptable leftward lurch, and they told Arbenz they would no longer support him. He resigned and fled to Mexico.”President Harry Truman became highly suspicious of Corcoran's activities and he arranged for FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to place a tap on his phone. Despite his shady business dealings he was never convicted of a criminal offence.

Thomas Corcoran died on 7th December, 1981.

By the middle of 1937, FDR, worried that deficit spending was leading to high inflation, believed that the government needed to curb its outlays. Ickes, who had jurisdiction over the PWA, feared that money allocated to Texas dams would line the pockets of builders overcharging the government. In the summer of 1937, however, Johnson persuaded the White House to commit another $5 million to the Marshall Ford Dam, a third of the additional $15.5 million promised in 1935. The prospect of throwing some 2000 men out of work and of halting construction on a project that would ultimately save Texas millions of dollars in flood damages played a large part in the decision. Unless the Marshall Ford construction was continued, an LCRA memo warned, 80 percent of the 2500 men on the job would be fired, and floods, like one in June 1935 costing over $10 million, would continue to plague south-central Texas. On July 21, in a ceremony at the White House, James Roosevelt, the President's son and secretary, handed Johnson, who was accompanied by Wirtz and members of the LCRA Board, the President's order granting the $5 million. Joking with the delegation, Jimmy Roosevelt said that Johnson "had kept him busy so much of the time on the Texas project," that he "`will have to catch up on his sleep' now." "`The president is happy to do this for your congressman,' " Jimmy added. In response to repeated prodding by Johnson, the Administration provided another $14 million over the next four years to complete the network of Texas dams. The expenditure paid handsome dividends in lower unemployment, flood prevention, and more abundant and cheaper electric power.

The dam-building also served Lyndon's political interests and the well-being of Brown & Root, a construction company in Austin controlled by George and Herman Brown. With Lyndon's help they won government contracts that turned a small road-building firm into a multi-million dollar business. Their success gave Lyndon a financial angel that could help secure his political future. As Tommy Corcoran put it later, "A young guy might be as wise as Solomon, as winning as Will Rogers and as popular as Santa Claus, but if he didn't have a firm financial base his opponents could squeeze him. When Roosevelt told me to take care of the boy," Corcoran added, "that meant to watch out for his financial backers too. In Lyndon's case there was just this little road building firm, Brown and Root, run by a pair of Germans."

Jenkins wrote Warren Woodward on January 11, "Ed Clark tells me that he has received some assistance from H. Butt. I wonder if you could go by and pick it up and put it with the other (we) put away before I left Texas Clark says that Brown's money was for the presidential run for which Johnson was gearing up that January, and that Butt's was for Johnson to contribute to the campaigns of other senators, but that often he and the other men providing Johnson with funds weren't even sure which of these two purposes the funding were for. "How could you know?" Ed Clark was to say. "If Johnson wanted to give some senator money for some campaign, Johnson would pass the word to give money to me or Jesse Kellam or Cliff Carter, and it would find its way into Johnson's hands. And it would be the same if he wanted money for his own campaign. And a lot of the money that was given to Johnson both for other candidates and for himself was in cash." "All we knew was that Lyndon asked for it, and we gave it," Tommy Corcoran was to say.

This atmosphere would pervade Lyndon Johnson's fundraising all during his years in the Senate. He would "pass the word" - often by telephoning, sometimes by having Jenkins telephone - to Brown or dark or Connally, and the cash would be collected down in Texas and flown to Washington, or, a Johnson was in Austin, would be delivered to him there. When word was received that some was available, John Connally recalls, he would board a plane in Fort Worth or Dallas, and "I'd go get it. Or Walter would get it. Woody would go get it. We had a lot of people who would go get it, and deliver it. The idea that Walter or Woody or Wilton Woods would skim some is ridiculous. We had couriers." Or, dark says, "If George or me were going up anyway, we'd take it ourselves." And Tommy Corcoran was often bringing Johnson cash from New York unions, mostly as contributions to liberal senators whom the unions wanted to support. Asked how he knew that the money "found its way" into Johnson's hands, Clark laughed and said, "Because sometimes I gave it to him. It would be in an envelope." Both Clark and Wild said that Johnson wanted the contributions given, outside the office, to either Jenkins or Bobby Baker, or to another Johnson aide. Cliff Carter, but neither Wild nor Clark trusted either Baker or Carter.

Jack Pfeiffer: I have a question, and it is what was Pawley's relation to this whole operation... and your relation with Pawley seems to have been quite close, too.

Jake Esterline: I think it was a hangover relationship from the things that Bill Pawley had done as quite a wheel with a number of very senior people during the Guatemalan operation ... that they felt that Bill, who had been very closely tied into Cuba ... that he was a very prominent man in Florida... that there were a lot of things that he might be able to do, in the sense of getting things lined up in Florida for us... and also his ties with Nixon and with other republican politicos. I used to deal with him quite a bit before.... From my point of view, we never let Bill Pawley know any of the intimacies about our operations, or what we were doing. He never knew where our bases were, or things of that sort. He never knew anything specific about our operations, but he was doing an awful lot of things on his own with the exiles. Some of the people that he had known in Cuba, in the sugar business, etc. I guess he actually was instrumental in running boats and things in and out of Cuba, getting people out and what not, and a variety of things that were not connected with us in any way. He was a political factor from the standpoint from J.C.'s standpoint. I don't know whether Tommy Corcoran entered in at this point... I think Tommy Corcoran was strictly in Guatemala. I guess Corcoran didn't come into this thing, at least not very much.

Jack Pfeiffer: His name turns up once or twice.

Jake Esterline: Yes, I met him once, in connection with Cuba, but I don't remember who... for J.C King, but I don't remember why, at this point. It wasn't anything of any significance. My feeling with Pawley... he was such a hawk, and he was every second week... he wanted to kill somebody inside... It was from my standpoint - we were trying to keep him from doing things to cause problems for us. This was almost a standing operation.

Jack Pfeiffer: This is what I was wondering, because Tracy Barnes, I know on a number of occasions, seemed to make it quite clear that what the Agency had to be careful of was getting hung with a reactionary label, and then at the same time that was going on, here is all of this conversation back and forth with Pawley and his visits...

Jake Esterline: Really to keep him from doing something to upset the applecart from our standpoint. In that sense, I did fill that role in part for a long time; and the net result of the thing is that Bill thinks I am a dangerous leftist today. If I hadn't been a foot dragger, or hadn't taken all these dissenting opinions of this, things in Cuba would have been a lot better.

Jack Pfeiffer: Was Pawley actually involved in the covert operation in Guatemala?

Jake Esterline: Yes, he, well I am sure he was, in a...

Jack Pfeiffer: I mean, with you as far as you...

Jake Esterline: Not I personally, but he was involved with State Department. I said Rubottom a couple of times, I didn't mean Rubottom, I meant Rusk. He was involved - especially in Guatemala with Rubottom or whoever Secretary of State was, and Seville Sacassaa and Somoza and whoever Secretary of Defense was in getting the planes from the Defense Dept., having them painted over, the decals painted over and flown to Nicaragua where they became the Defense force for that operation.

Jack Pfeiffer: I ran across some comment that he had made to Livingston Merchant.

Jake Esterline: They were good friends, and knew each other. But to my knowledge, he never had any involvement like that during the Bay of Pigs days, although you'd have to ask Ted Shackley about what they did later, because I think he ran some things into Cuba for Ted Shackley.

Jack Pfeiffer: That is beyond my period of interest. He was involved in a great amount of fund raising activity, in the New York area apparently - pushing or raising funds in the New York area - wasn't Droller involved in this too? What was your relation with Droller... were you directing Droller's activities, or was Dave Phillips running Droller...

Jake Esterline: Oh, I sort of ran Droller, except I never knew what Tracy Barnes was going to do next, when I turned my back. Droller was such.an ambitious fellow trying to run in... trying to run circles around everybody for his own aggrandizement that you never knew... but Droller would never have had any continuing contact with Pawley, because they had met only once, and I recall Pawley saying that he never wanted to talk to that "you know what" again. He was very unhappy that somebody like Gerry... he just didn't like Gerry's looks, he didn't like his accent. He was very unfair about Gerry, and I don't mean to be unfair about Gerry - the only thing is that Gerry was insanely ambitious. He was his own worst enemy, that was all.... We just didn't think that Tracy really understood it that well, or if Tracy did, he coudn't articulate... he wouldn't articulate it that well. Tracy was one of the sweetest guys that ever lived, but he coudn't ever draw a straight line between two points....

Jack Pfeiffer: What about JFK?

Jake Esterline: JFK was an uninitiated fellow who had been in the wars, but he hadn't been exposed to any world politics or crises yet if he had something else as a warm up, he might have made different decisions than he made at that time. I think he was kind of a victim of the thing. I blame Nixon far more than I do Kennedy for the equivocations and the loss of time and what not that led to the ultimate disaster. Goodwin, I just thought was a sleazy; little self-seeker, who I didn't feel safe with any secret. His consorting with Che Guevara in Montevideo had rather upset me at the time...

Jack Pfeiffer: How about McNamara did you get involved with him at all?

Jake Esterline: No.

Jack Pfeiffer: Bobby Kennedy?

Jake Esterline: I wouldn't even tell you off tape. I didn't like him. He's dead, God rest his soul.

Thomas G. (Tommy) Corcoran, Washington's durable political lawyer and an early New Deal "brain-truster" from Harvard Law School, says that his greatest contribution to government in his long career was helping infiltrate smart young Harvard Law School products into every agency of government. He felt the United States needed to develop a highly educated, highly motivated public service corps that had not existed before Roosevelt's time. Donovan did much the same for career experts in international affairs by collecting in one place a galaxy of experience and ability the likes of which even the State Department had never seen. Many of these later drifted away, but a core remained to create a tradition and eventually to take key jobs in a mature intelligence system of the kind the United States required for coping with twentieth century problems.

Corcoran, ever the loyal soldier to Roosevelt, agreed to help and visited his old friends in the Senate, including Senators Burton Wheeler of Montana, Worth Clark of Montana, and Robert La Follette of Wisconsin. A few weeks later Corcoran reported to the president that while these men were opposed to involvement in Europe, he did not believe that a modest aid program to China would cause them serious concern.

After evaluating Corcoran's optimistic assessment, Roosevelt conveyed to him, again through Lauchlin Currie, that he wanted to establish a private corporation to provide assistance to the Chinese. Corcoran thought the president's idea was ingenious, and later wrote that "if we'd tried to set up a government corporation per se, or do the work out of a Federal office, there would have been devil to pay on the Hill." Instead, Corcoran set up a civilian corporation, which he chartered in Delaware and, at the suggestion of the president, named China Defense Supplies. It would be, as Corcoran later recalled, "the entire lend lease operation" for Asia.

In order to provide the company with the stamp of respectability, Roosevelt arranged for his elderly uncle, Frederick Delano, who'd spent a lifetime in the China trade, to be co-chairman. The other chairman was T. V. Soong, Chiang's personal representative who frequently visited Washington to lobby for aid to his government. Soong, a Harvard graduate, was also Chiang's finance minister, as well as his banker and his brother-in-law. And he was a close friend of David Corcoran, whom he had met when the younger Corcoran was working in the Far East.

After getting the green light to proceed with the establishment of China Defense Supplies, Corcoran hired a staff to run the company. With Delano and Soong as the chairmen, Corcoran went about appointing a politically savvy management team. First, he asked his brother David to take a leave of absence from Sterling to become president. Although David Corcoran was an extremely competent manager, Sterling was then under investigation by the Department of Justice, and David's appointment could be cynically viewed as an attempt by Tommy to protect his brother from the investigation by shielding him with a quasi-government role. Next he appointed a bright young lawyer named Bill Youngman as general counsel. Youngman had previously clerked for Judge Learned Hand, and after Ben Cohen recommended him, he landed a job as general counsel at the Federal Power Commission. To direct the program from China, Corcoran chose Whitey Willauer, who had been his brother Howard's roommate at Exeter, Princeton, and Harvard Law School. Corcoran had previously helped Willauer get a job at the Federal Aviation Administration and he knew Willauer was "crazy about China." After helping to establish and run China Defense Supplies, Willauer moved over to the Foreign Economic Administration, where he supervised both Lend-Lease to China and purchases from China. Lastly, Corcoran arranged for the Marine Corps to detail Quinn Shaughnessy, who, like Corcoran, was a graduate of Harvard Law School. Shaughnessy was given the task of locating and acquiring goods, supplies, and weapons For the Chinese. Corcoran took no title himself other than outside counsel for China Defense Supplies. He paid himself five thousand dollars to set up the company, but didn't want his affiliation with it to interfere with his incipient lobbying practice.

The shy, modest Cohen, a Jew from Muncie, Indiana, was a former Brandeis law clerk who had developed into a brilliant legislative draftsman. Corcoran, an Irishman from a Rhode Island mill town, had gone from Harvard Law School to Washington in 1926 to serve as secretary to Mr. Justice Holmes; Holmes found him "quite noisy, quite satisfactory, and quite noisy." Roosevelt had discovered Corcoran and Cohen, who had teamed up to draft Wall Street regulatory legislation, to be remarkably resourceful in resolving knotty governmental problems, and by the spring of 1935 "the boys," as Frankfurter called them, were playing key roles in the New Deal."

Corcoran was a new political type: the expert who not only drafted legislation but maneuvered it through the treacherous corridors of Capitol Hill. Two Washington reporters wrote of him: "He could play the accordion, sing any song you cared to mention, read Aeschylus in the original, quote Dante and Montaigne by the yard, tell an excellent story, write a great bill like the Securities Exchange Act, prepare a presidential speech, tread the labyrinthine maze of palace politics or chart the future course of a democracy with equal ease." He lived with Cohen and five other New Dealers in a house on R Street; as early as the spring of 1934, G.O.P. congressmen were learning to ignore the sponsors of New Deal legislation and level their attacks at "the scarlet-fever boys from the little red house in Georgetown."

In the first two years of the New Deal, the Brandeisians chafed as the NRA advocates sat at the President's right hand. They rejoiced only in the TVA, since it both checked monopoly and accentuated decentralization, and in the regulation of securities issues and the stock market, which marked the success of Brandeis' earlier crusade against the money power. Not until 1935 did the Brandeisians make their way. That year saw the triumph of the decentralizers in the fight over the social security bill, and the enhanced power in TVA of Frankfurter's follower, David Lilienthal. Brandeis himself had a direct hand

in the most important victory of all: the invalidation of the NRA.

Corcoran had only been out of the government for a short time, but he was "running" the Asian Lend-Lease program and working to defend against both the Justice Department inquiry and a potential congressional investigation into Sterling Pharmaceutical. Corcoran assembled a defense team led by John Cahill, his former classmate at Harvard Law School and an associate of his at Cotton and Franklin. Cahill was the U.S. attorney in New York and, not coincidentally, had been working with Thurman Arnold, the assistant attorney general for antitrust matters, supervising the Department of justice's inquiry into Sterling. At Corcoran's urging, Cahill resigned his post on February 10, 1941, to enter private practice. There were no laws prohibiting him from representing a client in a case on which he had been working, and notwithstanding a clear conflict of interest, Cahill immediately began representing Sterling Pharmaceutical.

Now that he had help on the Sterling case, Corcoran began to take on new business. His first major client was Henry J. Kaiser, a West Coast businessman who had made a fortune from government contracts, primarily in helping build the Boulder and Shasta Dams. Corcoran had first met Kaiser when Corcoran was an attorney at the RFC and he, Harold Ickes, and David Lilienthal established the Bonneville Power Administration. Now as the country prepared for war, Kaiser recognized that the government's procurement program offered many exceptional business opportunities. Kaiser needed to know the people in Washington who were making the decisions, and he called on Tommy Corcoran for assistance.

Corcoran was able to open doors for Kaiser all over town. At the White House, Corcoran introduced him to several people, including Lauchlin Currie. At the Federal Reserve, Corcoran arranged a meeting with the chairman, Marriner Eccles, who had been introduced to Kaiser several years earlier when Eccles was a construction magnate in Utah. Corcoran later boasted that through his contacts at the Interior Department he denied the Bonneville Power Administration to Alcoa, the giant aluminum company, and helped secure it for Kaiser.

Corcoran also helped at the War Department, where he introduced Kaiser to William Knudsen, the former chief executive of General Motors who had been appointed at the end of 1940 to command the Office of Production Management to coordinate defense preparations. Over the course of the next few years, Kaiser arranged for $645 million in building contracts at his ten shipyards, eight of which were located on the West Coast. He netted a profit on each ship of between $60,000 to $110,000 and made millions with his assembly methods. He pioneered group medicine at his companies, creating what eventually became Kaiser Permanente, a precursor to today's health maintenance organizations.

In late 1941 Johnson approached E. Kingsbery, an ultraconservative Austin businessman who owned a half interest in KTBC. Kingsbery had opposed Johnson's candidacy, but after the congressman helped Kingsbery's son gain admission to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, the businessman was indebted to him. Johnson told Kingsbery, "I'm not a newspaperman, not a lawyer, and I might get beat sometime. I did have a second-class teacher's certificate, but it's expired, and I want to get into some business." Impressed by Johnson's energy and initiative, Kingsbery told Johnson that he wanted to pay his "obligation" to him and simply gave him his half-interest option.

The option to buy the other half was owned by the Wesley West family, who had extensive holdings in the oil industry and owned the Austin Daily Tribune, a conservative daily. Just a day or two before Christmas, Johnson traveled to Plano County to work out a deal with Wesley West at his ranch. Johnson charmed the older man, who later recalled, "I didn't like Lyndon Johnson," but said after meeting him, "He's a pretty good fellow. I believe I'll sell it to him."

With the two half-interest options, Johnson had only one more obstacle to overcome in his purchase of the station - approval from the Federal Communications Commission. To help navigate the process, Johnson called Tommy Corcoran.

When Corcoran left government and had been looking for clients, Johnson made sure that he was placed on retainer by the Houston contracting firm of Brown and Root, owned by George and Herman Brown, who had financed Lyndon's previous campaigns. Corcoran had been paid as much as fifteen thousand dollars for "advice, conferences and negotiations" related to shipbuilding contracts. Now it was Johnson looking to Corcoran to help him with a business proposition. Corcoran did not disappoint. As Corcoran later told Johnson's biographer, Robert Caro, "I helped out all up and down the line."

Corcoran had an important contact at the FCC: James Fly, the chairman of the commission, had been his classmate at Harvard Law School and owed his appointment in good measure to Corcoran. Justice Frank Murphy later told Felix Frankfurter that he had helped get Fly the position as a favor to Tommy Corcoran. According to Murphy, "[It] was at Tom's request that I gave the former Chairman a ten thousand dollar a year job so as to create a vacancy into which Fly was placed."

As planning for the U.S. plot progressed, Corcoran and other top officials at United Fruit became anxious about identifying a future leader who would establish favorable relations between the government and the company. Secretary of State Dulles moved to add a"civilian" adviser to the State Department team to help expedite Operation Success. Dulles chose a friend of Corcoran's, William Pawley, a Miami-based millionaire who, along with Corcoran, Chennault, and Willauer, had helped set up the Flying Tigers in the early r94os and then helped several years later to transform it into the CIA's airline, Civil Air Transport. Besides his association with Corcoran, Pawley's most important qualification for the job was that he had a long history of association with right-wing Latin American dictators.

CIA director Dulles had grown disillusioned with J. C. King and asked Colonel Albert Haney, the CIA station chief in Korea, to be the U.S. field commander for the operation. Haney enthusiastically accepted, although he was apparently unaware of the role that the United Fruit Company had played in his selection. Haney had been a colleague of King's, and though King was no longer directing the operation, he remained a member of the agency planning team. He suggested that Haney meet with Tom Corcoran to see about arming the insurgency force with the weapons that had been mothballed in a New York warehouse after the failed Operation Fortune. When the supremely confident Haney said he didn't need any help from a Washington lawyer, King rebuked him, "If you think you can run this operation without United Fruit, you're crazy!"

The close working relationship between the CIA and United Fruit was perhaps best epitomized by Allen Dulles's encouragement to the company to help select an expedition commander for the planned invasion. After the CIA's first choice was vetoed by the State Department, United Fruit proposed Corcova Cerna, a Guatemalan lawyer and coffee grower. Cerna had long worked for the company as a paid legal adviser, and even though Corcoran referred to him as "a liberal," he believed that Cerna would not interfere with the company's land holdings and operations. After Cerna was hospitalized with throat cancer, a third candidate, Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, emerged as the compromise choice.

According to United Fruit's Thomas McCann, when the Central Intelligence Agency finally launched Operation Success in late June 1954, "United Fruit was involved at every level." From neighboring Honduras, Ambassador Willauer, Corcoran's former business partner, directed bombing raids on Guatemala City. McCann was told that the CIA even shipped down the weapons used in the uprising "in United Fruit boats."

On June 27, 1954, Colonel Armas Ousted the Arbenz government and ordered the arrest of all communist leaders in Guatemala. While the coup was successful, a dark chapter was opened in American support for right wing military dictators in Central America.

In February 1960 the New York Times reported that while Senator Johnson "stubbornly contends that he has no plans, or expectations of becoming a candidate, several aides, including Corcoran, were working for him behind the scenes." The article quoted Corcoran as suggesting that he was used for "the testing of new ideas."

Three months earlier Corcoran's good friend, the seventy-eight-year old Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, had returned to his home state of Texas to announce the formation of an "unofficial Johnson for President campaign." Rayburn's announcement followed that of Senator John F. Kennedy, who had declared his candidacy for the presidency in the Senate caucus room a month earlier, and Senator Hubert Humphrey, who had tossed his hat into the ring at the beginning of the new year. Sensing that he had a greater name recognition than any of the declared candidates, and desperately seeking vindication after two stinging previous defeats, Adali Stevenson allowed others to present his case. Senator Stuart Symington had decided to wait in the wings, hoping that in a deadlocked convention he would become the consensus alternative.

Corcoran was one of a number of prominent New Dealer-era luminaries, including Eliot Janeway, Dean Acheson, and William O. Douglas, who were supporting Lyndon Johnson. Presidential chronicler Theodore White later called the group "a loose and highly ineffective coalition," which was not entirely fair since it did manage to raise nearly $150,000 for Johnson's undeclared candidacy. LBJ himself decided not to campaign actively; as majority leader he believed he couldn't neglect his Senate duties to mount a full-scale campaign.

In late 1964, however, Corcoran was preoccupied with a political scandal. Only weeks after Johnson was sworn in as president, Bobby Baker got into trouble for fraud and tax evasion. Baker had been LBJ's closest aide and most important adviser in the Senate. He and Corcoran had known each other for many years, and although never close friends, their mutual respect for Lyndon Johnson and the fact that they were both political operators meant that they saw one another often.

Tommy had actually helped Baker buy his house in the affluent section of Washington known as Spring Valley. Corcoran had learned that Baker and his wife, who was expecting their third child, were looking for a larger home. At the time, Tommy was representing Tenneco, and he knew that a house under construction - originally intended for one of the company's vice presidents, who had been recalled to Texas - was slated to go on the market for $175,000. Baker was encouraged to put in a bid of $125,000, which was accepted. Although Baker never recalled doing any special favor for Corcoran in return, Tommy always knew that he was owed one.

In January 1964 Baker was indicted by the U.S. attorney in Washington for tax evasion. The former Capitol Hill aide sought out John Lane, whom he had known in the Senate and who by now had established a small but highly regarded law practice. Lane did not have a white-collar defense practice, but he knew that Tommy Corcoran's brother, Howard, practiced in New York with Boris Kostelanitz, a respected attorney who had handled several criminal tax cases. Lane and Baker went to see Corcoran in his office. As they sat and talked on Corcoran's leather couch, Corcoran's secretary came in and told Baker that Attorney General Robert Kennedy was on the telephone. Kennedy wanted to assure Baker that he had not personally ordered the case against him and that his knowledge of the case came only from newspaper clippings.

Baker retained Kostelanitz to defend him on the charges of tax evasion and retained Edward Bennett Williams, the renowned criminal lawyer, as his counsel. The case was assigned to judge Oliver Gasch of the district court after several judges reportedly rejected it because they personally knew Baker. Ironically, Gasch, a close friend of Howard Corcoran's, owed his appointment to Tommy Corcoran. But much to Baker's chagrin, Corcoran didn't intercede on his behalf, probably because Lyndon Johnson never asked him. The president, according to one lawyer close to the case, "didn't want to touch Baker with a ten foot pole."


Thomas G. 'Tommy the Cork' Corcoran, a Washington institution.

WASHINGTON -- Thomas G. 'Tommy the Cork' Corcoran, a Washington institution who rose to power as Franklin D. Roosevelt's personal troubleshooter and fixer, died Sunday. He was 80.

Corcoran, who had been in good health and who had kept active as a lawyer and lobbyist, died at the Washington Hospital Center of a pulmonary embolism following gall bladder surgery, a family spokesman said.

Corcoran, as FDR's liaison to Capitol Hill, cajoled, persuaded and bullied a recalcitrant Congress into passing Roosevelt's liberal and far-reaching legislation that formed the New Deal.

In addition to FDR, Corcoran worked for Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and helped form the Flying Tigers, which kept the Chinese supplied with materials until the United States entered World War II.

Until his death, Corcoran's Washington law firm -- Corcoran, Youngman and Rowe -- dealt with a long list of top corporate clients including Tenneco and large New York insurance companies, and he used his experience to lobby on their behalf.

Corcoran was born Dec. 29, 1900, in Pawtucket, R.I. His father, a lawyer, was the son of an Irish immigrant, his mother the descendent of a pre-revolution New England family.

'My father always used to say that a boy who did not take the politics of his father and the religion of his mother was either a victim of child abuse or a filial ingrate,' Corcoran once said. He was a Democrat and a Roman Catholic.

At 12, he peddled newspapers at 15, he worked on a farm for 15 cents an hour, led a strike for better pay and was fired.

From public high school in Pawtucket, he worked his way through Brown University and then enrolled in Harvard Law School. To build up income he gave lectures -- at $2 a head -- on how to pass tough exams.

His law school professor Felix Frankfurter was instrumental in his appointment as secretary to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1926. Corocron called the job 'one of the greatest periods in my life. I learned more from him than any history book.'

When the clerkship expired, he joined a New York law firm and specialized in corporate law, stock mergers and issuances. In 1932, at the request of Federal Reserve Board Governor Eugene Meyer, he returned to Washington as counsel to the newly created Reconstruction Finance Corporation.

There, he got involved in politics and worked on the Federal Housing Act. House Speaker Sam Rayburn then asked him for help with the Securities Act, which faced a tough congressional fight. It was through Rayburn he met Ben Cohen.

Together, Corcoran and Cohen became known as 'The Whiz Kids' and 'The Gold Dust Twins.'

'They were the greatest team I've every seen,' civil rights lawyer Joe Rauh once said. 'What Tommy did in the 1930s was one of the great legal and political performances of all time.'

They soon became part of FDR's 'brain trust' and took on the majority of the president's tough jobs. Corcoran was the White House premier odd jobber, legman, expediter, armtwister and speechwriter.

Together, the 'Twins' wrote and pushed through Congress the Stock Exchange Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Securities and Exchange Act, the Public Utility Holding Act and others that completely transformed American life.

'Tommy was far more to Roosevelt than simply a hatchet man,' said lawyer David Ginsburg. 'He was solace, support, adviser and entertainer.'

The turning point in Corcoran's White House career came when he sought the job of solicitor general. According to Rauh, he got four Supreme Court justices to sign a letter to Roosevelt urging the appointment.

Frankfurter, who Corcoran had helped place on the court, refused to sign. The appointment was never made. And the breach with Frankfurter never healed.

Corcoran left the White House in 1941 to form China Defense Supplies lend-lease to China and a thriving law practice. With Claire Chenault, he organized the Flying Tigers to keep the Chinese supplied until America entered the war.

His law practice grew and flourished. His dealings on behalf of large oil compaies and pharmaceutiical firms produced congressional wrath, and his law firm was investigated four times by Congress. Each time he emerged unscathed.

Corcoran is survived by his sons, Thomas Jr. of Washington Dr. David of Bethesda, Md. Howard of Potomac, Md. and Christopher of Newfoundland, Canada one daughter, Cecily Kihn of Philadelphia, and six grandchildren.


Tommy the Cork the secret world of Washington's first modern lobbyist.

"I know the corners of this town in thedark,' boasted Thomas G. Corcoran, Washington's premier lobbyist, in a private phone coversation in 1945. His words are preserved today because Harry S. Truman had the FBI tap into the corners of Corcoran's Washington, recording conversations held on the power broker's home and office phones.

Corcoran, nicknamed "Tommy the Cork' byFranklin Roosevelt, had been FDR's chief political operative, guiding much of the New Deal legislation through Congress and serving as the President's primary deal maker and talent scout. He had joined Roosevelt's administration in 1933, seemingly an idealist recruited by Felix Frankfurter to help "cheat the cheaters.' But by 1941 Corcoran had embarked on a career that would gain him a more dubious distinction as the prototype modern lobbyist and influence peddler.

Truman apparently tapped Corcoran becausehe feared that several of FDR's former aides were plotting against his administration. In so doing, Truman and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who likely originated the idea for the taps, created the most extensive record of political surveillance in American history: 5,000 pages of wiretap transcripts, covering May 1945 through early 1947. They were deposited in the Truman Presidential library and opened to researchers two years after Corcoran's death in 1981.

The tapes provide a mini-course in the art ofWashington lobbying with lessons hidden behind every deal, the most important being that lobbying is not pulling strings--it's scrambling. Corcoran enlisted a Catholic bishop in one lobbying effort, and used the off-the-cuff words of a tipsy cabinet secretary in another. He plotted with a future Supreme Court justice to bribe a selective service official, and acted as real estate agent for a sitting Court justice. He helped a major company evade wartime quotas for soaps, drawing into the fray a half-dozen major government officials, party leaders, and businessmen.

At every step Corcoran searched for a way touse his former White House connections to cash in for himself, in one case personally profiting from the transformation of a United Nations relief effort into what later became the first CIA-backed airline--the forerunner of Southern Air Transport that shuttled Eugene Hasenfus and weapons to the contras.

Although Corcoran suspected his phonesmight be tapped, he spoke candidly of personalities and strategies, sometimes bluntly acknowledging the illegality of his efforts. The tapes even show a streak of anti-Semitism and a contempt for some of his former New Deal associates who had taken a different path.

The trail that Corcoran traveled seems well-beatennow: find a government job, develop expertise, then leave government to sell that expertise for a handsome profit. But it was Tommy Corcoran and a handful of other FDR aides who first applied that career strategy to the executive branch. They recognized that the mix of New Deal regulations and World War II foreign policy commitments had created an opening for savvy, well-connected lobbyists who focused not just on Congress, as they had in the past, but on federal agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Export-Import Bank. In the process, of course, Corcoran sometimes worked to undermine or exploit for personal gain the very laws and regulations that he and other New Dealers had helped establish. But as he said in a phone conversation in January 1946, "You can't luxuriate yourself in your personal friendships and your likes and dislikes and your senses of justice and injustice when you're playing in this racket.'

Corcoran's path to political power began inPawtucket, Rhode Island, where his father headed the town's most prominent law firm. He attended Harvard Law School studying under Professor Felix Frankfurter, who later became a close adviser to Roosevelt and the leading advocate of an activist government. After a clerkship with Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Corcoran joined the prestigious Wall Street firm of Cotton and Franklin where he plunged into the practice of securities law.

In 1932, Cotton and Franklin loaned Corcoranto the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, an agency set up by Herbert Hoover to fight the Depression through loans to businesses and banks. Supposedly on temporary assignment, he would never again leave the nation's capital. In 1933, FDR's "Brain Trust' recruited him to help write and lobby for legislation governing the securities industry. Corcoran's behind-the-scenes maneuvering on behalf of New Deal legislation impressed both Frankfurter, by then a Roosevelt confidant, and the president himself. Although formally employed in a minor agency position, Corcoran was drawn into the inner circles of the White House, soon becoming FDR's all-purpose speechwriter, strategist, talent scout, and back-channel lobbyist. Corcoran's "Little Red House' in Georgetown became the town's leading communications center. Government officials, journalists, and businessmen swapped information and traded favors with Corcoran, creating the network of contacts that he would exploit in his private practice. Historian Cabell Phillips wrote that Corcoran and New Deal colleague and housemate Benjamin Cohen "constituted a sort of semi-autonomous fourth level of government.'

Yet by the time of Roosevelt's reelection in1940, Corcoran's seven years of scuffling with Congress and the press had transformed him into a political liability. He was blamed for Roosevelt's embarrassing political defeats with the 1937 plan to pack the Supreme Court and the 1938 efforts to purge conservatives from the party. The enemies he had made through his high-pressured lobbying style also blocked Corcoran's dream of becoming U.S. Solicitor General or under-secretary of the Navy, FDR's old job. Even ex-mentor Frankfurter came to believe that Corcoran lacked the discipline to put into practice the ideal of selfless public service.

So in 1941 Corcoran began working as alawyer-lobbyist. Although he could no longer jolt senators and cabinet secretaries by crackling "this is Tommy Corcoran calling from the White House,' he could remain a manipulator of people and events and a permanent member of the in-crowd. In several of the deals captured on the tapes, Corcoran helped powerful individuals with problems that involved the government, often enlisting the help of important officials and cutting them in on potential profits from the case.

They show, for example, that in early 1946,Corcoran teamed up with Abe Fortas, former undersecretary of the Interior, later a Supreme Court Justice, and another New Dealer who used his government expertise for private gain. The tapes show them considering a plan to strike it rich by helping financier Serge Rubinstein avoid criminal prosecution for draft evasion and securities law violations. In a conversation recorded on January 27, 1946, Corcoran explained to Fortas that the wooing of a client had two stages: first, earn their confidence, then, exploit their fears: "You can't do it until you've proved to him a little bit that you can help him. As soon as you get him on the fly-paper and as soon as you're sure yourself you can help him, then you can do something [to get control of his assets].'

To help Rubinstein with his draft evasion case,Corcoran that day called William Leahy, Selective Service director for the District of Columbia: "He [Rubinstein] is a rich man who's scared as I never knew one who's scared. He can put it on the line. . . . I think you can get $100,000 down this morning.' Leahy reported the following day that Rubinstein's one slim hope was that Selective Service might want to quash the prosecution to avoid being embarrassed by their initial failure to discover the violation. Fortas told Corcoran that "Chocolate bar [Lewis B. Hershey, national director of Selective Service] thinks it will be a black eye for him. Because they didn't catch it themselves. . . . Now that may be hogwash, but Bill [Leahy] is going to look into it this afternoon. And we're trying to get this guy [Rubinstein] out of town on a plane.' They then engaged in an Alphonse and Gaston conversation about compensation:

Fortas: He [Rubinstein] handed me a check forfive [$5,000] . . . on one of his companies. Is that all right?

Fortas: Now all or any part of that is yours.

Fortas: Well, Tom you're too generous.

Corcoran: Someday, maybe, we'll make someadjustment, but that's all yours. Because we've got to get this thing off the ground, boy. Remember what I said. I have a vivid idea of the rent.

Fortas had apparently made a quick profit(although Rubinstein's checks may have been as suspect as his character). But the larger scheme collapsed. Rubinstein was indicted on January 30 and later convicted in one of the most publicized draft evasion cases of the World War II era. Ironically, Fortas was forced off the Court in 1969 by revelations that he had participated in a similar scheme to soak a trouble-ridden financier.

Corcoran usually demanded high fees as in theRubinstein case he admitted to a minimum fee of $5,000. In his first year in private practice, he is reported to have earned over $250,000 (comparable to seven figures in today's lobbyist-intensive Washington). "When you're charging fees . . . charge them high,' Corcoran advised one senator. "The world takes you at your own valuation. You decide whether you're Tiffany or Woolworth--not the market.'

But Corcoran also understood the value ofhumbly accepting modest payment in exchange for heartfelt future grantitude. He would, for example, earn the debt of politicians by engineering deals that would throw campaign contributions their way. The transcripts for 1946 indicate that in return for a $6,500 contribution for the re-election of Senator Joseph Guffey of Pennsylvania, Corcoran got the William Penn Life Insurance Company a permit to construct a new office building in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. When the task proved more difficult than he expected, Corcoran moaned that "what they did was chisel an extra $25,000 bucks worth of work out of me--the sons of bitches.' The quid pro quo was so blatant in this case that the check arrived drawn on the company's account. Corcoran had to explain to the novices that corporate contributions were illegal and that other arrangements had to be made for remitting the mondy.

When it came to helping out the truly powerful,no man was more generous than Corcoran, for such assistance was a crucial tool in building his influence throughout Washington. For example, when Ganson Purcell was about to step down as chairman of the SEC, Corcoran offered him precious office space. Purcell accepted, adding what must have been music to Tommy the Cork: "But I feel I owe you so much already.'

For Supreme Court Justice William O.Douglas, Corcoran functioned as a real estate agent. The following exchange, taped on March 18, 1946, shows how Corcoran mingled the personal and political, and reveals that the Supreme Court Justice was helping to arrange appointments to a key agency of government at the same time he was sitting on the court:

Corcoran: I found a downtown air-cooledapartment.

Justice Douglas: Oh, you did.

Corcoran: And I think I can work this thingout on a purchase basis.

Corcoran: The third thing I want to tellyou . . . Sumner [Pike, SEC Commissioner] as well as Gans [Ganson Purcell, SEC Chairman] are quitting. . . .

Justice Douglas: We better get together andtalk about guys to take over that place.

Corcoran's favorite arrangement was the tripleplay in which he would gain compensation for the efforts of others, avoid taxes, and make all parties believe that he had performed favors on their behalf. According to transcripts for Fall 1945, Corcoran was approached to help a wealthy businessman, Dick Von Guntard, get his daughter out of Russian-occupied Germany. Rather than traveling to Europe himself to make the necessary arrangements, Corcoran delegated the task to his New Deal friend, Bishop Bernard Sheil of Chicago, influential head of the Catholic Youth Organization, who was going abroad on other matters. Corcoran dictated the following terms to Von Guntard's attorney: The businessman must "pay the expenses of the man of the cloth [Sheil] over and back as a contribution to him. Now that, my dear sir, is deductible. If the man of the cloth actually delivers . . . I want him to make the same $5,000 contribution to the Catholic Youth Movement over here . . . for myself, a bond up to the gift limit of three thousand dollars for each of my kids before he goes [a total of $12,000].' The Bishop got his carfare to Europe and a potential contribution, Von Guntard gained successful arrangements to have his daughter returned, and Corcoran received $12,000 tax free for his children.

Many of Corcoran's cases exploited the newrelationship between business and government that developed in the 1940s. The New Deal and the war had transformed Washington into a center of business activity. Corporate America crowded into the capital to take part in the war effort, to gain contracts and concessions from government, and to share in the development of a U.S.-dominated post-war economic and strategic system.

Corcoran particularly loved to assist companiesin deed trouble they always paid more. In the summer of 1945, for example, Corcoran teamed with former Senator William Smathers of New Jersey in an effort to acquire a share of a lucrative sugar company from businessmen charged with tax evasion. The recordings of August 30, 1945 show that Corcoran contacted Smathers with "a case of people who are awfully scared and they might pay you desperately well.'

Corcoran explained to Smathers that he hadpersonally "made their agent yesterday understand that they were right in the shadow of the pen . . . so that they'll dig up' if Smathers could just keep them out of jail. Corcoran suggested that Smathers "could say to the Department of Justice, "You're getting the full tax and fraud penalty out of these people--there's no use in smashing up a local enterprise in my home state of New Jersey.' Get it?' Corcoran was particularly fond of having people like Smathers make the key contacts because it allowed him to increase his influence and protect himself at the same time.

Corcoran's plan called for picking these clientsclean. "I think you can just take the pants off them,' he said. Corcoran and several associates would share both the sugar company and an exorbitant fee. Although transcripts don't show whether Corcoran and Smathers were able to keep their clients out of jail--Corcoran called it a "long shot'--they do show that they were paid handsomely for their efforts. Within 24 hours of the deal being struck, Smathers reported back that cash was on its way. "I told them I wanted $5,000 now and $15,000 in January. They said they would come and bring it down. . . .'

One of Corcoran's most significant preoccupationsduring World War II and its aftermath was helping corporations and trade groups get around the federal controls on wages, prices, and raw materials. He helped the American Hotel Owners Association get relief from pricing restrictions and the Raycrest Mills company to get increased supplies of Rayon. When asked by Raycrest for help, Corcoran first thought about his own pocketbook: "How about the old dole?'

But of all the deals captured on tape, nonemore fully illustrates Corcoran's repertorie of lobbying techniques--and how often those techniques failed--than his exhaustive efforts in late 1945 and 1946 to help the Lever Brothers company increase its quota on the materials used in the making of soap. Quota breaking was a serious crime bordering on treason. Corcoran's delicate task was to pressure the Department of Agriculture into raising Lever Brothers' allocation of raw materials, without alerting competitors such as Proctor and Gamble. Corcoran avoided formal hearings in favor of private contacts and used front-men in addition to direct lobbying. For the Lever Brothers deal, Corcoran told law partner Worth Clark, a former senator from Idaho, "I want $100,000' and to keep the business for future deals with the company. To press Secretary of Agriculture Clinton P. Anderson for allocations beyond what department staff recommended, Corcoran enlisted the active participation of both law partner Worth Clark and Worth's cousin, Bennett Champ Clark, former senator from President Truman's home state of Missouri and a recent appointee to the Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

By recruiting Bennett Clark, Corcoran gainedboth a White House connection and a potential debt of gratitude from an important federal judge. "I'd like to make Bennett secure for life on that [Lever Brothers case]' Corcoran told Worth Clark. "I think that would be the best damn investment.'

The first big break in the case came from Corcoran'ssocializing rather than Bennett Clark's influence. In a conversation taped on November 23, 1945, Corcoran told a Lever Brothers executive that he had obtained a valuable confession from Secretary Anderson during a party "after enough drinks had gone so people can't tell the truth.' According to Corcoran, Anderson had agreed that Lever Brothers should be allowed additional fats and oils, but had not overruled staff objections because he was about to lift all restrictions on them anyway. Lever Brothers would shortly get the raw materials it wanted and the secretary would not have "to take on a storm in his department' by making an exception for Corcoran's client.

The next day Corcoran learned that whilealcohol may make confessions more readily available, it does not necessarily make them accurate. Anderson was wrong quotas were not about to be lifted on the inedible fats and oils used in soap manufacturing. On December 11, Secretary Anderson informed Corcoran that the Lever Brothers case was officially closed.

Corcoran may have been secretly pleased thatAnderson was mistaken about the demise of restrictions on fats and oils the key to lobbying is not getting something done, but taking credit for getting something done. If Agriculture had ended its quota system, then Corcoran could not claim to have accomplish anything special for Lever Brothers. Corcoran had, in fact, a month earlier confided to Worth Clark that if rationing eased up they should go to Agriculture and ask for a face-saving, if substantively meaningless, recognition of their Lever Brothers claim: "Now I think that gives us a way of going to them and say now you know and we know that [quotas are] going to collapse, it's going to be unnecessary, but it's awfully important for us to make this showing so come on and do it for us. I hope there's no dictography in that office.'

The Agriculture Department decision meantCorcoran would have to scramble for his client. "We'll have to mobilize forces tonight,' he told Bennett Clark. "We'll get it.' First, he tried to enlist the help of the Democratic Party machinery. He had earlier approached Robert Hannegan, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and the postmaster general, about assisting in the Lever Brothers case, but Hannegan, seeing little in it for him, did little to help. So Corcoran offered the party a stake in the deal: in exchange for assistance with Lever Brothers, Corcoran and Worth Clark agreed to help the party treasurer court A. P. Giannini, retiring head of the Bank of America, and a politically influential financier.

To win Giannini's affection, Corcoran had togain Federal Reserve Board approval of the Bank of America's plans to acquire 25 branch banks in California. On December 13, Corcoran reported that Worth Clark had persuaded Fed Chairman Marriner Eccles to give Giannini permission to acquire two or three banks as a prelude to further expansion: "And now, by God, I want Bob Hannegan to deliver for me on that Lever thing as he promised he would . . .' But Giannini was not enthralled. The "big storming pirate,' Corcoran complained to Clark on December 19, had "pounded the table? and complained, "if you can give me two of them [branch banks] you can give me the whole twenty-five of them and I demand them.' No help came from Giannini.

Just when Corcoran was looking pretty impotentas a lobbyist, the Lever Brothers company itself came to his rescue--by breaking the law. Corcoran learned that Lever Brothers, without authorization, had already obtained and processed into soap the 2.5 million pounds of fats and oils for which they had wanted Agriculture Department approval. Corcoran's mission changed to damage control.

He had just the weapon--Secretary Anderson'scocktail party gaffe. In a conversation with a Lever Brothers official on December 20, Corcoran explained that if Secretary Anderson dared move against the company, Lever Brothers could pretend that the secretary's off-the-record admissions had given de facto authorization for use of the extra fats and oils. "So as I understand it the two million five is already in the kettle. . . . Well don't worry about it. He [Anderson] knows you've put it in. But he doesn't know it in such a way that incriminates you. But he knows that in reliance on what he told me, you have taken an action which otherwise you wouldn't have taken. . . . I have very carefully not talked this thing directly with him because I'm passing the messages in such a way--remember we've violated a law--that I'm never putting myself in the point where I've said it.'

That strategy received a temporary setbackwhen career officials within Agriculture sent a letter warning that the department "did not believe the Company had acted in good faith in its use of fats during the last quarter of 1945.' The letter prompted the following exchange between Corcoran and Judge Bennett Clark reported on February 4, 1946:

Corcoran: I must say that suy [Anderson] isa most amazing bird. . . . He says one thing to your face, and then four or five days later a subordinate of his writes a letter.

Clark: He's a dirty son-of-a-bitch.

Corcoran: I'm going to pretend I got out oftown before I got the letter so I won't answer it.

Clark: The first chance I get I'm going to tellHarry Truman what a dirty double-crossing son-of-a-bitch this fellow is.

Just as Corcoran seemed to have run out ofavenues for exerting pressure on the department, one last potential deal fell in his lap. President Truman had nominated California oil executive Ed Pauley for undersecretary of the Navy, but the nomination had stalled because of objections from Secretary of Interior Harold Ickes. By helping out on the Pauley nomination, Corcoran had a final opportunity to get the assistance he needed from party chairman Bob Hannegan. Corcoran told a Lever Brothers official on February 10, 1946 that Hannegan "asked us to get him two votes on this Naval Affairs Committee for Pauley. . . . I don't know whether I can deliver those two votes or not--my own hunch is that if I can, it is probably the last chance I've got to heave him in so tough that I'll get this quota.' Corcoran could not deliver the votes for Pauley. Truman withdrew Pauley's nomination and accepted the interior secretary's resignation. Ironically, at the same time Corcoran was plotting to help secure Pauley's nomination over Ickes objections, he was helping the interior secretary write his letter of resignation.

After several unsuccessful efforts to gainspecial treatment, Corcoran finally gained a partial victory for his client. Apparently because Anderson had compromised himself, the Agriculture Department went relatively easy on Lever Brothers. The company was supposed to deduct the 2,500,000 pounds from the 1946 quota, but "no one is going to jail and time passes,' Worth Clark concluded. In fact, Lever Brothers would never actually have to deduct the fats and oils it had illegally used in 1945. Instead the company could keep "readjusting [its quota] from quarter to quarter,' putting off the deduction until wartime controls ended and no one cared anymore.

Although Corcoran never officially gainedrecognition of Lever Brother's claims, with his aggressiveness he had in effect succeeded in circumventing the regulations. While modern influence peddlers often promise only access, Corcoran delivered hustle. In the course of this one case, Corcoran had involved the treasurer of the Democratic Party, the postmaster general, a titan of American business, the head of the federal reserve system, members of the Naval Affairs Committee, a federal judge and a former senator. At each level, negotiation consisted of classic back room favor trading. Ultimately, Corcoran helped his clients avoid punishment not through his skills of persuasion, but by making use of the Agriculture Secretary's loose lips.

While the New Deal and World War II hadcreated a market for executive branch lobbying domestically, the end of the Depression and the war created other markets for Corcoran. "You are coming back to one of the greatest foreign trade eras the world has ever known,' State Department official Joe Panuch told Corcoran's brother Dave two months before the Japanese surrender. "You have to know how [to take advantage], and it is just a question of getting the jump.'

To get his jump on the new era, Corcoran onceagain used expertise and contacts developed while in government. During the war, Corcoran had served FDR as unofficial head of Lend Lease to China, a program that operated in the form of a private corporation, China Defense Supplies. Corcoran's brother Dave had been the company president and FDR's uncle Franklin Delano and Chinese leader T.V. Soong (later premier) were directors. After the war, Corcoran's law firm quickly obtained Soong as a client with a $100,000 annual retainer. In addition, Corcoran personally moved to get in on various enterprises, peddling aspirin, branch banking, public works projects, and exports of every kind. Most of Corcoran's schemes remained pipe dreams after Chiang Kai-shek's nationalist government began to collapse under the pressure of inflation, corruption, and war against Mao Tse-Tung's communist forces. But he did succeed spectacularly in establishing a commercial airline in China-- Commercial Air Transport or CAT, the only strictly private carrier serving China.

CAT began when Corcoran convinced FiorelloLa Guardia, director general of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and formerly mayor of New York City, to put up nearly $2 million to purchase surplus cargo planes, fuel, and other supplies necessary to start up the airline. In return, CAT would ferry UNRRA's relief supplies to-war-devastated China. Only after UNRRA needs were met would the airline be authorized to carry commercial freight. As a July 18, 1946 conversation showed, Corcoran and General Claire Chennault, the wartime commander of the Flying Tigers Air Group and president of CAT, were eager to carry as little humanitarian cargo as possible:

Chennault: This thing would be a great money-makerif we didn't carry a pound of UNRRA cargo.

Corcoran: I should think so too. The problemis how do you get the original equipment.

Chennault: Yeah, but I mean if we get theequipment.

Chennault: Then don't carry a pound of thisUNRRA cargo and make a lot more money.

Corcoran: More money. I told them [theChinese investors] that.

Corcoran and Chennault were able to keeptheir commitments to UNRRA and establish a marginally profitable airline. After the triumph of Mao in 1949, they played upon fears of a spreading Asian communism to persuade the CIA to subsidize their airline as a source of supplies to anti-communist guerrillas. In 1950, the agency purchased CAT outright. Not only did Corcoran and other shareholders pocket $950,000 from the acquisition deal, but the CIA acquired the beginnings of an "aerial empire' that would eventually support covert operations in Nicaragua and throughout the world.

Corcoran had played the foreign policy gameperfectly with CAT, beginning the airline to meet the need for post-war relief, then selling it when concern switched to the containment of communism. But the tapes show that he was less successful in his bid to become a broker for the billions of dollars in loans that the federal government used to spur the revival of international trade. Corcoran's approach was to influence appointments to the Export-Import Bank, the main source of foreign loans in the 1940s. He had helped establish the Export-Import Bank as an FDR adviser in 1934. Loans were to be disbursed to help foreign governments buy goods produced by American concerns. Corcoran's candidate to head the Export-Import Bank was Leo "The Lion' Crowley, a New Deal colleague who had run lend-lease. Corcoran believed that with Crowley at the helm, the bank would authorize hundreds of millions in loans to nationalist China "to be spent as we want it spent.'

Corcoran was also interested in loans tocommunist-bloc countries, virgin territory for commercial expansion. "You're going to have a terrific voice on the Russian business and on the Balkan business and on the Polish business . . . the satellite states that are part of the Russian thing,' Corcoran told Leo Crowley on October 21, 1945. "I think we can control that all right,' Crowley replied. His interest in trade with communist countries did not, however, stop Corcoran from joining the virulent red-baiting of the time, especially when it served his personal ends. When Nelson Rockefeller, an occasional business partner, was dismissed as assistant secretary of state, Corcoran blamed "that wild commie-kike crowd that are sure that if you're not willing to dissolve all existing forms of society to their benefit, you're an s.o.b.' At another point, when it appeared that a plan to have Navy planes fly UNRRA relief missions to China threatened support for the Corcoran-Chennault airline, Corcoran cried "commie' conspiracy.

Without access to Truman's White House,however, Corcoran was frustrated in his efforts to gain leverage over the Export-Import Bank's appointees. He learned that connections may only take you so far if the people in power simply don't want to listen to you. Truman didn't appoint Crowley or any other Corcoran ally to the Export-Import bank. On November 11, 1945, Corcoran's partner Bill Youngman gave the following gloomy report about prospects for loans to China:

Youngman: I have a feeling this (U. S. to Chinaloan) is going to be in troubled waters.

Corcoran: I have no doubt about it. . . . We beton a horse that didn't show up.

By invading the privacy of Corcoran, Harry S.Truman and J. Edgar Hoover inadvertently opened to public view the once hidden world of influence peddling in Washington, D.C. Corcoran, who remained an active player in the capital until close to his death in 1981, was by no means America's first high-powered lobbyist. For much of American history, corporations had hired lobbyista to press their claims in Congress. But the dramatic government expansion that began with the New Deal and World War II, and exploded in the sixties and seventies with the Great Society, spawned a breed of lobbyists who knew the workings of the executive branch. The boom in Washington office building construction is explainable in no small part by the need to provide safe haven for the Tommy Corcorans of the eighties.

Corcoran's lasting contribution to Americanpolitics was in showing just how self-enriching passage through the revolving door can be. He provides the evolutionary bridge between the crass "fixers' of the past who bought and sold congressmen and today's slick lawyers who serve the public interest for a short time for the sole purpose of cashing in later. Corcoran was not the only former New Dealer to follow such a path. For example, Thurman Arnold, FDR's assistant attorney general for antitrust, went on to form one of the most respectable power-law firms in town, Arnold, Porter and Fortas. "Thurman is doing awfully well,' Corcoran remarked on November 3, 1945. "The lure of that name is bringing in a lot of spectacular stuff to him.'

Perhaps more dramatically than any other ex-NewDealer, Corcoran had turned against the idealistic vision that had supposedly brought him to government. Initially claiming to be a proponent of an activist government committed to the public good, Corcoran then spent 40 years trying to circumvent or exploit for private gain the laws and regulations that government established. In Corcorans' Washington, the tapes reveal, everything was negotiable.

One of the few Corcoran recruits who couldnot live comfortably in this world was Joseph Rauh, later counsel to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. Corcoran admired Rauh's intelligence and hard-work, but was frustrated by his penchant for clouding business arrangements with ideology. In a conversation taped on January 4, 1946, Corcoran asked former New Deal Colleague Ben Cohen to help discipline Joseph Rauh.

"Joe's got to remember, fellow, that we're notfree agents and we're not in politics--we're playing a law business . . . just simply make him understand, fellow, that when you're in business to make money, fellow . . . you've got to play in line--you know what I mean--and your private life is part of the game. . . . The boy won't play in line, and an undisciplined colt isn't good to anybody. . . . Once you get into this business you've got to be a draft horse and you've got to wear blinders.'


Corcoran Sells Realty Firm She Founded

Barbara Corcoran, the powerhouse Manhattan real estate broker, agreed yesterday to sell the firm she founded, the Corcoran Group, Manhattan's second-largest independent residential real estate company.

The buyer is a real estate company jointly owned by the franchising conglomerate Cendant Corporation and the private investment firm Apollo Management.

Ms. Corcoran, a 51-year-old former receptionist, started her current real estate firm with just $1,000 and seven agents in 1973 selling apartments on the Upper East Side. This deal allows her to cash out at a time when many in the real estate industry say the market may have just passed its peak and may be heading downward.

The deal was announced late today. While neither side would divulge how much was paid for the Corcoran Group, a person close to the negotiations said the price was about $70 million.

Ms. Corcoran said she decided to sell the company because ''not being national was shortsighted.''

She added: ''The local business has changed. And we couldn't grow as aggressively as we wanted without help.''

Ms. Corcoran said she plans to stay at the company and remain the chairwoman. ''I can't imagine doing anything else,'' she said in a telephone interview. She refused to say whether she had signed a long-term management contract. A person close to the negotiations said she did.

The buyer, NRT, is the largest franchisee of Cendant's many real estate brokerage brands like Century 21, Coldwell Banker and Era. Cendant, which also owns businesses like Avis car rental and the Days Inn hotel chain, started NRT in 1997 jointly with Apollo Management, which is run by Leon Black, the deal maker of the big junk bond firm Drexel Burnham Lambert, now defunct.

Other Manhattan real estate brokerage firms have begun consolidating, led by Insignia/ESG's $75 million purchase of Douglas Elliman in 1997 and Brown Harris Stevens's $9 million purchase earlier this year of the Halstead Property Group.

Industry analysts said that Ms. Corcoran made changes in the leadership of the company last year, signaling her interest in selling before the end of the six-year rise in the residential market. She promoted two senior managers, Pamela Liebman and Scott Durkin, to run the company.

It is unclear what effect the deal will have on the Corcoran Group's well-known perquisites, like company-sponsored dog runs for brokers in Central Park and free food at brokerage offices.

Several companies had flirted with buying Corcoran over the years, but encountered resistance from Ms. Corcoran, who associates said was waiting to sell at the top of the market. In 1997, Ms. Corcoran dismissed rumors that her firm would be sold soon, but acknowledged the benefits given industrywide consolidation.

''My hat is off to her on her timing,'' said Alan Rogers, the chairman of Douglas Elliman, Corcoran's primary competitor.

Mr. Rogers said that given Cendant's reputation for maximizing profits, he and other brokers will have an easier time hiring Corcoran agents who do not want to be associated with franchises like Coldwell Banker and Century 21.

In recent years, Ms. Corcoran has pulled back from the day-to-day operations of the firm, which employs 700 brokers who work out of dozens of roomy offices from Brooklyn Heights to Madison Avenue. Ms. Corcoran has sought to project a luxury image for her firm, and she is seen as an international leader in real estate, often speaking in New York, Los Angeles and London.

She is known throughout the industry as a shrewd businesswoman, luring top brokers from other firms. Other brokers tend to follow her lead. Manhattan brokers did not begin to move into neighborhoods like Harlem, Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn until after Ms. Corcoran had opened offices in those places in recent years.

In the late 1980's, she was among the first advocates of the limited sharing of listings among brokers in Manhattan, and pushed for the creation of a Web site last year that would include residential sales and rental listings from hundreds of Manhattan firms.

Manhattan is the only major metropolitan area without a system of sharing all listings, as a multiple listing service is known. But her efforts have been credited with changing the culture of Manhattan real estate.


Tom Corcoran passes: Olympian, Waterville Valley founder

Tom Corcoran, who made his Waterville Valley resort in New Hampshire fertile ground in the 1970s for the future of World Cup alpine racing in America, freestyle competition, and Nastar, died June 27 in Charleston, SC, at age 85. The cause of death was cancer, complicated by pneumonia.

Corcoran’s passing came only four months after the tragic sudden death of his wife, Daphne. The couple had lived on South Carolina’s Seabrook Island since 1998.
Thomas Armstrong Corcoran was a unique, influential figure in American skiing in multiple ways. The range of his accomplishments is unlikely ever to be replicated -- as a racer, resort builder, association director, and writer.

As a competitor between 1954 and 1960, Corcoran won four U.S. national titles, twice won Aspen’s Roch Cup, plus Sun Valley’s Harriman Cup, the Parsenn Gold Cup, Silver Belt, the Kandahar of the Andes, and the Quebec Kandahar. At Squaw Valley in 1960 he missed by six-tenths of a second becoming the first American male racer to win an Olympic medal, placing fourth in the giant slalom. It stood as the best U.S. men's Olympic Games GS performance for 42 years, until Bode Miller medaled in 2002.

DESTINED TO COMPETE
Born in Japan, Corcoran first skied in New Jersey. When his parents divorced, his mother moved with young Tom to St. Jovite in Quebec’s Laurentians. There he honed his early skills on Grey Rocks hill, alongside future World Champion double-gold-medalist Lucile Wheeler and future Canadian Olympian Pete Kirby.
Corcoran attended Emerson School and Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. Following graduation he entered Dartmouth College, which at the time furnished most of the U.S. Ski Team’s alpine racers.

“I was on the Dartmouth team for three years,” Corcoran recalled in the late 1990s, “along with Brooks Dodge, Bill Beck, Ralph Miller, Dave Lawrence, Colin Stewart, Chick Igaya, Egil Stigum and Bill Tibbits. Walt Prager, a great guy, was the coach and a great assist to my racing development. I spent one summer in Portillo, Chile, racing and training under Emile Allais, who was the other great influence on my racing career.”

Following graduation from Dartmouth in 1954, Corcoran served for two years as a Lieutenant j.g. in the Navy, which generously allowed him to race and train in South America, and to compete in the 1956 Olympic Winter Games in Italy.

Aiming to combine his knowledge of skiing with business skills, he attended Harvard Business School, graduating in 1959. At Harvard, Corcoran wrote a paper about how a ski resort plant should integrate mountain and town. In effect, it was his vision for Waterville.

Harvard B-School helped him land a job in 1962 at the Aspen Skiing Company. He worked as a special assistant to the legendary Darcy Brown, who assigned him to do feasibility studies of skiing at Buttermilk Mountain and Snowmass, plan Aspen’s first comprehensive marketing program, and reorganize the ski school into a profit center.

Among his accomplishments at Aspen, he helped to coordinate a 1964 ski vacation at Aspen for Bobby Kennedy, Ethel and their children, and recently widowed Jacqueline and her two children. Corcoran’s interest in politics may have been genetic. His uncle was Tommy 'the Cork' Corcoran, who once served in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's brain trust. Tom worked on Robert F. Kennedy 1964 New York Senatorial Campaign. The Kennedys skied frequently at Waterville Valley. Bobby's Run was named in honor of the Senator immediately after he was assassinated in 1968.

INVESTOR, WRITER
A friend and admirer of tapered metal pole inventor Ed Scott, Corcoran in 1962 became a 20-percent owner of Scott USA, an investment that he held until the company was sold in 1969.
Certified in 1964 as an instructor, Corcoran also exploited his talent and skill as a writer. He was a keen analyst and original thinker. From 1963 to 1970, he served as SKI Magazine’s Racing Editor, and wrote an opinion column In the Starting Gate. Among the topics in the often controversial column, he scrutinized innovations in alpine racing technique, critiqued the U.S. Ski Association’s spending, tangled with Bob Beattie, urged racers to stay in college, and disapproved the Ski Hall of Fame’s election procedures.

BUILDING WATERVILLE
In 1965 Corcoran left the Aspen Skiing Company to complete his search for a New England ski area that he could expand or build. Since the 1930s a small rope-tow area had operated on Snow’s Mountain, near the Waterville Inn, at the end of the road from Campton, NH. Corcoran turned his full attention to the much bigger Mount Tecumseh. The terrain, on national forest land, had already been deemed desirable by trail designer Sel Hannah. Corcoran quickly obtained a Forest Service operating permit and found a combination of low-cost government loans and investors. He began trail clearing and the erection of four double chairlifts in the spring of 1966. Simultaneously, he formed the Waterville Company to acquire most of the privately owned land needed to build a village accommodating vacationing skiers. It would be a town at the end of the road.

The ski area opened in December 1966.

Like Pete Seibert and Bob Parker at Vail, Corcoran understood that a new resort could gain immediate national and international attention -- millions of dollars worth of ‘free’ publicity -- by hosting major events. He he turned to his contacts with influential journalists to make it happen. He was an enthusiastic supporter of my work as Editor-in-chief of SKI Magazine in creating Nastar, the National Standard Ski Race. To convert an idea on paper into a physical reality, we needed the terrain and organization to evaluate the handicap system. Corcoran made Waterville available for the first Pacesetter Trials in December 1968. His insights into racing and understanding of timing and performance contributed valuably to Nastar’s launching. The eight areas, including Waterville, engaged in Nastar’s first season expanded to 35 in the winter of 1969-70, and eventually surged to more than a hundred participating areas.

Corcoran knew European journalist Serge Lang, founder of the World Cup of Alpine Skiing. The first two World Cup Finals had been held in the U.S., and Corcoran succeeded in influencing Lang’s World Cup Committee to designate Waterville as host of the third in 1969. The races and trophy ceremony – Karl Schranz and Gertrud Gabl were the overall season winners – brought national and international publicity for Corcoran’s fledgling resort. Waterville went on to host 10 more World Cup meets, the most by any North American resort in the 20th Century, including the 1991 Finals, the last World Cup races in the northeast until Killington last year.

Just as Corcoran had made Waterville a laboratory for the first Nastar races, he made his White Mountains resort the initial venue for competitive freestyle, working with Skiing Magazine Editor Doug Pfeiffer, the early pioneer of stunt skiing. Both men had grown up skiing in the Laurentians. In March 1971, they launched the first National Championship of Exhibition Skiing at Waterville. Sponsor Chevrolet offered prizes of a $6,000 Corvette car, $2,000 in purse money and $2,000 in expenses. Jean-Claude Killy served as one of the judges. Suzy Chaffee, the only woman entrant, cut stylish figures on four-foot double-ended skis. The historic event generated reams of publicity for Waterville.

Corcoran also seized the opportunity to capitalize on the sudden revival and mass popularity of recreational cross-country ski touring in the early 1970s. By dint of clever planning, he arranged to link the town square to Forest Service land on the other side of the road, allowing guests direct access to the trails. Permitted, the Waterville Touring (now “Adventure”) Center eventually grew from 30 to over 70 kilometers of groomed cross-country trails, hosting major events including The Great American Ski Chase and the U.S. National Cross Country Championships.

WATERVILLE OWNERSHIP CHANGE
The resort’s terrain and lift expansions, snowmaking, terrain park, and lodging burdened it with debt, however. Additionally hurt by the Tax Reform Act of 1986, Waterville’s pre-sales of lodging units plummeted. When the national real estate crash came in 1991, Waterville’s two main lending banks failed, and the FDIC effectively forced the company into bankruptcy.
Preston Leete Smith-led S-K-I Ltd., owner of Killington and Mt. Snow, purchased Waterville for $10 million. Ownership briefly fell into the hands of Les Otten’s American Skiing Company, then George Gillett’s Booth Creek Ski Holdings. The ski operation is now owned by an investment group led by New Hampshire’s gubernatorial Sununu family with whom Corcoran had a long-time relationship. As Chairman of the Waterville Company until his death, he remained involved in owning land around the village, and in real estate sales.

MULTIPLE TASKS, AWARDS
Corcoran volunteered a record 20 years as a director of the National Ski Areas Association, serving on the Marketing, Public Lands, and Competition Committees. He was NSAA’s chairman in 1983-85.

He also served for a short time as Chairman of the American Ski Federation, a coalition of associations which in 1978 brought about the first concerted lobbying effort by the ski industry in Washington. There was concern at the time about Congress initiating legislation that could limit the use of public land for skiing.

As a reminder of the perils of his chosen line of work, Corcoran for many years hung on his office wall a framed reproduction of words once published in Fortune Magazine: The ski business is an odd little segment of industry that is better left to people who understand it, who deeply care about it, and who are willing to have a less than predictable bottom line than most big corporations will tolerate.

Corcoran served as President of the Eastern Ski Areas Association. He received the Sherman Adams Award in 1988 for outstanding contributions to eastern skiing, and he was the first recipient of the “Spirit of Skiing” Award from the New England Ski Museum in 2006. In 1978 he was elected to the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame as both an athlete and sport builder. The U.S. Ski Team, USSA and U.S. Ski Education Foundation benefited from Corcoran’s profound and long experience as a racer, analyst and executive, serving as a director for 18 years. He received the USSA’s highest honor, the Julius Blegen award in 1991. He was elected to the Rolex International Ski Racing Hall of Fame in 1995.

He served as an elected Selectman on the three-person board governing the Town of Waterville for 35 years, or 12 terms, a New Hampshire record.

FROM SNOW TO WATER
Retired from active ski area management, Corcoran and his wife Daphne, both golfers and sailors, moved to Seabrook Island on the South Carolina coast. If they weren’t on the links, they were on their 55-foot cutter-rigged sloop Snow Dance. Starting in 1999, they crossed the Atlantic into the Mediterranean Sea where they sailed over four summers, from Gibraltar to the Turkish coast. After re-crossing the Atlantic and selling Snow Dance, they bought a used 45-foot fast trawler, in which they completed an 8,000-mile odyssey, navigating the inland waterway from Florida, up the Hudson River, through the Erie Canal into the St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain, and back to Florida.

Corcoran left behind four children by his first marriage to Birdie Waterston, two stepchildren from his marriage to the late Daphne Andresen, and jointly five grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

A memorial service and celebration of Corcoran’s life is scheduled for Saturday, August 12, from 1 to 4pm at Waterville Valley.


Corcoran threatens Hillsborough School Board over charter school denials

Florida education commissioner Richard Corcoran issued a strong response Wednesday to the Hillsborough County School Board’s decision last week to deny contract renewals to four charter schools.

In a pointed letter to school district officials, he urged them to reverse their decision or explain the legal reasons for their denials. He said it appeared they had violated state law and threatened to withhold state funding from the district. He set a deadline of Tuesday for the district to respond.

Corcoran, a proponent of school choice options that include publicly funded but independently managed charter schools, said the board moved without giving the advance warning state law allows before a decision to shutter an existing school.

The letter came eight days after the board, in an unprecedented series of votes, rejected staff recommendations to open two new charter schools and renew contracts for four more. Up for possible closure are the Kids Community College High, Pivot, SouthShore and Woodmont charter schools. The four enrolled more than 2,200 students in the last school year. The two largest, Woodmont and SouthShore, are managed by the for-profit Charter Schools USA.

Board members cited a variety of reasons for voting to withhold renewal of the contracts. They found flaws in services to gifted and learning disabled students at SouthShore and Woodmont. At Pivot and KCC High School, they were concerned about financial stability and academic performance.

A fifth school, Sunlake Academy of Math and Science, is being offered a five-year contract instead of the 10 years it had requested.

The board also rejected proposals from Mater Academy, a nonprofit group affiliated with the for-profit Academica, to open two new schools that ultimately would serve 1,300 students.

The district’s charter school staff and attorneys are in the process of preparing letters to the existing schools. Those letters begin a 90-day review period during which the schools can respond while remaining open for instruction.

But while the district says it is following the appropriate timetable under state law, Corcoran disagrees.

In his letter he quoted a section of the Florida Administrative Code that says a decision to renew or not renew should happen “no later than 90 days prior to the end of the charter term.” As contracts for the four schools expire on June 30, Corcoran is arguing that the district waited too long.

Corcoran also contends that the schools serve economically disadvantaged students, a statement that, according to board chair Lynn Gray, is not entirely accurate. Statistics provided by the district’s charter school office show that in the last school year, 32 percent of SouthShore’s students were economically disadvantaged. The district’s poverty rate, based on enrollment in the free lunch program, is nearly double that.

The district issued this brief statement Wednesday concerning Corcoran’s letter: “Staff and legal counsel are reviewing the content and will develop a response with the board next week.”

Jim Porter, the School Board’s attorney, said district leaders will draft the appropriate letters to the schools and to Corcoran, getting input from the board when it meets as scheduled on Tuesday.

Corcoran’s letter included a demand for documentation, by 5 p.m. Tuesday of “every factual and legal justification” to support the board’s decisions against renewing the schools’ contracts.

He wrote that he will review the district response and then determine if he has legal grounds to take action under enforcement authority from the State Board of Education.

Such an action, he wrote, might lead to “withholding state funds, discretionary grant funds, discretionary lottery funds or any other funds specified as eligible for this purpose until such time as the School Board of Hillsborough County comes into compliance with Florida law.”

Gray responded, saying of Corcoran: “I think he’s overstepping tremendously. He’s concerned with 2,000 kids. If he carries out withholding grant funds, who he‘s really going to hurt is possibly 220,000 students.”

This is not the first time in recent months that Corcoran has come down hard on the Hillsborough district.

In April, the board began a corrective action process based on concerns some members had about superintendent Addison Davis. With mounting speculation about efforts to fire Davis, Corcoran issued an equally harsh letter, demanding that the district prepare a plan to address its longstanding financial difficulties, and threatening to initiate a financial takeover if they did not comply.

“At this point, I feel like there needs to be some accountability to his abuse of power,” board member Jessica Vaughn said Wednesday. “It feels like an imbalance of power when the commissioner of education writes us a letter because he doesn’t like the votes that we took, and threatens to withhold funds that statutorily we are we are supposed to get.”


Career

Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Corcoran gained the nicknames Corky and Tommy the Cork. He was considered a hard-working, supple-handed shortstop.

A mediocre hitter, Corcoran batted .300 in a season just once (1894). He was a barehanded fielder early in his career when gloves were gradually becoming standard equipment, and made the transition to a glove without difficulty. He became adept at going to his right to field ground balls backhanded. Corcoran set a still-standing ML record for shortstops with 14 assists in a nine-inning game. (Lave Cross had 15 assists in a 12-inning game in 1897.) Corcoran finished in the top 10 in the league in at bats seven times.

Over an 18-season career, Corcoran batted .256, with 34 home runs and 1,135 RBIs. He had a total of 387 stolen bases, scored 1,184 runs, and made 2,256 hits in 8,812 career at-bats. He accumulated 2,957 total bases.

After retiring as a player, Corcoran became an umpire his umpiring included one season in the short-lived third major circuit, the Federal League.

Corcoran had four sons and a daughter. He died at the age of 91 in Plainfield, Connecticut.


The Worst Hitter in Baseball History

So often in our baseball debates we’re searching for the best something: The best hitter of the 80s, the best pitcher of the pre-WWII era, etc. Yet rare is the occasion where we search out the worst player in a particular category or era. Sometimes that player jumps out at us and makes us notice it’s the only reason that anyone knows Neifi Perez’s name. But unless it is blatantly obvious the worst player often goes ignored. Until I ran a random Play Index search last week, I had never heard the name Bill Bergen, the man you see to your right. Now that I’ve found him, though, I’m confident that he is the worst hitter in baseball history.

When citing an example of sporting dominance, I often turn to Wayne Gretzky. He is the only player in NHL history to score 200-plus points in a season, and he did it four times. Bergen provides a similar example, except we can replace the word dominance with ineptitude. He is the only player since 1901 who accumulated 250 or more PA with an OPS+ of 10 or less — and he did it in three consecutive seasons.

Rk Player HR OPS+ PA Year Age Tm Lg G BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Bill Bergen 1 1 372 1909 31 BRO NL 112 .139 .163 .156 .319
2 Bill Bergen 0 -4 250 1911 33 BRO NL 84 .132 .183 .154 .337
3 Bill Bergen 0 6 273 1910 32 BRO NL 89 .161 .180 .177 .357

Bergen’s Wikipedia page provides a fitting account of Bill’s shortcomings at the plate.

Bergen had 3,228 at-bats in his career, and in that time he compiled a batting average of .170, the all-time record low for players who compiled more than 2,500 plate appearances. Three pitchers with more than 2,500 plate appearances managed higher career batting averages than Bergen: Pud Galvin with .201, Bobby Mathews with .203, and Cy Youngwith .210. Among position players, the next lowest career batting average is Billy Sullivan with .213. Bergen’s career on-base percentage was .194—he is the only player with at least 500 at-bats with an OBP under .200. He had only two home runs. In 1909, Bergen hit .139, the lowest average ever for a player who qualified for the batting title. That season, he set another record for futility by going 46 at-bats in a row without a base hit, the longest streak ever by a position player (pitcher Bob Buhl went 88 at-bats without a hit).[3] From 1904 to 1911, Dodger pitchers as a group outhit Bergen, .169 to .162.

If you go to our career leader boards and sort by poorest wOBA, you’ll see that 23 players in baseball history have a worse career wOBA than Bergen. How, then, can he be the worst hitter? Click on any one of those 23 names. And then click on another. And another. Notice a trend? They’re all pitchers. In fact, on that page of the 35 worst wOBAs in baseball history, only one other player, Stump Weidman, is a non-pitcher.

The WAR leader board tells a similar story. At -15 WAR, Bergen is the worst position player in history, as the two players ahead of him are, yes, pitchers. (Greg Maddux. ) And, again, most of the surrounding players on this first page of WAR trailers are pitchers. Taking it a step further, if we sort by batting component, we see that Bergen ranks second worst, by 10 runs, to Tommy Corcoran. But that’s just a matter of time. In his 18-year career, Corcoran came to the plate 9,368 times and produced nine seasons with a .300 or better wOBA. In Bergen’s 11-year career he came to bat only 3,228 times, and had only four seasons with a wOBA over .200.

Of course, no player hits that poorly and sticks around for that long without having a redeeming quality. Bergen was widely considered the premier defensive catcher of his time. He owns the record for most runners caught stealing in a single game, six. He also sits on many baseball historians’ lists of best defensive catchers. Still, even if we disproportionately weigh his mythical defensive abilities, it hardly compensates for his historically putrid skills with the bat.

Bill Bergen has his place in history, though it might not be a favorable one. Yet he’s not the most famous, or infamous, baseball-playing member of his family. As William of The Captain’s Blog eloquently chronicles, Bill’s brother Marty, himself a catcher in the late 19th century, took an axe to his wife and children before slicing his own neck.

It’s tough to come up with a fitting conclusion to a story involving the worst hitter in baseball history. Instead, I’ll leave you with a graph I couldn’t resist creating.


431 Days: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Creation of the SEC (1934-35)

By early 1934 Roosevelt was ready to pursue stock exchange legislation. Samuel Untermyer, who had run the Pujo Committee hearings years earlier, had drafted a bill that depended too much on cooperation and not enough on enforcement. Another plan called for a tripartite commission with exchange, business, and agriculture representatives. Roosevelt, however, wanted "a bill with teeth."

Landis believed that the agency regulating exchanges would need autonomy and the power to compel exchanges to do business a whole new way. Busy at the FTC (which he believed would be that agency), Landis set Cohen and Corcoran again to work. Their "Fletcher-Rayburn Bill" was introduced on February 10, 1934, and set off a firestorm of protest.

Business had been caught off guard with the 1933 Securities Act. Now New York Stock Exchange president Richard Whitney orchestrated what Sam Rayburn later called "the biggest and boldest, the richest and most ruthless lobby Congress had ever known" to defeat or eviscerate the bill. (Ritchie, 56) But while the exchange was conducting a massive letter-writing campaign, it was also implementing internal reforms aimed at staving off further government action.

The stock exchange bill took a drubbing. At one point Tommy Corcoran--who was being smeared with unfounded charges of Communism--was called in on short notice to defend the bill that few understood. Corcoran expertly parried pointed questions, but in the end Congress bowed to political realities and made numerous compromises.

The last one came as a complete surprise to Landis: the FTC would enforce neither the new act nor the old one. Virginia Senator Carter Glass believed that the FTC had been too draconian in enforcement and introduced an amendment creating a whole new agency. Business interests backed him, hoping for more of a voice in the new body. Landis resisted the move for just that reason, but it was done.


FDR’s Secretary’s Secret Hand in the New Deal

The most powerful presidential secretary in history, Missy LeHand made key introductions, advocated for legislation—and cemented Roosevelt’s biggest legacy.

Kathryn Smith is an author and journalist who specializes in Franklin D. Roosevelt and his inner circle. She is the author of the forthcoming The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Partnership That Defined a Presidency.

If Hillary Clinton becomes president in 2016, she will not be the first working woman to exercise power at high levels in the White House day-to-day over the course of a presidential term. Nor was it Madeleine Albright, or Valerie Jarrett, or any of the high-powered, highly-decorated women we so often associate with broken glass ceilings in the highest levels of government.

A strong case could be made that the first woman to wield such power was Marguerite LeHand (better known as “Missy”) who began her day at about 9:25 each morning when, after having coffee and orange juice in her suite on the third floor of the White House and scanning several newspapers, she walked into President Franklin Roosevelt’s bedroom. There, with the president still in bed, wearing an old blue sweater or a navy cape to keep his shoulders warm as he finished his breakfast and read the Congressional Record, she and the president’s other secretaries went over the day’s schedule and other pressing matters before dispersing to their individual offices.

Missy LeHand, FDR’s longtime private secretary, was the only woman present at the morning conference every day, but she was by far the most influential person there, after the president himself. It was Missy who controlled access to FDR, selecting worthy allies and weeding out opportunists. It was Missy who would sit with the president in his study late into the night (FDR was said to do his “best intellectual work” between nine and midnight), jotting down his ideas, prodding him to make decisions or just simply sitting with him as he worked on his stamp collection or listened to music. And it was Missy who, through loyalty, savvy and charm, left a lasting impact on one of the most defining pieces of legislation in U.S. history—the New Deal.

In 2016, as Hillary Clinton is closer to the White House than any woman has been before and as women occupy more congressional offices than at any point in American history, it’s worth remembering that this is the logical end point of centuries in which women could only exercise power in unofficial channels, whether first ladies or secretaries or other kinds of informal advisers. Missy’s impact on the New Deal is the story of this old kind of female power: Ever-present, outsized in relation to her formal role and little remembered by history.

Missy had her hand in all aspects of the White House operation during the FDR years. A formidable, multitalented multitasker, Missy might on any given day be directing the work of fifty staffers, writing a check to Franklin Jr.’s doctor, telling the president the wording in a speech “just doesn’t sound like you,” soothing an irate bureaucrat who couldn’t get an appointment and then racing over to the White House to “pour tea for a crowd of archaeologists.” Today, she would be comparable to Barack Obama’s Valerie Jarrett, whose official titles in the White House are far overshadowed by her real role as one of the president’s closest advisers on everything from cabinet appointments to campaign strategy.

Missy’s key role guiding FDR’s marquee accomplishment, the New Deal, puts her contributions into relief. From navigating messy politics between feuding administration figures, to strengthening his relationship with the vital Catholic voters he needed to assure his re-elections, to talking with FDR about his ideas, Missy was a crucial—if little-remembered—behind-the-scenes asset. Perhaps most importantly, she also introduced the president to the man who would draft and successfully lobby for some of the most crucial New Deal legislation.

Her New Deal advocacy was consistent with the role she played throughout her and FDR’s relationship. Roosevelt was a Hudson Valley blue blood who was famously described as “a traitor to his class,” but Missy was a blue-collar girl from a seedy part of Boston who never let her boss forget the people he championed. “Missy,” wrote Washington columnist Drew Pearson, “thought about the plebes.” Through the first eight years of the Roosevelt administration, she was one of the most passionate advocates for the “forgotten man,” even when it meant putting a bug in FDR’s ear while they worked together on his stamp albums. He often said, “Missy is my conscience.”

Missy worked as Roosevelt’s private secretary for more than 20 years. They met when she was the campaign secretary for his unsuccessful bid for vice president in 1920, and she became his private secretary at his Wall Street law firm the following year. When he re-entered politics after his long retreat following his paralysis from polio in 1921, her duties kept her going almost 24/7 as Roosevelt rose from governor of New York in 1928 to the presidency in 1932.

In the beginning of the Roosevelt administration, members of the cabinet and Congress and heads of the New Deal’s alphabet agencies—AAA, CCC, CWA, FERA and on down the line—got wise to the advantage of befriending “Miss LeHand.” Powerful men—but seldom women, as the president’s wife was their most passionate advocate—dropped by her desk, right next to the Oval Office, called her on the phone, or sent her notes and memos and the occasional small gift. Could she find them just a moment on the president’s schedule? Would she mind looking over this document and possibly finding a time to share it with the president? What had she heard the president say about this vital issue or that pending job appointment? Tactful and charming, Missy sized them up: Was this person out to help the president further the New Deal agenda, or did he have one of his own?

1934, two years into the president’s first term, was a pivotal year for the New Deal: Conservative opponents and businessmen mobilized against many of the laws, especially the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), and the administration felt pressure from the left, too, from figures like Sen. Huey P. Long of Louisiana, who introduced a radical wealth redistribution plan in February of that year. Amid that political turbulence, Missy introduced FDR to a man who would become of the most useful implements in his presidential toolbox by drafting legislation and effectively lobbying for it on Capitol Hill: Thomas G. Corcoran.

Tommy Corcoran had been a student of Harvard University Law School professor Felix Frankfurter, one of a group of Frankfurter alums known around the capital as the “Happy Hot Dogs.” Frankfurter, a frequent Oval Office visitor whom Missy called “one of my pets,” sent her a note in the fall of 1934 commending Corcoran as “a very dear friend” and “a person of entire dependability.” Missy quickly sized Corcoran up as a man who could do the administration much good. With his deeply dimpled cheeks, curly hair, ebullient personality and musical talent, the Irish American Catholic lawyer would not have been out of place in any bar in Dublin, though he seldom drank. Missy brought him to the White House one night to sing and play the accordion after dinner when Eleanor was away. FDR, who loved such informal musical evenings, was charmed and bestowed upon him the nickname “Tommy the Cork.”

Corcoran, who worked for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, began arriving at the White House almost daily for a visit with Missy. “In that way I avoided crossing paths with any of Roosevelt’s old guard and kept the jealousies down to a manageable level,” he said years later. Wrote Corcoran’s biographer David McKean, “Corcoran would tell LeHand anything he felt the president should know, and she in turn would inform the president. If Roosevelt wanted some action taken on an issue, then, as he described it, ‘she showed me in.’ Indeed, Corcoran’s close friendship with LeHand was central to his rising influence.”

In this November 1938 photo President Franklin D. Roosevelt works on a speech in the office of his Hyde Park, N.Y., estate with, from right, secretaries Grace Tully, Marvin McIntyre, and Marguerite LeHand. | AP Photo

Corcoran also talent-scouted other young Catholic and Jewish lawyers to join the WASPs dominating the government’s ranks of legal eagles. With his Jewish colleague and housemate Ben Cohen, Corcoran drafted some of the most crucial New Deal legislation, and FDR used him as a lobbyist for the White House—a first in Washington. More darkly, he was described as FDR’s “hatchet man” by Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. He may have been alluding to Corcoran’s role as a “fixer” for the legal problems of the Roosevelt children, keeping the lid on their financial and domestic scandals. “Some people thought Corcoran capable of murder, literally,” in his zealous devotion to FDR, wrote historian Frank Costigliola.

Among Corcoran’s many successes was derailing an attempt in Congress to exempt the employees of companies that provided retirement benefits from participating in Social Security, called the Clark Amendment—a decision that would have threatened the very existence of the program. Corcoran went up against an industry lobbying effort, the kind of which was only just then in its infancy, and effectively mobilized lawmakers against the amendment.

He also proved useful in elections. Missy, Tommy and her assistant Grace Tully provided valuable service in mitigating the destructive influence of the radical “radio priest” Father Charles Coughlin. His national program had tens of millions of listeners, and he vociferously turned on the New Deal in 1937, which deeply damaged Roosevelt’s standing among Catholic voters. Missy, Tommy and Tully established an open door policy for Catholic leaders at the White House and availed themselves of public relations opportunities. In 1937, Missy received an honorary degree from a Catholic college in the Blue Room of the White House. The Associated Press covered the event, sending out a photo of Missy receiving her degree while two nuns and a priest while Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt looked on. Something did the trick: Catholic voters’ support from 1936, when he got 75 percent of the vote, carried over into 1940, when he got 70 percent.

Missy’s remarkable access to FDR and the long hours with him both nurtured and resulted from her passion for his agenda and the trust he had in her sound judgment and common sense. But also crucial to her powerful influence on the president was her ability to smooth tensions and manage difficult personalities.

As the Roosevelt presidency hit the middle of its first term it had much to be proud of. The summer of 1935 saw the passage of a raft of “Second New Deal” legislation, including the Social Security Act and the National Labor Relations Act. The banking system had been saved: Only nine banks failed in 1934, compared to more than four thousand in 1933. Hundreds of thousands of young men had gone into the forests to work for the Civilian Conservation Corps. Unemployment had dropped from almost 25 percent to just over 20 percent.

The two men responsible for most of the New Deal’s employment programs were Harry Hopkins and Harold Ickes. They were both totally dedicated to the New Deal, FDR and work-for-pay rather than straight relief payments. But their approaches were diametrically opposed and they heartily disliked each other. Ickes, for his part, took pride in his reputation as an irascible curmudgeon and his nickname “Honest Harold,” and he strived for accountability as head of the Public Works Administration. Started in June 1933, it funded major projects such as bridges, dams, hospitals, schools and aircraft carriers, using private sector contractors. The Grand Coulee Dam and New York’s Triborough Bridge were PWA projects and highly visible reminders of the success of the New Deal.

Hopkins’s Works Progress Administration, or WPA, begun in 1935 with an appropriation of $4.8 billion—$82 billion in current money—primarily funneled money to states to put unskilled men and women into public works projects in order to get them off the relief rolls. Workers constructed or improved thousands of public schools, airports and playgrounds, and built more than half a million miles of roads. WPA also had a division for artists and writers. (To critics, Hopkins replied, “Hell! They’ve got to eat just like other people.”) In Missy’s hometown of Somerville, Massachusetts, a mural by WPA artist Ross Moffett depicting a Revolutionary War skirmish was painted on the post office wall in Union Square and remains there today.

The two men often disagreed about which projects should be PWA and which should be WPA, an argument thrashed out at contentious White House meetings of the group convened to decide just such assignments, the Allotment Advisory Committee. Headed into the first one in May 1935, Missy was braced for trouble. “The Allotment Board of the new Work-Relief meets for the first time this afternoon—that should be fun!” she wrote her longtime boyfriend and U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Bill Bullitt. Afterward, Ickes groused that Hopkins was presenting “thousands of inconsequential make-believe programs in all parts of the country” for WPA while he was focusing on “useful and socially desirable public works” for PWA. Editorial cartoons caricatured WPA workers as lazy, and people joked that its letters were an acronym for “We Poke Along” or “Whistle, Piss and Argue.” Careful Ickes doled out aid with a teaspoon, passionate Hopkins with a fire hose. Hopkins made no apologies, replying to an observation that a more careful approach would work in the long run by saying “People don’t eat in the long run.”

Ickes began using Missy as a sounding board and source of inside information late in 1934, yet her relationship with Hopkins—whom she had known, liked and respected since they worked together for FDR when he was governor of New York—continued to be a strong one. The fact that two men who disliked each other both trusted and liked Missy speaks volumes for her diplomacy and discretion. Ickes funneled personal letters for FDR through Missy and pulled her aside for private words. He was delighted when Missy invited him to the White House in December 1934 after a cocktail party she and Grace Tully gave at the Willard Hotel for Grace’s sister, Paula, who was engaged to be married. The revelers went to FDR’s private study, where he was finishing up some work with Raymond Moley. “Two bottles of champagne were brought up and we had a jolly time until close to midnight,” Ickes happily conceded to his diary. “The President was at his best, laughing and joking, telling stories and relating incidents.” It was through Missy that both men were kept happy with their access to the president and the relationship between two people crucial to the New Deal’s success stayed smooth—or smooth enough not the threaten the programs themselves.

FDR ultimately held all the cards when it came to decision-making in the White House, but it is impossible to overstate Missy’s importance when she filled this kind of diplomatic role. When FDR heard of problems within his administration, his teamwork with Missy diffused many delicate situations. William O. Douglas, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, got a call from Missy one day summoning him to the president’s office in Hyde Park for a meeting with a delegation from the New York Stock Exchange. “They are coming up here to have him fire you!” she warned. When Douglas arrived, FDR launched into a long monologue on an unrelated subject, giving no one a chance to fit a word in edgewise. “Then, at twelve-thirty,” Douglas recalled, “Missy walked in, saying, ‘Sorry, Mr. President, but your next appointment is waiting.’” As the committee members left, FDR gave Douglas a wink. Douglas stopped at Missy’s desk and told her “that apparently the committee had changed its mind about having me fired!”

Missy’s busy and productive life came crashing down in June 1941 when she suffered a severe stroke. She was partially paralyzed and had difficulty speaking. Little could be done, and eventually she returned to her family in Massachusetts where she lived until another stroke took her life in 1944.

After her departure from the White House, she never saw FDR again. He called and wrote from time to time, sent gifts and covered her medical bills. At his death in 1945, it was discovered that he had stipulated in his will that half the income of his estate would go to Eleanor and half to “my friend Marguerite A. LeHand…for medical attention, care and treatment during her lifetime.” Her gravestone bears a quote from him, “She was utterly selfless in her devotion to duty,” and to this day the Roosevelt family pays for the upkeep of the LeHand burial plot.

It was a sad ending to an illustrious career—one that hasn’t always been given the credit it deserves. In the decades that followed their deaths, Missy was more often portrayed as a love-starved secretary or the president’s long-term mistress. Any role that she had in the administration is a footnote at most.

But her contemporaries knew better. And some historians, too. Frank Costigliola, in his book Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances, states her importance unequivocally, describing her as “the most remarkable” member of Roosevelt’s inner circle and crediting her with functioning as the White House chief of staff. It’s a job that has never been held by a woman—before or since.

From THE GATEKEEPER by Kathryn Smith. Copyright c 2016 by Kathryn Smith, LLC. Reprinted by permission of Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.


Watch the video: Access yourself, Embrace your Vitality-W. Tommy Corcoran part 2 of 5 (February 2023).

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