The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Power of Money

WHEN LYNDON B. JOHNSON ENTERED CONGRESS, in 1937, a jealously guarded door was open to him almost immediately—the tall, narrow door to a hideaway room, furnished with dark leather easy chairs, a long, dark leather sofa, a fireplace, and a picture of Robert E. Lee. In this room on the ground floor of the Capitol, Sam Rayburn, upon his installation as majority leader five months before, had reinstituted John Nance Garner’s “Board of Education.” The men invited to these gatherings to “strike a blow for liberty” with a late-afternoon drink were almost all leaders of the House. On one of Johnson’s first days in Congress, Rayburn, who had a paternal fondness for him, invited him to come downstairs after the session. Thereafter, he let Johnson know that he wanted him to come regularly, and Johnson did—a twentyeight-year-old freshman drinking with such House powers as Speaker William B. Bankhead and John W. McCormack, of Massachusetts. But in the world of Congress, seniority ruled with an iron hand, and, without seniority, even admittance to that select drinking society meant little—as Johnson learned during the very first meeting he attended of the Naval Affairs Committee, the committee to which he had been assigned.

The committee’s chairman, Carl Vinson, was from the little inland town of Milledgeville in Georgia’s red-clay hill country. He had not yet been nicknamed “the Swamp Fox” in tribute to a mastery of congressional stratagems which southerners compared to Francis Marion’s mastery of guerrilla warfare, but he had already been nicknamed “the Admiral” in recognition of his autocratic manner in dealing with the admirals of what he called “My Navy” (whom he humiliated by pretending he didn’t know their names while ordering them around like cabin boys), and with the twenty-six members of his committee. Slouched down in the center of the two-tiered horseshoe of committee seats in the NAC room on the third floor of the Cannon House Building, his glasses teetering on the very tip of his long nose, chewing on the shredded remains of a ten-cent cigar, spitting at the spittoon that was always nearby, dressed in a collar two sizes too big and in baggy, food-stained suits, “he looks,” one reporter was to write, “like the country lawyer he is, and about once removed from the cracker barrel,” but he ran the committee, in the words of another reporter, “like a dictator.” When, at that first meeting, Johnson, seated on the lower horseshoe among the junior members, began questioning a witness—along with the junior member sitting next to him, young Warren Magnuson—Vinson gaveled the hearing into recess and said, as Magnuson recalls the words: “I want to see you two boys in the back room.” In his small, bare, private office behind the hearing room, Magnuson says, “he let us have it.” “We have a rule in this committee,” the chairman said. New members were not allowed to ask so many questions; in his first year on the committee, a member was allowed to ask one question; in his second year, two, “and so on.”

The Admiral may have been exaggerating the rigidity of his rules—but not by much. “He runs a tight ship,” other members told the two young men, and on that ship, seniority was the standard. Younger members he addressed as “Ensign”; only after some years, and only after a member had shown the proper deference—and silence— would he be promoted to “Commander.” When the Admiral starts calling you “Captain,” the other members told Johnson and Magnuson, “you know you’ve arrived,” and no one arrived quickly. And, the other members told them, attempting to buck the Admiral’s system was useless. Congress, one observer was to write, had given Carl Vinson “a blank check to operate as a one-man committee” on naval matters; on that committee, only one voice, the soft southern drawl of the chairman, mattered. Lyndon Johnson’s voice, in other words, would not matter until he became chairman.

Vinson’s arrogance was not unique. Most of the great standing committees of the House were run by men answerable to no one in Washington, and they ran their committees like men answerable to no one; a little more than a decade earlier, one chairman had faced down a rebellion in his committee by declaring, “I am the committee”; under the rule that one House leader was to call “the strongest and most compelling of all rules, the rule of immemorial usage,” that declaration was still time in 1937, and it would be true for decades to come. To observe the House of Representatives was to observe what absolute, untrammeled, unchallengeable power did to men.

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The House as a whole was run the same way. The sprawling, 435-member body was an oligarchy whose ruling circle consisted of no more than a score of men. And the only qualification that could secure a congressman admission to this small, select ring of power was seniority. Ability wouldn’t get you into that select circle. Energy wouldn’t get you into it. Only age would get you into it. There was only one way to become one of the rulers of the House: to wait. Congress could be a trap as cruel in its way as the Texas Hill Country—a trap with jaws, the system called seniority, strong enough to hold fast even Lyndon Johnson’s ambition.

THE SPEAKER’S DINING ROOM ON THE GROUND FLOOR of the Capitol was reserved every Wednesday for a luncheon meeting of the Texas congressional delegation: two senators, twenty-one representatives (and, of course, should he want to sit in, Vice President Garner). At one luncheon each month, members of the delegation were permitted to bring occasional guests, either VIPs from their district who happened to be in Washington or Washington notables. But such invitations were issued sparingly. James H. Rowe, who spent a lifetime in the inner circles of power, says: “It was a great honor to be invited. I think that, in a lifetime, I got there five times or maybe six.”

At the other luncheons, guests were generally not permitted—no matter how important they might be. It was understood that these lunches were for business, to plan strategy or to iron out differences within the delegation so that Texas would present its customary united front. “You couldn’t bring guests except on that one day,” George H. Mahon, of Lubbock, recalls. “That was the unwritten law.”

Lyndon Johnson did not obey this law, and he violated it in a manner particularly infuriating to the other members of the delegation: he invited to the “closed” lunches not only his constituents—but theirs. On one Wednesday during the 1940s, Amon Carter, Jr., son of the publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and the paper’s managing editor, James Record, were in Washington, and they asked Fort Worth’s congressman, Wingate Lucas, if they could come to the famous delegation luncheon. But Lucas had once before asked Sam Rayburn for permission to bring an influential constituent to a closed session and had been refused. “There was no one I would rather take,” Lucas says. “These were my two key supporters. But it was a closed session. I told them I couldn’t take them. I went to the luncheon, and I was sitting there, and Lyndon Johnson walks in, and who do you think was with him?” Seeing Lucas, young Amon waved at him. Lucas sheepishly waved back.

Johnson was able to violate the law because its enforcer was Rayburn, the delegation’s leader. Rayburn was customarily very strict about the “no outsiders” rule because the outsiders were, he knew, likely to be big businessmen and lobbyists he hated. But when Johnson asked permission to bring a guest, Rayburn frequently gave it.

Another unwritten but very firm law prohibited a congressman from interfering in the affairs of other districts. Johnson did not obey this law, either. Asking the White House for an increase in funding for the Reserve Officers Training Corps at Texas A&M University, in Luther A. Johnson’s Sixth District, he wrote that although the university was not in his district, “it is mine by adoption.”

And when federal grants were given in other districts— even grants for projects with which Johnson had had absolutely no connection—his tactics could be even more irritating.

Normally, if a project receiving a grant was located in a district with a Democratic congressman, officials of the federal agency giving the grant would telephone that congressman so that he could announce it, and thereby get credit for it. If the project was in Texas, however. Johnson’s friends in the New Deal agencies would often telephone him instead—and it would be Johnson who made the announcement. “I had been pushing for an extension of the Public Health Service Hospital in Fort Worth,” Lucas recalls. “Lyndon hadn’t had anything to do with it. But when it came about, Lyndon announced it, without even bothering to notify me.” And even when agency officials notified the district congressmen, they notified Johnson as well, and the efficiency of his staff, coupled with his long cultivation of the wire-service reporters, ensured that it was his name, not the other congressman’s, that would be attached to the announcement.

“A lot of the delegation was sore as hell,” says the Associated Press’s Louis T. “Tex” Easley. They were, in fact, so sore that Johnson found it expedient to beat a partial retreat. “He realized it was getting them too mad,” Easley says. “So after a while, he would announce it jointly.” The shift didn’t do much to alleviate tensions. After several “joint” announcements of federal projects in Corpus Christi, Representative Richard M. Kleberg, his former employer and the friendliest of men, could scarcely bring himself to nod to Johnson when they passed in the halls.

The ill feeling engendered in the Texas delegation by such tactics was exacerbated by Johnson’s personality. His efforts to dominate other men succeeded with one or two fellow Texans (most notably, quiet, unassertive Representative W. R. Poage, of Waco), but with most of the delegation, tough, successful politicians in their own right, they aroused only resentment—as did his efforts to dominate every room in which he was present. As he strolled through the House Dining Room at lunchtime, acting as if he were some visiting celebrity, nodding to left and right, “head huddling” with one man or another, or as he sat at a table, talking too loudly, other congressmen muttered under their breath. Albert Thomas, of Houston, would sit staring at Johnson, snarling sotto voce: “Listen to that sonofabitch talking about himself.” Other mutters were occasioned by what Lucas calls “insincerity.” Johnson “was so insincere,” Lucas says. “He would tell everyone what he thought they wanted to hear. As a result, you couldn’t believe anything he said.” R. Ewing Thomason, of El Paso, had served in the Texas Legislature with Lyndon’s father, Sam Johnson, and initially had gone out of his way to befriend Sam’s son. Approaching Thomason in the dining room one day, Lyndon Johnson promised him his support on a controversial issue. “Ewing,” he said earnestly, “if there’s anyone you can believe, it’s me.” Then he swung across the room and started talking to several congressmen who happened to be opposing Thomason on the issue. Thomason muttered: “There’s that sonofabitch telling them the same thing he told me.”

The other members of the delegation understood why Johnson was making speeches—and friends—all across Texas. “He certainly made no secret of the fact that he wanted to be a United States senator,” says Mahon, who, in his thirties, was firmly ensconced on the influential Appropriations Committee, had no further ambitions for himself, and was tolerant of Johnson.

But Lyndon Johnson’s fellow Texans saw no possibility that those ambitions would be realized—at least, not for many years. Neither of the state’s two senators, Tom Connally and Morris Sheppard—both in their early sixties— was considering retirement, and their immense popularity made remote indeed the possibility that either would be retired by the electorate. Should one of the two seats become vacant for some reason, Lyndon Johnson would not be the first choice to fill it. That would be Governor James V. Allred, who wanted the job, or any one of several other state officials with a statewide reputation. There was, in the view of the Texas delegation, no realistic chance of a junior congressman competing with such figures—particularly not a junior congressman from the Tenth District. The isolation of that district—the expanse of empty plains that surrounded it and cut it off from the rest of Texas— had kept its congressman unknown in most of the huge state. Says a Dallas political figure: “I had never even heard the name of Lyndon Johnson at that time.”

None of the Texas delegation saw the real ambition—the goal toward which a Senate seat, like a congressional seat, would be only a stepping stone. Had they seen it, they would have scoffed at it. and not only because of Johnson’s youth and lack of power. While Texans would later maintain that their state was more part of the West than of the South, during the pre-war years they regarded themselves as southerners, and among southerners on Capitol Hill it was an article of faith—bitter faith—that no southerner would ever be President of the United States. When, in 1946, his congressional colleagues gave Sam Rayburn a car, the plaque on it read: “To Our Beloved Sam Rayburn—Who would have been President if he had come from any place but the South.” But no member of the delegation saw Johnson’s true ambition, none got even a glimpse of it. When, in fact, his congressional colleagues were discussing the possibilities of a southerner obtaining national office, Johnson would aver that there was no chance of that, and that a southerner would be foolish to leave a secure seat on Capitol Hill to try for national office: “This is our home; this is where we have our strength,” he would say.

Others did see the real goal—despite him. James H. Rowe, one of the President’s administrative assistants, who was so observant in his quiet way, and who spent more time with Johnson than the other young New Dealers, says, “From the day he got here, he wanted to be President.” And one time, at least, Johnson did reveal himself. One evening, alone with State Senator Welly Hopkins, an old friend from Texas, he burst out: “By God, I’ll be President someday.” But even the few who guessed the goal at which Lyndon Johnson was really aiming could not imagine how he could ever realize it. A Senate seat was not the only path to it—national power of another type, behind-the-scenes power, might help him along the road— but when men thought of national power, they thought of the Oval Office and the man in it, and of his marshals, Harold lekes and Harry Hopkins and Henry Wallace, or of his political allies: Jim Farley, for example, or Ed Flynn. But how could a junior congressman raise himself to Farley’s league, or Flynn’s?

HIS STANDING ON CAPITOL HILL—OUTSIDE THE Texas delegation—was, moreover, not improving. For a while, he was very popular with his fellow congressmen, for the same reasons he was popular with the young New Dealers: not only because of his charm, his storytelling ability, his desire to ingratiate, and his skill in doing so, but because, in the words of his friend George Brown, “He was a leader of men. Johnson had the knack of always appealing to a fellow about someone he didn’t like. If he was talking to Joe, and Joe didn’t like Jim, he’d say he didn’t like Jim, too—that was his leadership, that was his knack.” For some time, congressional liberals thought he was one of them, while congressional conservatives thought he was one of them.

But some of them began to catch on. Liberals found that it was useless to ask him to speak in support of a bill in which they were interested. Similarly, conservatives found it impossible to persuade him to speak in support of their legislation. Says one liberal, Edouard V. M. Izac, of California: “He just simply was not especially interested in general legislation that came to the floor of the House. Some of us were on the floor all the time, fighting for liberal causes. But he stayed away from the floor, and while he was there, he was very, very silent.”Pragmatism was of course not unknown on Capitol Hill; for many congressmen, it was a way of life—caution was only common sense. But, in the opinion of more and more of his fellows, Lyndon Johnson’s pragmatism and caution went beyond the norm. Watching him hastily ducking around a corner to avoid meeting a reporter who was asking congressmen for comment on an issue of the day, some of his colleagues began to regard him almost with scorn.

And then, of course, there was the aspect of his personality that had been so striking since his boyhood, and that had led Estelle Harbin, who had worked with him when he was a congressional secretary, to say: “He couldn’t stand not being somebody—just could not stand it!” Lyndon Johnson could not endure being only one of a crowd; he needed—with a compelling need—to lead, and not merely to lead but to dominate, to bend others to his will.

At cocktail parties, he could hold the stage when the other guests were young New Dealers, and even for a time, by the force of his personality, when the guests included older men with more power. But in power-obsessed Washington, when older, more powerful men were present, he couldn’t hold the stage for long. And on Capitol Hill, in a congressional cloakroom, where the pecking order was so clearly and firmly established and he was near the bottom, he commanded much less attention than in a Georgetown living room.

He wanted to give advice. It was good advice—he had a rare talent not only for politics but for organization, and congressmen were continually searching for ways to improve the organization of their offices, a skill of which he was the master. But few of his colleagues wanted advice from a junior colleague. He wanted to give lectures—pontificating in the cloakroom or back of the rail in the House chamber as he had pontificated among young congressional assistants when he lived in the Dodge Hotel basement. But his fellow congressmen resented his dogmatic, overbearing tone at least as strongly as his fellow congressional secretaries had resented it. His skills at manipulating men were useless without at least a modicum of power to back them up, and he possessed no power at all. James Van Zandt, of Pennsylvania, says: “When he wanted something, he really went after it. He would say: ‘Now, goddammit, Jimmy, I helped you on this, and I want you to help me on this.’ ” And, Van Zandt adds, “Johnson kept asking for favors, and he simply didn’t have that many to give in return.” He tried too hard—much too hard—to trade on what minor “help” he had given. “You can do those things once or twice,” Van Zandt says. “He did them too frequently. Some people didn’t like him. People would get irritated.”

The pattern that had emerged in the Little Congress (and, before that, at college) was repeated in the big Congress. The older men to whom he was so deferential were fond of Lyndon Johnson. Among his contemporaries, those whom he needed and to whom he was also deferential— Rowe, for example—were also fond of him. Another few— very few—of his contemporaries in Congress were fond of him, most of them unassertive men such as Poage and Van Zandt. But the feeling of others was quite different. O.C. Fisher, whose Texas district adjoined Johnson’s Tenth, says: “He had a way of getting along with the leaders, and he didn’t bother much with the small fry. And let me tell you, the small fry didn’t mind. They didn’t want much to do with him, either.” Even Van Zandt, one of his admirers, says: “People were critical of him because he was too ambitious, too forceful, too pushy. Some people didn’t like him.” As he walked through the House Dining Room, the resentments that followed him did not come only from members of the Texas delegation. Says Lucas: “Guys [from other states] would come [in] and sit down” at a table near where Johnson was sitting; they would greet all their fellow members nearby, except him. “And he would get up and say, ‘Well, Joe, why in hell didn’t you speak to me?’ Well, they hadn’t spoken to him because they didn’t like him. They wouldn’t put up with him.” The situation was summed up in a symbolic gesture—a shrinking away. Lyndon Johnson still practiced his habit of grasping a man’s lapel with one hand and putting his other arm around the man’s shoulders, holding him close while staring into his eyes and talking directly into his face. Some of his fellow congressmen didn’t mind his doing this, even liked having him do it. Van Zandt recalls: “He would put his hand on my shoulder and say, ‘Now, look. Jimmy. . .’ I liked him a lot. You always felt relaxed in his presence.” But others— many others—did mind. They would draw back from his hand, shrug away from his arm. And sometimes, if he didn’t take the hint, they would get angry. Once he took a congressman’s lapel in his hand, and the congressman knocked his hand away. Without power to back it up, his way of dealing with his colleagues earned him not the power he craved but only unpopularity.

When Johnson had been sworn in, in 1937, only two congressmen had been younger than he. Now there were quite a few younger. He was no longer even the youngest congressman from Texas. Newspaper articles on the state’s congressional contingent often mentioned “the baby of the delegation,” and they were referring to Lindley Beck worth, of Gladewater, who had been elected in 1938 at the age of twenty-five. Johnson, thirty-two in 1940, was no longer a particularly youthful congressman. He was only a junior congressman, one of the scores of junior congressmen.

One of a crowd.

THEN, IN 1940, JOHNSON FOUND A MEANS OF LIFTING himself above that crowd. The means was money. At first, the money was Herman Brown’s. All through 1939, Johnson had been advancing Herman’s interests, working diligently for the enlargement of the Marshall Ford Dam, a federal project in Texas for which Herman’s company, Brown & Root, was the contractor. And in 1940, in return for his efforts in Texas on behalf of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s renomination, Johnson was able to secure for Brown & Root a lucrative contract for a naval air base in Corpus Christi. Herman and his brother, George, were grateful. A letter from George in 1939 promised that Johnson need only tell him “when and where I can return at least a portion of the favors. Remember that I am for you, right or wrong, and it makes no difference whether I think you are right or wrong. If you want it, I am for it 100 percent.” Most politicians are forced, in mapping out the next step in their careers, to choose a step that can be financed. Johnson did not have this problem; he could concentrate solely on which step would be best for his career. Whatever road he chose, he could be sure it would be paved by money from Brown & Root. Furthermore, their aims coincided. Herman Brown was a harddriving construction genius with an obsession to build big. He knew that the way to build big was through Washington. Influence within the national government was what Herman Brown needed, and national influence—political power that reached beyond Texas—was what Lyndon Johnson wanted. Each could obtain what he wanted through the other.

The most obvious use of readily available money for someone aiming at national political power was in President Roosevelt’s campaign for a third term, for his stronghands held the reins of national power in a firm grip. With the immense financial resources of the Republican Party solidly behind the campaign of Wendell Willkie, the President’s re-election campaign was in severe financial difficulties, and these difficulties were a prime source of conversation in Washington, and of concern to the New Dealers who were Johnson’s most frequent companions. Around him, in conversations in the cloakroom or on the floor of the House, at cocktail parties and dinner parties, swirled talk of campaign funds, and of where to get them. Furthermore, Johnson could have adduced from his own recent experience with Roosevelt that the President might not prove ungrateful for campaign contributions. Having already provided such contributions to Roosevelt in the Texas campaign, it seemed the obvious course, the logical course, for Lyndon Johnson to provide contributions for a national campaign, and, indeed, men such as Charles Marsh, the Austin publisher, suggested this course to him.

It was not a suggestion he accepted. No one can know why, but it is possible to list several considerations that may have influenced him in his decision. Contributing to a presidential campaign would make him only one of many contributors—considering the scale of customary contributions from New York and other financial centers of the Northeast, not even one of the biggest. The President’s gratitude would be proportionate. Moreover, that gratitude, and its tangible results in power and patronage, would flow from one man; any power that Johnson was given would be held at his whim; no independent power could be realized from such a situation. Using Herman Brown’s money in Franklin Roosevelt’s campaign would probably not get Lyndon Johnson what he wanted; it was necessary for him to find another way of using it.

And he did.

One facet of Lyndon Johnson’s political genius was already obvious by 1940: his ability to look at an organization and see in it political potentialities that no one else saw, to transform that organization into a political force, and to reap from that transformation personal advantage. He had done this twice before, transforming a college social club (the White Stars) and a Washington debating society (the Little Congress) into political forces that he used to further his own ends. Now he was to do it again.

This time, the organization was the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Like the Little Congress at the moment when Lyndon Johnson’s gaze fell upon it, the committee was a moribund organization. Established in 1882 to assist Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives with services and campaign funds, its usefulness had seldom if ever reached a significant level. During the 1930s, under the chairmanship of Patrick Henry Drewry, a small, soft-spoken representative from the Virginia Tidewater, even that level had been reduced, for Drewry was ill suited to the role of aggressive fund-raiser, not only because of personal considerations—“He was every inch a country gentleman; he could never ask anyone for a dime,” says a friend—but because of moral and philosophical ones as well: the very concept of the massive use of money in political campaigns was repugnant to him, and, as a staunch states’-righter, he saw dangerous implications for the independence of the nation’s elected representatives in the distribution of money through a monolithic central committee. He had therefore decreed that the committee’s maximum contribution to a congressman would be $250. Few candidates received even this amount. The dichotomy within the Democratic Party, with its bitterly antagonistic liberal and conservative wings, kept the committee’s bank account small: big contributors were unwilling to provide money that might then be channeled by the committee to candidates with opposing political views. The committee’s funds had traditionally come primarily from two sources—contributions from congressmen themselves, and handouts from the Democratic National Committee—and during Drewry’s chairmanship, these sources had slowed to a trickle. For some decades, the committee had requested $100 from each Democratic member of the House to fund its operation; under Drewry, this request had been reduced by 1938 to $25—and when few members honored it, Drewry made only a token effort to collect.

Democrats who turned to the committee for non-financial help were also likely to be disappointed; although the committee had a speakers’ bureau, headed by the capable E. J. MacMillan, the bureau functioned only in non-presidential election years; when a presidential election was taking place, congressmen who telephoned to ask for a Cabinet member or other “name” speaker to appear in their districts found MacMillan gone—he was invariably drafted by the National Committee and sent to New York to help in the “national” campaign. The committee’s other staffer was its secretary, Victor Hunt (“Cap”) Harding, a political scientist from California and one of the House of Representatives’ deputy sergeants-at-arms. During a campaign, Harding would take an office—generally, only one room—in the National Press Building at Fourteenth and F streets so that he could accept whatever contributions happened to come in without violating the law that forbade the accepting of money in a federal building. During campaigns, therefore, when the Congressional Campaign Committee should have been most active, its office, a dim. green-carpeted room in the basement of the Cannon Building, was often utterly deserted—a condition that sometimes was only slightly improved even on the rare occasions when Drewry scheduled a meeting of the “committee” itself, which consisted of one congressman from each state; more than once, the only persons who bothered to show up were Drewry and Harding.

In 1940, Democratic congressional candidates were even more desperate than usual for cash. The amounts they needed were, in most cases, small—ridiculously small— not only by the standauls of later eras but in comparison with the amounts spent during the pre-war era in statewide races and in the presidential campaign. The amounts varied greatly; congressional races in the urban centers of the Northeast could cost tens of thousands of dollars, but in the rest of the nation the situation was very different. In 1928, for example, Ruth Baker Pratt spent $12,000 in her campaign for a congressional seat from New York City. That was several times the total amount spent that year by all six candidates for the three congressional seats in the State of Oregon. In most other western and midwestern states, expenditures were modest. “One is forced to the conclusion that in the great majority of cases campaigning for a seat in the House of Representatives is not an expensive business,”Louise Overacker, the era’s leading expert on campaign finance, wrote in 1932. This situation had not changed in 1938. In that year, the six candidates—three Democrats and three Republicans—for Oregon’s three congressional seats spent a total of $12,987, a little more than $2,000 per candidate. Congressmen from that era say that most campaigns cost less than $5,000. And individual congressmen’s recollections are confirmed by men who had an overview of the situation, such as James Rowe and Thomas G. (“Tommy the Cork”) Corcoran, a White House strategist and key New Deal fundraiser. In politics, says Rowe, “Five thousand dollars was a hell of a lot of money in those days.”

Little as Democratic congressional candidates needed, however, there wasn’t much hope that they would get it from their Congressional Campaign Committee. Because the nation’s business community was so overwhelmingly Republican, funds were traditionally in short supply at Democratic National Committee headquarters, at the Hotel Biltmore in New York. The party had been outspent by the GOP in every national election since 1920, and the gap had been huge in 1936. And never had the supply of funds been shorter than in 1940. Fueled by rage at Roosevelt and possessed, in Willkie, of an attractive candidate to run against him, the GOP was gearing up—and shelling out— for a supreme effort to put its own man in the White House. After the election, a Senate committee would determine the ratio of expenditures between the two parties as almost two and a half to one. The Democrats, anxious to put such seasoned speechmakers as Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes on the air, found that they simply “did not have the money to spend” on more than a few such nationwide broadcasts. The five great radio speeches that were to boost Roosevelt’s popularity during the last days of the campaign would not have been broadcast had not Richard Reynolds, of the North Carolina tobacco family, appeared on the scene with a last-minute $175,000 loan to pay for the radio time. The National Committee needed every dollar it could raise, and was going to be able to spare very little money indeed for its poor relation in Washington.

The outlook had not been particularly bright for congressional Democrats even before campaign finances were included in their calculations. In 1938, the Democrats had lost seventy-one seats in the House. Since they had gone into that election with an overwhelming congressional majority from the Roosevelt landslide of 1936, they still held a substantial 265-to-170 margin, but polls early in 1940 showed that as many as sixty Democrats could expect to lose their seats in 1940. The campaign financial picture added to the gloom. At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in July, politicians could be heard muttering gloomily about the lack of funds. Some of them turned to Rayburn for help. Nan Wood Honeyman of Portland, Oregon, had been defeated in 1938, and had learned the necessity of adequate campaign financing. In 1940, she was attempting to win back her seat, and at the convention, as she was later to relate in a letter, she asked Tommy Corcoran and Sam Rayburn for help. They promised to provide some, but Corcoran’s money-raising abilities were, shortly after the convention, assigned to the presidential campaign. And when Mrs. Honeyman contacted Rayburn, he was forced to reply in embarrassment that he would see that she got help “when and if there are funds available to the Congressional Campaign Committee.” He was forced to give a similar answer to other candidates who asked for assistance. At a dispirited Democratic caucus on the subject of fund-raising, the only suggestion Rayburn could make was that congressmen who had safe seats or ample funds should contribute to the campaigns of those of their colleagues who were broke or in danger—but that suggestion would not solve the problem, as Rayburn himself knew.

BUT LYNDON JOHNSON KNEW HOW TO SOLVE THE problem. He could provide the party with substantial funds, and he could provide them fast. And he appears to have been able to generalize from his experience with Brown & Root. Leaving the gloomy caucus with Edouard Izac, Johnson said, according to Izac, “ ‘Sam Rayburn’s all wet. That isn’t the way you raise money for the Democratic Party.’ Lyndon’s idea was to go to the contractors and get the money.”

He knew more. He knew, in fact, of a source of money that was available only to Sam Rayburn—and that even Sam Rayburn didn’t know of.

Oil money had long been a factor in politics in the United States. In Texas, oil had come in not long after the century; the Spindletop field on the Gulf Coast, which would eventually prove out at 100 million barrels, one tenth as much oil as had been produced previously in America, blew in on January 10, 1901. The robber barons who had tapped the oil fields of the Northeast had been using the sale of black gold to buy politicians for decades before that; the Standard Oil Company, one historian said, did everything possible to the Pennsylvania Legislature except refine it. But the new oil fields of the Southwest had, through the first three decades of the twentieth century, been controlled by the same companies that controlled the old oil fields of the Northeast; with their control of pipelines, markets, and refineries—and the capital needed to explore and drill—they bought out or forced out the discoverers of the Texas fields so thoroughly that in 1930 three quarters of the oil in Texas was owned by Standard Oil and its offshoots and rivals such as Humble, Magnolia, Gulf, and Sun, and the owners of the other quarter had to sell their oil to these major companies, at prices so low that they were effectively prevented from accumulating capital of their own. The companies, and the families behind them, that poured money into politics in Texas—Gulf Oil (the Mellons), Sun Oil (the Pews), Standard Oil (the Rockefellers)—were the same companies and families that had been financing the Republican Party, and financing selected Democrats, for decades in Washington and in various states of the Northeast. Their political alliances on the national level had long been made and cemented.

But after 1930, there were new sources of oil money, for 1930 was the year of the great East Texas pool.

The first success among the test wells being “poorboyed” (drilled on credit, with frequent halts to raise money to go a few hundred feet deeper) by long-broke wildcatters in a poverty-stricken area of east Texas was eight miles east of Henderson. The oil that gushed out of it on October 6, 1930, splashing down on the rusty drill and on the derrick floor set among the pine trees, was believed to come from an isolated pocket, because the major oil companies had been advised by their geologists that there was little oil in the area. The second well that blew in, two months later, was near Kilgore, thirteen miles to the north. That must come from an isolated pocket too, geologists said. At any rate, being so far from the first well, it certainly couldn’t come from the same field. A month later, another well came in, near Longview, twelve miles farther north. Three separate fields, the geologists said: certainly no one field could be that big. With the major companies uninterested, hundreds of small oil prospectors, men who had been wildcatting for years, most without success, rushed into the area. They found that East Texas was a “poor man’s pool,” not only because, with the majors not aggressively buying up land, oil leases could be obtained at reasonable prices but because, at 3,500 feet, the oil was relatively close to the surface and the drilling was relatively inexpensive. Because the East Texas oil was a highgrade, light-gravity oil with little sulfur contamination, it could even be refined cheaply; some—very few, but some—of the wildcatters could refine their own oil and sell it to gasoline companies. By the end of 1931, in some weeks, wells were being sunk at the rate of one per hour. And no matter where they drilled, it seemed, not only between Henderson and Longview but to the north and south (and the east and west), when they reached a depth of about 3,500 feet and took a sampling of the sand, it came up resembling brown sugar—sugar that had been dipped in oil. By 1934, it was apparent that underneath those barren, dried-out cotton fields and miles of stunted pine trees was an ocean of oil more than forty-five miles long. By 1935, the East Texas pool was producing more oil than any state had ever produced—more than any nation had ever produced. Spindletop, with its 100 million barrels, had been huge. The East Texas pool had 5 billion barrels—fifty times as much as Spindletop.

And it was owned not by the majors but by the independents.

The majors moved in and bought the independents out. of course; Humble alone wound up with 16 percent of the East Texas pool; by 1938, the majors controlled 80 percent of the field. But there was a difference. The East Texas field was unprecedentedly huge, and, to an extent true of no previous field, it had originally been owned by the wildcatters, so that this time, when they sold out, they came away rich. The owner of the first well to hit sold out for a relative pittance, but the owners of the second came away with $2 million, the owners of the third with $2.5 million. Some, like Sid Richardson, took their money and put it into other oil fields—in the Panhandle and in West Texas and down near Houston—and some of these fields came in, too, and this time they didn’t have to sell out at all; they could keep the profits themselves. There was by this time so much money that even if they had to share it with the majors, what was left over was millions of dollars. Hugh Roy Cullen, for example, brought in the Tom O’Connor Hill in 1934. He had to share it with Humble, but what he was sharing was half a billion barrels. And, more independent because they now had financial resources of their own, the new owners no longer had to share on the former disadvantageous terms. More and more often, in fact, they didn’t have to share at all. “More independent oil fortunes came out of the East Texas field than from any other place in the world,” a historian of the industry has written. “This was primarily because of the size of the field. Out of the thousands of tracts and town lots, there was something for almost everyone.” And because of this, the East Texas field “became a point of departure from the old pattern of Texans going, hat in hand, out of the state to solicit funds for expansion and development.” H. L. Hunt, for example, built his own pipelines, and was soon filling up the tank cars of the Sinclair Oil Company with his own oil.

LITTLE AWARENESS OF THIS DEVELOPMENT EXISTed among even the shrewdest of politicians in Washington. The names of many of the new rich were not even known, and the wealth of others was drastically underestimated. In August, 1935, Harold Ickes forwarded to President Roosevelt an “interesting document” that Ickes said had been “handed to me by a man in the oil game who thought it ought to reach you.” It was a list of oilmen who had contributed that year to the Democratic National Committee—most of the contributions were for $1,000 or less—together with a brief description of the contributors. Of one of them, Herman Brown (Brown had begun buying oil leases), the writer says only; “Do not know of him.” The writer says of “S. W. Richardson”: “in debt and borrows money to develop leases from Charles Marsh. ...” Only two men on the list—Clint Murchison and his partner, Dudley Golding—are described with any degree of accuracy (“Golding & Murchison came into the East Texas Field several months after it started with no money and [after] a little over three years . . . sold out . . . for about five million dollars”). Neither the author of the document nor, apparently, Ickes had any idea of the true financial circumstances of the men on the list. And this was still the situation in 1940. In part, this was due to the rapidity with which their circumstances had changed: Sid Richardson had indeed been in debt for years, but at the time the memo was sent, that description of him was out of date by several years—and several millions of dollars. And in 1937, he hit the Keystone Sands in west Texas. By 1940, his income was close to $2 million a year.

But while the politicians had no knowledge of these oilmen, the oilmen had a deep interest in national politics, and had come to enjoy many federal favors. The most widely known, of course, was the 27.5 percent oil-depletion allowance, the loophole that, as Theodore H. White was to put it, “gives oil millionaires magic exemption from tax burdens that all other citizens must bear” by making27.5 percent of their income free from tax. But there were many others, also important in oilmen’s bookkeeping, if less known—for example, the law that allowed the immediate writing-off of intangible drilling and development costs on successful wells. And the owners were vitally interested in keeping those favors, which were under almost constant attack. Hardly had the Roosevelt Administration entered office when Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., called the depletion allowance “a pure subsidy to a special class of taxpayers” that should be eliminated. In 1937, Morgenthau renewed his plea, calling the allowance “perhaps the most glaring loophole,” and Morgenthau’s boss joined in, calling depletion and other loopholes attempts “to dodge the payment of taxes.”

And the wildcatters were concerned with national policy not only because of favor but because of fear. As oil from the East Texas pool glutted the market and the price of oil plummeted, the industry was in turmoil and the positions of majors and independents swirled back and forth in confusion. The wildcatters feared federal regulation. The occasion of the memo to Roosevelt—and of the donations that it reported—was a bill, introduced by an Oklahoma Populist, Senator Elmer Thomas, in 1935, that would have directly regulated the industry. That bill was blocked, in favor of Texas Senator Tom Connally’s “Hot Oil Act,” which left the setting of production quotas with the Texas Railroad Commission, a body controlled by the wildcatters. Protected by the Railroad Commission from the price-cutting practices of the majors, the independents were soon flourishing, but the threat of federal regulation was a constant cloud on an otherwise limitless horizon. They had plenty of money; they needed a way to make it felt in Washington; they needed a path through which the power of their collective purse could be brought to bear on the federal government.

Of the members of the federal government, the only one they knew well enough to be comfortable with was Sam Rayburn. Richardson was from Fort Worth, and many of the other wildcatters lived in Dallas. Rayburn’s district adjoined Dallas, of course, and he had many close friends among the politicians there. On his frequent visits to the city, he had come to know Richardson and some of the other wildcatters while they were still poor-boying wells, searching for wealth on a shoestring. Becoming rich, other wildcatters moved to Dallas—the nearest large city and also the city whose banks first revealed a willingness to finance the wildcatters’ new ventures—and made their headquarters there. Rayburn met these men, too, usually through a pair of old friends who were intimately connected with the wildcatters, former State Attorney General William McCraw and William Kittrell, a veteran Texas lobbyist.

RAYBURN ACTIVELY DISLIKED THE “OLD” OILMEN, the wealthy shareholders in the Magnolia, whose 6,000-pound flying red horse atop the Magnolia Building dominated downtown Dallas and, at night, when it was outlined in 1,162 feet of ruby neon tubing, the plains for thirty miles around; and he disliked the oil-company corporate executives and lawyers, the lobbyists. And they returned his dislike; oil interests felt toward Sam Rayburn as fiercely as the utilities; attempting to remove him from Congress, they would fruitlessly pour money into his district year after year. But Rayburn liked Sid Richardson, whom he had known for years as a broke young man, and he liked many of Richardsons friends. And when they had asked him for help, he had helped them. They had told him that the Thomas bill was a device of the big companies to kill off the little fellows—little fellows like themselves. If they had very recently—thanks to the East Texas pool— graduated out of the “little fellow” class forever, he did not grasp that fact. (He was never to grasp it fully—a situation that was to have grave consequences for the United States in decades to come.) The bill was, they said, a device of Wall Street to keep Texans—them—from ever getting a share of their own state’s wealth. They should be allowed to handle their own problems until it was proved they couldn’t, and since all this oil was in Texas, this seemed like one problem that Texas should definitely be allowed to handle. Roosevelt, at the time, needed Rayburn’s cooperation on New Deal legislation; the President told Ickes (who would, under the proposed Thomas bill, be given the federal regulatory power), “I do not want to cross wires with Sam Rayburn about this matter.”And the Thomas bill was tabled.

Rayburn was no stranger to the use of money in politics. As John Nance Garner’s campaign manager not only in 1940 but in 1932, he had asked for contributions to his friend’s campaign, and had gotten them. But, perhaps because he was so utterly uninterested in money himself, when he thought about campaign contributions he had a tendency to think small. When he thought large, he thought in terms of Texas, and of the kind of Texans who gave large contributions to politicians, and this old money—cotton money and cattle money—was, almost entirely, Garner money. He knew the depth of the alienation of Garner’s backers from Roosevelt following their bitter struggle for the presidential nomination, and he knew that, in 1940, they were contributing to Wendell Willkie, and that their money would not be available to him.

If there was new money in Texas on the same scale as the old—oil money, the wildcatters’ money—he had not yet come to understand that fact. Not having even the vaguest notion, in 1940, of the extent of the wildcatters’ recently acquired wealth, he could not see its potential for politics. The scale of contributions they had made in 1935—a scale calculated largely in the hundreds; $1,000 was a generous contribution—was the scale on which he still thought. And as for using their money on a national scale, the obtaining and distribution of funds to scores of congressmen across the country—what relationship did a task of such a magnitude have with, say, squat, silent, unassuming Sid Richardson, still wandering around Fort Worth in a rumpled suit and living in the same small, shabby bachelor quarters at the Fort Worth Club where he had always lived? Says Representative Richard Bolling, who became one of Rayburn’s intimates and protégés, “He thought that his people were little people. He missed the fact that the independents had become giants. ... He knew they had money, but he had no idea of the extent of the money.”

Rayburn did not, moreover, understand—perhaps because he was a man who could not be bought, and this reputation and the fear in which he was held kept anyone from explaining his position to him—how important he was to the wildcatters, how the protection he had extended to them in the past, and the protection they were hoping he would continue to extend to them in the future, was one of the most significant factors in the accumulation of their wealth. Rayburn, acconling to the unanimous opinion not only of his allies of this period but of his opponents, had not the slightest idea of the potential of his position for political fund-raising for congressmen on a national level.

Lyndon Johnson understood. He was sure he would be able to raise money not merely from Brown & Root but, by arguing the necessity of keeping Rayburn in power (and keeping sympathetic Democrats in committee chairmanships), from the independent oilmen. He was unopposed himself for re-election in 1940, and he asked Rayburn to get him a role with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

For many reasons—among them, a deep personal dislike of Johnson on the part of committee chairman Drewrv and Democratic National Chairman Ed Flynn, whom Rayburn was counting on for financial support—Rayburn was reluctant to give Johnson what he wanted. He had in mind a veteran politician with experience on the national level. And when Johnson attempted to circumvent Rayburn through his friends at the White House, he was told that he couldn’t have a role in the campaign without Rayburn’s approval. For some time, Rayburn refused to give that approval—but by the end of September he was becoming desperate.

After September 16, the continuation of Democratic control of the House suddenly had more meaning for him than ever before. He was Speaker at last, after twentyeight years of waiting; he would stay Speaker only if the Democrats held the House—and every indication was that they wouldn’t. The Republicans needed to gain only fortyeight seats to take control of the House in 1940—and elect their own Speaker. Democrats and Republicans alike felt that the GOP would gain more than that number. The Democrats couldn’t even get back home to campaign. Deepening crisis in Europe and the Far East, and the need for new crisis legislation—the Selective Service Act, funding for new military bases—forced Congress to remain in session all summer and into September. September drew to a close, and no major new legislation was before Congress, and the gleeful Republicans, backed by the press, insisted that it stay in session.

Over and over again, Rayburn was told that a principal reason for the impending electoral disaster was lack of money. Visiting the Chicago headquarters of the party’s Midwest division, Charles Marsh reported that “Chicago is a skeleton, because no money has trickled from New York West yet. I walked through a graveyard . . . with yawning offices everywhere. Apparently no money for payrolls, no definite amounts to make planning for radio and speaker’s bureau.” Roosevelt’s personal popularity would pull the President through. Marsh predicted, but it wouldn’t pull enough congressmen with him. “I believe the lower house of Congress may be lost by not getting money West now.”

And there was no money. In August, Rayburn had asked Democratic National Committee Chairman Ed Flynn to set aside $100,000 to help congressional candidates. At the end of September, the committee had not contributed a penny On October 2, a letter from Flynns finance chairman. Wayne Johnson, must have made Rayburn realize how remote was the chance of significant financial assistance to his “fellows” from the DNC: Congressman William D. Byron, of Maryland, had made a personal trip to National Committee headquarters at the Biltmore to ask for financial help; Johnson wrote Rayburn, “Will you see what you can do to help Congressman Byron if his need is as acute as he thinks.” As for the National Committee, Wayne Johnson wrote, “We have had such difficulty in getting money to keep things running to date that I don’t know how much we will have to help the Congressional Campaign Committee.”

Then, over the weekend beginning October 5, premonition turned to panic. On that weekend. Democrats, desperate over discouraging reports from their districts, began drifting away from Washington; by October 8, when an informal “recess” was finally arranged, more than a hundred members had already left for home on what the Times called “French leave.” And when they arrived back in their districts, they found that the reports were all too true. In district after district, Democratic congressmen who had won by comfortable margins in 1936, and by smaller margins in 1938, returned home in 1940, with less than a month to go before the election, to find that they were behind, and that their opponents’ campaigns were well organized and well financed, with plenty of help from Washington, while they were getting no help at all. When the long-awaited subvention from the Democratic National Committee finally arrived, on October 10, it was not the $100,000 for which Rayburn had asked but $10,000. Parceled out among seventy-eight candidates in contributions of $100 or $200, it was an amount too small to make a difference in the fight on which hung Sam Rayburn’s fate. On October 13, Rayburn asked Roosevelt to get Johnson into the congressional campaign in some capacity, formal or informal, and to do it fast. The President agreed to do so. He reportedly said: “Tell Lyndon to see me tomorrow.” Lyndon saw the President the next day—October 14—at breakfast, and that afternoon, Flynn and Drewry sent out letters to congressmen that assigned Johnson a role in the campaign.

The role could hardly have been more informal. Drewry’s letter said only that Johnson would “assist the Congressional Committee.” No specific position or title was mentioned. However, it was a role not on the district level or the state level but on the national level. Rushing out of the White House, Lyndon Johnson contacted Brown & Root, in Houston.

THE GREAT POLITICAL FUND-RAISERS-THE TOMMY Corcorans of Washington, the Ed Clarks of Texas— agree that most businessmen who contribute to political campaigns don’t contribute enough to accomplish their purpose. They want ambassadorships or contracts or input into policy, but they don’t give enough to get what they want. Their contributions are grudging, or slow in coming, or too small to place the recipients under sufficient obligation to them. “There’s always just a few,” says Clark, “only the most sophisticated and the smartest,” who give “real money” and who give it eagerly enough, and early enough, so that they can reap the maximum return on their investment. Herman Brown, on whose native shrewdness had been overlaid the sophistication obtained from more than a decade of involvement in the financing of state politics and politicians, was one of the few. “When Herman gave, he gave his full weight,” says Ed Clark, the canny Texas lobbyist who often represented him in Texas political maneuvering. When Johnson contacted Brown & Root, the response was immediate. Since the Federal Corrupt Practices Act forbade political contributions by corporations. money could not come directly from Brown & Root. Because of a $5,000 limit on an individual’s contribution to a political organization during any one year, not enough of it could come from Herman, or from his brother, George. Apparently for this reason, Herman arranged to have six business associates—subcontractors, attorneys, his insurance broker—send money, in their names, to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. And Herman acted fast. Johnson had made his telephone call on Monday, October 14. On Saturday, October 19, George Brown telegraphed Johnson: YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO HAVE CHECKS BY FRIDAY. . . . HOPE THEY ARRIVED IN DUE FORM AND TIME. Johnson was able to reply by return wire: ALL OF THE FOLKS YOU TALKED TO HAVE BEEN

HEARD FROM. MANY, MANY THANKS. I AM NOT ACKNOWLEDGING THEIR LETTERS, SO BE SURE TO TELL ALL THESE FELLOWS THAT THEIR LETTERS HAVE BEEN RECEIVED. The amount of each check was the maximum contribution allowed under the law: $5,000. The initial Brown & Root contribution to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was $30,000—more money than the committee had received from the Democratic National Committee, which had in previous years been its major source of funds. (These telegrams, like most of the telegrams and letters quoted in this article, are contained in Johnson’s office files, which are now in the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, in Austin, Texas. The others are in the Sam Rayburn Library, in Bonham, Texas, or in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, in Hyde Park, New York.)

Nor was this the only money Johnson received from Texas during his first week on his new job, for he had persuaded Sam Rayburn to make some telephone calls to Fort Worth and Dallas, and to stop talking in terms of hundreds. On October 14, Sid Richardson, through his nephew, Perry R. Bass, sent $5,000. On October 16, C. W. Murchison sent $5,000. Another $5,000 arrived from Charles Marsh’s partner, E. S. Fentress. By Saturday, October 19, Johnson had brought to the offices of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, to be distributed to Democratic candidates for Congress, a total of $45,000. One week after he had taken his job, he was able to write Rayburn aide Swagar Sherley: “We have sent them more money in the last three days than Congressmen have received from any committee in the last eight years.”

ONE TALENT THAT LYNDON JOHNSON HAD ALREADY displayed in abundance was ingenuity in political tactics. Now he displayed it again. By saying in his letter to the candidates that Johnson was only “assisting” the Congressional Campaign Committee, Drewry had thought he was keeping Johnson subordinate to the committee. All these first checks from Texas, of course, were made out to the committee—Johnson had to turn them over to the committee for deposit in the committee’s bank account, and it was on this account that the first checks for contributions to individual candidates were drawn. They were signed by the committee’s chairman. Drewry, and mailed out, with an accompanying letter by Drewry, from the committee’s office in the National Press Building, in the same manner as any other contributiors with no indication that the money that had made then possible had come from Texas, or that it had been raised by the efforts of Lyndon Johnson.

For a man who had pulled political stings to get a dam enlarged (and its cost increased to almost three times its original allocation), Johnson’s method of letting the candidates know that he, not the committee, deserved the credit for the contributions was relatively simple-but ingenious, nonetheless. He had had George Brown instruct each of the “Brown & Root” contributors, and apparently had had Rayburn instruct Richardson and Murchison, to send with their contributions a letter stating: “I am enclosing herewith my check for $5,000 payable to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. I would like for this money to be expended in connection with the campaign of Democratic candidates for Congress as per the list attached, to the individual named in the amount specified.”

Johnson had, of course, compiled the list, and had determined the amount each of the lucky candidates was to receive. Since the committee would baldly dare to disobey such specific instructions from the “donors,’it was Johnson rather than Drewry or Harding (or anyone else) who was determining who would get the Texas money, and how much. And, armed with this know ledge, he had no sooner left the committee headquarters, having handed in his checks, than he sent to each of the recipients the following telegram—which made it abundantly clear to each recipient who was really responsible for the check he would be receiving from the Congressional Campaign Committee the next day: AS RESULT MY VISIT TO CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE FEW MINUTES AGO, YOU SHOULD RECEIVE AIRMAIL SPECIAL DELIVERY LETTER FROM THEM WHICH IS TO BE MAILED TONIGHT.

OF THE ELEMENTS IN LYNDON JOHNSON’S CAREER, none had been more striking than his energy. Procuring checks wasn’t all he did that first week. Permission to “assist” the Congressional Campaign Committee had been given to him on October 14. Election Day was November 5. He had three weeks.

Within three hours, he had rented an office, furnished it, and filled it with a staff: Herbert Henderson John Connally, and Dorothy Nichols from his congressional office; only Walter Jenkins was left behind to keep that office open. (The furnishings of the room in the five-room suite that would be his private office revealed a distaste for the spartan: the furniture-rental order read “1 large Exec. desk, 1 swivel desk chair, 2 arm chairs, 1 club chain 1 divan . . .”) Although he was ostensibly assisting Drewry’s committee, the office he had taken was in another building, the Munsey Building, an eleven-story office building at 1329 E Street, NW, off Pennsylvania Avenue, away from Drewry’s eyes and supervision. That same day, he composed a questionnaire to be sent to congressional colleagues (“1938 votes received?” “Is your present opponent stronger than your 1938 opponent?” “Describe briefly type of campaign he is making and principal issues he is raising?” “Where can you or a representative be reached at all times in your district?”) and dictated, to be sent with the questionnaire, a letter announcing his entrance into the campaign.

He had done more that busy Monday. The letter and questionnaire were not sent to all his colleagues. Conferring over the telephone with Rayburn, with McCormack— and with Paul Appleby, campaign manager for vice-presidential nominee Henry A. Wallace and a politician with a detailed knowledge of the political situation in Midwest congressional districts—he had selected from the 435 Democratic candidates for Congress several score who should be helped. His decision was based in part on which districts had had the closest results in 1938, but only in part. One of several lists hurriedly compiled by Henderson and Connally was titled: “The following men received a majority of more than 10,000 over their Republican opponents in 1938.” Democrats had considered these seats safe, but only because they had not done a thorough analysis; Johnson did one, analyzing not merely the vote totals and percentages but the type of district, and found that many of them were in danger—and these congressmen were selected for assistance.

By the end of the first week in his new assignment, he had further refined his lists. One refinement was caused by John L. Lewis. The coal miners’ chief was turning against Roosevelt; although speculation was rife about the effect of his defection on the presidential race, no one was thinking about its effect on congressional candidates. Johnson assigned his staff to draw up a list of “Districts Which Produce 1,000,000 Tons or More Coal,” and of the 1938 congressional results in those districts. Then, sitting down with a yellow legal pad, he went to work on the list himself. Fifteen districts in six states were involved; in 1938, Democrats had won all of them. Calculating the margin in each district, he added them up and divided by fifteen, and around this average he drew a circle in red, and drew a red arrow to it, for the average was only 8,268. Then he calculated the Democratic percentage of the vote in each district, carrying the long division out to several places, and the percentages confirmed the bad news: the fifteen districts could not be considered safely Democratic this year; their Democratic congressmen needed help too. Other lists were compiled, by him personally—compiled with the same painstaking thoroughness. He also called a luncheon meeting in a private room at the nearby Hotel Washington. Present were Rayburn, McCormack, Appleby, Johnson’s fund-raising ally Alvin Wirtz, and three White House aides—Lowell Mellett, Wayne Coy, and Jim Rowe (James Forrestal was invited, but was unable to attend). At this meeting, the lists were further refined, so that when the money from Texas arrived and he began distributing it, the identity of the seventy-seven recipients had been determined by a rather intensive analysis: the type of analysis that for years had been routine for the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee but rare for the Democrats—and that had not been made at all in 1940.

ON THE QUESTIONNAIRE JOHNSON HAD SENT OUT, candidates had been asked to “List suggestions as to how, in your opinion, we can be most helpful.” Underneath had been left three blank lines, marked “1,” “2,” and “3.” Many of the respondents, of course, asked for a visit to their district by the President, but that was not the reply most frequently made on the first line. The most typical reply was that of Representative Martin F. Smith, of the State of Washington’s Third Congressional District: “Financially.” (Representative John F. Hunter, of Ohio’s Ninth Congressional District, was firmer. “1” was “financial assistance,” he wrote. “There is no two.”) Others wrote a line or two of elaboration. “The best service that you could possibly render me would be to arrange a campaign contribution of $200 or $300,” said Wendell Lund, of Michigan’s Eleventh Congressional District. “The thing this district needs most of all is money,” said George M. May, of Pennsylvania’s Tenth. And some, as though the mails were not fast enough, made the same point over the phone. An interoffice memorandum says: “Robert Secrest [of Ohio’s Fifteenth] called and talked with John Connally. Said the only help he needed was a little money. ...”

Candidates who had dealt with the Congressional Campaign Committee in the past had little hope that they would get what they asked for. Secrest wrote on his questionnaire, “Nothing will help except cash, and I know that is scarce.” Laurence F. Arnold, of Illinois’ Twenty-third, noted that he had received $200 from the committee in 1936 but nothing in 1938; he had asked for $200 this year, he noted, and had not received even the courtesy of a reply. Emmet O’Neal, of Kentucky’s Third, wrote on the back of his questionnaire, “Many thanks,” but added, “I feel sure that there is nothing that can be done to help.” He needed money, he said, “but I know. . . money is not floating around, so this is not meant as an indirect solicitation.”

But, to their astonishment, their requests were answered. Four-term congressman Martin Smith had returned home to find that there was a good chance he wouldn’t be re-elected to a fifth. He had stayed in the capital until October 8, and he had stayed too long; stepping off the train after the three-day trip home, he was promptly informed by campaign aides that he was in serious danger of losing his seat. His only hope was to increase his planned advertising in his district’s forty-two newspapers, and to reserve radio time—and he didn’t have enough money to do either. He left for a week-long tour of the district with no money in sight. And then, when he checked in with his campaign headquarters in Hoquiam one evening, Johnson’s telegram was read to him. Naturally, he hoped that the Congressional Campaign Committee’s airmail special-delivery letter to which the telegram referred would contain funds. Arriving back in Hoquiam several days later, he found on his desk not one but two letters from the committee. Ripping them open, he found in each a check—one for $300, one for $400.

Arriving, weary, at a hotel one evening. Representative Charles F. McLaughlin telephoned his headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, and was told that a telegram from Lyndon Johnson had been received; when he reached Omaha the next day, the airmail special-delivery letter to which it referred was already there—and it contained a check for $400.

All across the United States, similar scenes were enacted. Slumping into a chair in a hotel room or lying on the bed—shoes still on, too tired to take them off after a long day of campaigning (and of worrying about campaign funds)—a congressman would telephone his headquarters, would be read Lyndon Johnson’s telegram, and would realize that funds were on the way.

Others got the news in their campaign headquarters. Edouard Izac arrived home in San Diego to find, as he wrote Johnson, his opponent’s face staring down at him from “hundreds” of billboards. He had no billboards and, he found to his dismay, “no organization.” Thousands of copies of a hard-hitting pamphlet selling the “ Roosevelt-WallaceIzac” ticket had been printed in an attractive red-whiteand-blue color scheme, but there was no money to mail them to voters, and, without an organization, no other way to distribute them; most canvassers who would distribute them door to door wanted to be paid for their work, and even volunteers required reimbursement for lunch money, carfare, gasoline, and other expenses. And then the telegram arrived from his colleague from Texas, the telegram and then a check for $500. With it, he could pay to get the pamphlets distributed. And hardly had the workers fanned out from headquarters to, as he put it, “carry the Roosevelt-Wallace-lzac story from door to door” when another letter arrived—with another $500.

Others got the news at home. Nan Wood Honeyman had been campaigning in Portland for months, but was making no headway—largely, she thought, because Sam Rayburn had not been able to deliver on the commitment she felt he had made to her at the Democratic Convention in July. Receiving Johnson’s questionnaire, she had responded with a telephone call on October 17, and John Connally’s “memo for LBJ” summarizing the call (Connally may have been taking shorthand notes on an extension) began: “In your conversation of yesterday with Nan Wood Honeyman she pointed out the following things which would be helpful to her. 1. Finances ...”

Mrs. Honeyman had asked that contributions be sent to her at her house, and the next day there arrived at 1728 S. W. Prospect Drive the telegram (AS RESULT MY VISIT TO CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE . . . YOU SHOULD RECEIVE . . . ). The first letter from the committee contained the pre-Johnson contribution: $150. She thought that was the airmail special-delivery letter to which Johnson had been referring. She was appreciative, but $150 wasn’t going to help much. Her opponent was on the way home, she wrote, and “has sent word to raise an extra $1,500 for him right away in spite of the fact that his literature covers the city, he has been on the radio from Washington once or twice a week for some time, and his face and ‘One good term deserves another’ on billboards meets me at every turn.” Then, on October 19, the Johnson contribution— $500—arrived. RECEIVED 5 POINT PROGRAM TODAY, she wired back in jubilation.

And they were very grateful. “The text of your thoughtful and kind telegram had been read to me over Long Distance telephone, so that on my return from a thorough tour of four counties of my district, I today found two Air Mail letters,” Martin Smith wrote Johnson. “I appreciate your personal efforts in my behalf.” McLaughlin said simply: “I am glad you are where you are.” When the first $500 arrived from Johnson, Izac had dashed off a letter: “Thanks a million.” And before that letter could even be dropped in the mail, he had to add: “PS. Your airmail letter of the 19th [the letter that contained another $500] just arrived. Again, many thanks.” “Dear Lyndon,” Nan Honeyman wrote, “I have been on the verge of calling you all day instead of writing because it is such fun to hear you. . . . The second contribution from the National Committee arrived on the heels of the first one and the raise of the ante was grand and I know my gratitude belongs to you.”

They were to become more grateful. For Johnson had only begun raising money.

Some he obtained through personal acquaintance. Tom Corcoran, in New York raising money for Roosevelt, arranged for some cash contributions from garment-center unions, which he brought to Washington and gave to Johnson (as Corcoran himself was to relate; in an era in which much looser standards prevailed in the financing of political campaigns, what Corcoran did was not particularly unusual). Another union with political money to spend was the United Mine Workers. John L. Lewis might be for Willkie, but did the UMW really want a Republican Congress? UMW Counsel Welly Hopkins recalls that “within twenty-four hours of him taking over the representatives’ campaign thing, he called me and said he wanted to see what the mine workers could do toward helping the campaign.” Hopkins presented Johnson’s case to the union’s secretary-treasurer, Tom Kennedy, and Johnson went to see Kennedy. Hopkins says, “I think he [Johnson] went away satisfied as far as the responses that the mine workers made.” Money from New York came not only from Seventh Avenue but from Wall Street, a total of $7,500 being received from the investment banker brothers Cornelius and Paul Shields through the offices of the wealthy New Yorkers he had met through Edwin Weisl, a powerful political financier. Some he obtained because of his ability to arouse paternal fondness in older, powerful, wealthy men. Charles Marsh did not even have to be asked; no sooner had he learned of Johnson’s assignment to save Congress for the Democrats than, busy though he was working on the Wallace campaign, he volunteered at once the two commodities with which he was so free: advice and money. Mary-Louise Glass, Marsh’s private secretary, recalls, “Charles said to him, ‘Boy, you’ve got to get some money. You can’t do that on good will.’” Contacting four business associates in Texas, Marsh arranged that each would give him $1,000 per week until the campaign ended, and that he would add to their contributions $1,000 per week of his own, and forward each week a total of $5,000 to Johnson; “I had to keep track of who paid,” Glass says. (Allowing Marsh to know that other men were similarly helping his “protégé” might have dulled the edge of his enthusiasm for the task, so this information was not given to him.) So fast did the money come in that Johnson was able to broaden his assistance. Martin Smith had been thrilled to receive the Congressional Campaign Committee’s checks for $300 and $400. Before the week was out, he would receive another check—for $500. A filled-in questionnaire and letter requesting financial help arrived from Representative William H. Sutphin, of New Jersey, on October 17. Johnson dictated a letter saying, “I am going to make an especial effort to find some way to get you some financial assistance,”but before he had had a chance to sign and mail the letter, the influx of funds had enabled him to be more specific. On the bottom, he added: “Today I’m asking a Texas friend of mine to give me $500.00 for you. If he does I’ll take it to the Cong. Committee and ask them to rush it to you tonight.” Actually, Johnson had either the money or the assurance of it in hand when he wrote that, and the $500 was sent that night.

He had so much money, in fact, that he was not only meeting requests for funds but soliciting more requests— asking congressmen to ask for money. On the bottom of Lyndon Johnson’s letter accompanying the $400 check for McLaughlin, of Nebraska, was a scrawled postscript: “If you badly need more funds, let me know and I’ll try some more.” To one congressman who hadn’t asked for funds, James M. Barnes, of Illinois, he wrote: “Do you have desperate need for money, Jim? If so, wire or write me air mail how much and I’ll try to get some and send through congressional committee for you.”

JOHNSON WAS APPARENTLY ANTICIPATING A LARGE contribution from the Democratic National Committee. He had asked its secretary, Paul Aiken, for $25,000, and seems to have felt he had received a commitment for at least a substantial portion of that amount, but when the check from New York arrived, it was for only $5,000, and after Johnson had taken that over to the Congressional Committee office in the National Press Building on October 21, he was out of funds.

Although Sam Rayburn had not been easily convinced of the efficacy of Lyndon Johnson’s fund-raising methods, his doubts must have been ended by the success of his first telephone calls to Dallas. Now the Speaker was going to Dallas in person.

Bonham, his home town, had scheduled a celebration in honor of his becoming Speaker, and Rayburn had left for Texas on October 17. At the celebration (at which bands from the eleven high schools in his district paraded through the streets of his little town), he was presented with a gavel carved by a local carpenter out of bois d’arc wood, and with a gift from Colonel W. T. Knight, of Wichita Falls, unofficial spokesman of that city’s oilmen, who, Rayburn’s friend C. Dwight Dorough writes, “that morning . . . had collected $2,000 from people in Wichita Falls for the National Democratic War Chest, and . . . had come to present the money in person.” The need for that gift— and for more like it—would shortly be driven home to Rayburn, for on October 23 he received two communications from Johnson. They were enclosed in the same envelope. The first had been written, on the twenty-first, as a telegram, but not sent in that form; Johnson, always secretive and especially secretive on the sensitive subject of campaign financing, had marked the telegram “Personal & Confidential. Personal Delivery Only,” but who could be certain that those instructions would be obeyed? “I started to send you the attached wire yesterday but because I hesitated to send a wire, I enclosed it in this letter.’ -Johnson wrote. The enclosed “wire” said that a “careful check” of congressional races around the country had disclosed that it was not seventy-seven Democratic candidates who were in trouble but 105. And, it said, there was no more money available to help them. “Barrel has been scraped.” It urged Rayburn to appeal for funds to “our friends . . . Hope when you talk to them today and Wednesday in Dallas you will impress importance doing this at once. Hope we can get total at least equivalent to amount I suggested to Paul.”

In Dallas, where another celebration was held in honor of his new job, Rayburn rode through its streets at the head of a 200-car caravan. Then he conferred with the oilmen. Some of them had by this time exceeded the $5,000 limit on campaign contributions. Some of their new contributions were therefore in cash, which arrived in Washington in envelopes carried by trusted couriers (according to Corcoran and Marsh associate Harold H. Young, one of these couriers was William Kittrell, who was an intimate of both Rayburn and Sid Richardson), and was handed to Johnson. How much these envelopes contained is not known, because no record of these campaign contributions, or of their distribution to individual candidates, has been found. This money did not pass through the Congressional Campaign Committee, or through the Munsey Building office; Johnson arranged for its distribution to candidates in checks and cash, through a number of outside channels set up by Marsh, one of which was the burly, brilliant Harold Young. Only hints about the existence of these channels are contained in letters found in Johnson’s office files: one example is a note from Johnson to Congressman Claude V. Parsons, of Illinois, on October 25: “I am sure by now you have received all the material I had sent you, both through the committee and otherwise”; Parsons wrote back thanking Johnson for the checks both from the committee and “from Harold Young.”There is also an unexplained reference in Johnson’s files to money given “on the Chicago line.” As for money that did pass through the committee, Johnson had said on the 21st (in a statement borne out at least in general by his records) that he was out of money. On the 24th, he gave the committee $16,500.

RAYBURN DID MORE IN TEXAS THAN MERELY RAISE money. The independent oilman perhaps most influential among his fellow wildcatters was Charles F. Roeser, of Fort Worth, former president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America; in 1936, Jim Farley had been informed confidentially that Roeser “not only will get money himself, but will raise it from his friends.” The contributions Roeser arranged in 1936 had been made through traditional Democratic channels—sent to Democratic National Committee Chairman Farley at the Biltmore. Roeser had planned to contribute through traditional channels in 1940, also; with Farley no longer national chairman, the oilman had asked Elliott Roosevelt, leaving Fort Worth for a trip north, to find out to whom he should send the money. But although Elliott was to wire him to send the money to presidential secretary Steve Early, at the White House, those instructions were not followed, for before Roeser heard from Elliott Roosevelt, he heard from Sam Rayburn. The new Speaker “called me from Dallas and advised that I send my contribution to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in care of Lyndon Johnson,” Roeser was to recall. Roeser had never met Johnson, but he followed Rayburn’s instructions. “Dear Mr. Johnson,” he wrote. “After talking with Sam Rayburn, I have decided to send my contribution for this year’s campaign to you. ... I am . . . leaving it up to the Steering Committee, headed by you. to decide in what districts these funds can best be spent.” And not only Roeser’s own $5,000 campaign contribution but the contributions of the independent oilmen who followed his lead went to the Munsey Building rather than to the White House or to the Biltmore, as they would have done in the past. So, moreover, did the contributions of independents who did not follow Roeser’s lead—of men such as Richardson and Murchison, who followed no man’s lead. For, however independent they were, these men not only trusted Sam Rayburn but were aware that now that this grim, unsmiling man was armed with the Speaker’s gavel, he was the protector they needed in Washington, and they were therefore willing to follow his instructions—which were to send their money to Lyndon Johnson.

Roeser’s terse letter to the young congressman he had never met was a significant document in the political fundraising history of the United States (and, it was to prove in later years, in the larger history of the country as well). Sam Rayburn had, on his trip to Texas in October, 1940, cut off the Democratic National Committee, and other traditional party recipients of campaign contributions, from much of the money of the newly rich Texas independent oilmen. These rough-hewn adventurers from the great province in the Southwest had been seeking a channel through which their money could flow to the seat of national power. After Rayburn’s trip to Dallas, they had their channel, one that ten days before had not even existed. Sam Rayburn had cut them the channel. A new source of political money, potentially vast, had been tapped in America, and Lyndon Johnson had been put in charge of it. He was the conduit for the independent oilmen’s cash.

MONEY WAS NOT ALL JOHNSON WAS PROVIDING FOR the congressmen. He expressed to candidates the same eagerness to be of service that he expressed to constituents. The letters that carried the welcome news of checks on the way contained also the promise of assistance in non-financial areas. In the letter he sent to the recipients of the October 24 and 25 campaign contributions, Johnson wrote: “I want to see you win. In order to help you and others of our party out in the frontline trenches, I am devoting my entire time in an attempt to coordinate and expedite assistance to you from this end.”Just call on me, he urged them—“call on me, at any hour of the day, by phone, wire or letter. My address is 339 Munsey Building and my telephone number is REpublic 8284.”That was a form letter: individual notes expressed in even more emphatic terms his eagerness to help. “I wish you would please keep in close touch with me and let me know if there is any way at all I can possibly help you,”he wrote Nebraska’s McLaughlin. “My services are available to you day and night on anything.”

It was not, in fact, necessary for him to be called on.

Senator George Norris, of Nebraska, the great old champion of public hydroelectric power, was planning to speak in Portland. Oregon, and visit the Grand Coulee Dam to emphasize the administration’s role in building it. On Thursday of his first week in his new job, Johnson compiled a list of nine Democratic candidates in the Far West who were supporters of public power, and who were engaged in tight races. Then he wrote a memorandum: “I do hope that when Senator Norris gives his address ... he will say something in support of these people in recognition of the battle they have been carrying on. Just one sentence would be helpful. . . ."No one had asked him to do this: he had just done it—and done it with his usual thoroughness, not merely pleading for “just one sentence” but drafting nine different sentences, each custom-tailored for one of the nine candidates. (That thoroughness and his capacity for cultivating not only the mighty but their assistants were also evident in the delivery of the memorandum. He spoke to Norris’s assistant, Jack Robinson, about it in advance, and when he sent it to Robinson, he sent with it another memorandum asking him to “Please see to it that this gets the Senator’s attention” and adding: “Call on me anytime for anything.” Prodded by Robinson, Norris delivered the endorsements.)

Other nationally prominent New Dealers and Cabinet members were heading out of Washington on speakingtours for Roosevelt. Johnson asked them, too, to speak for the local Democratic congressional candidate as well. Labor was strong in the State of Washington, and Senator Claude Pepper, of Florida, was a symbol, because of his vigorous support of the wages-and-hours bill, of the New Deal’s support of labor. SENATOR PEPPER SPEAKING SATURDAY IN SEATTLE, Johnson wired his Naval Affairs Committee colleague Warren Magnuson. SUGGESTED TO HIM THAT HE PUT IN A GOOD PLUG FOR YOU. CONTACT PEPPER WHEN HE ARRIVES. Magnuson had not asked for the “good plug.” He had gotten it without asking—as, all at once, Democratic candidates who had given up hope of obtaining assistance from Washington were receiving help for which they had not even asked.

Suddenly, Democratic candidates all across the country realized that there was someone in Washington they could turn to, someone they could ask for not only money but other types of aid.

And they asked. By his second week in the new job, requests were pouring into the Munsey Building—for voting records of Republican incumbents from the Democratic hopefuls opposing them; for information on the broad scale (“I am debating the congressman in McKeesport Saturday . . . and would like to receive all information about his voting record”) or the small; for the little piece of information—difficult for someone unfamiliar with the federal bureaucracy to obtain—that could improve a speech (PLEASE WIRE ME BY WESTERN UNION . . . THE AMOUNT OF MONEY IN SOCIAL SECURITY FUND. I MUST KNOW BEFORE SEVEN O’CLOCK TONIGHT); for a vital, desperately needed, denial (Congressman J. Buell Snyder, of Pennsylvania, wired; FOLLOWING APPEARED IN PITTSBURGH

TELEGRAPH QUOTE A BILL INTRODUCED BY SENATOR WAGNER WOULD COMPEL 81,000 TEACHERS OF PENNSYLVANIA TO TURN OVER INTO THE SOCIAL SECURITY FUND $147,000,000 WHICH THE TEACHERS CONSIDER [THEIR] ACTUAL SAVINGS FUND STOP GIVE ME WIRE ANSWER YES OR NO NO EXPLANATION WILL DO STOP THIS WILL COST 50,000 VOTES IN PENNSYLVANIA STOP GIVE ME WIRE SO IT CAN BE PUBLISHED AS IT COMES STOP BETTER FOR WIRE TO COME FROM WAGNER TODAY); for endorsements (Congressman Franck R. Havenner, of California, wired: SENATOR CLAUDE PEPPER WILL SPEAK IN SAN FRANCISCO TOMORROW STOP WILL BE GRATEFUL IF YOU CAN WIRE HIM ASKING THAT HE ENDORSES MY RECORD); for speakers (“We are requesting . . . Gifford Pinchot, former Governor and the man who took the county ‘out of the mud’ with his ‘Pinchot Roads’ to come into Lancaster County, I feel that his visit would supply the spark needed here. Please join with us in urging him to come”).

The requests were answered—with a thoroughness that would have been familiar to Gene Latimer and L. E. Jones, who had been taught by Johnson, when he was their high school debate coach, that if you took care of all the minor details, if “you did everything you could do— absolutely everything—you would win.”

Buell Snyder had asked that the denial he needed come “today,” and it did; his wire was received at the Munsey Building at 1:12 P.M., and a return wire was on its way to Snyder’s Uniontown, Pennsylvania, headquarters that same afternoon, for Johnson had immediately contacted Senator Robert Wagner’s secretary. The denial should come direct from Wagner, Snyder had said, and it did; the return wire was signed with the Senator’s name. And it should “answer yes or no,” and the first sentence of Wagner’s wire was precisely what Snyder needed: MY ANSWER TO REPORTED STATEMENT IS EMPHATICALLY NO. And there followed a wire that could, as Snyder had requested, be published as it came: a long telegram detailing Wagner’s version of the bill in question. That was fast enough service for even a desperate campaigner, but Johnson did not put his trust in Western Union; the next morning he sent his own wire telling Snyder that he should have received one from Wagner: IF NOT RECEIVED, LET ME KNOW. THIS JUST FOLLOW-UP. Answering every request, he did absolutely everything he could. The wire that Havenner had requested be sent to Pepper was sent and the endorsement by Pepper was made, and it was not just a pro forma endorsement, for Johnson had seen to it—telegraphing and telephoning, and then telephoning again, not only to the Senator’s aides but to the Senator himself, tracking him down on his cross-country tour—that Pepper was given enough details to make it seem that he really was familiar with the Congressman’s record.

AMONG THE ITEMS OF ASSISTANCE FOR WHICH CONgressmen had been asking in vain were out-of-district speakers with particular appeal to their constituents, for oratory cost money—money for the orator’s transportation, hotel room, and meals (and, in the case of some, honoraria for the rental of their vocal cords)—and the National Committee, which was frantically attempting to scrape up funds to send Harold Ickes and other Cabinet members on cross-country tours for the national ticket, had none to spare for the requests of individual congressmen.

Touching base only occasionally with the National Committee, Johnson had his staff compile lists of “Speaker Requests,” and the dates of the meetings for which the speakers were requested; he coordinated them, and soon congressmen with substantial numbers of Polish constituents were notified that Representative Rudolph G. Tenerowicz, a leader of the Polish Union of the United States of North America, was on his way to deliver one of his renowned speeches—in Polish, of course. (Having won his own, predominantly Polish, district in Hamtramck, Michigan, in 1938 with a majority of 54,000 votes over all other candidates, Tenerowicz needed to devote only limited time to his own campaign.) Candidates with substantial numbers of Negro constituents were getting a Negro congressman who was also a renowned orator, Arthur Mitchell of Chicago, and many districts of varied ethnic composition were hearing from little Fiorello La Guardia of New York, who was practically a balanced ticket all by himself—and could, ranting and shaking his tiny fists, wave the bloody flag in seven different languages. Democratic nominee Alfred F. Beiter, whose Buffalo district included many Italians—who, as he wrote to Johnson, “are inclined to be ‘off-the-reservation’ this year”—had been pleading in vain with the National Committee for a visit by Representative Thomas D’Alesandro, of Baltimore, who, Beiter had been told, “makes a very good rebuttal talk to offset the Republicans’ criticism of the President’s ‘stab-inthe-back’ reference to Mussolini.” Johnson could not get D’Alesandro for Beiter but did provide Frank Serri, who, he assured Beiter, was a “distinguished Italian Brooklyn lawyer” and “fine orator.” Into melting-pot, multi-ethnic districts whose candidates had been pleading in vain, before October 14, for a single outside speaker, now filed a parade of speakers, many with expense money from Lyndon Johnson in their pockets. Buffalo Congressman Pius Schwert, for example, got Tenerowicz for his Poles, Serri for his Italians, and La Guardia for various ethnic blocs— as well as Arthur Mitchell for the district’s few Negroes. Thanks to Johnson, the breadbasket as well as the melting pot was getting speakers. Oklahoma’s Phil Ferguson wrote him that Agriculture Committee chairman Marvin Jones “can do more good than anyone. . . . If he could make Guymon the Saturday afternoon before election [it] would do a lot of good, in fact, it might mean the difference in my election, and then go to Beaver that night would have battle cinched.” Jones was in Guymon the Saturday afternoon before election, and in Beaver that night—and during the last two weeks of the campaign, Jones, identified by farmers throughout the United States with the Agricultural Adjustment Act, was in more than forty rural districts to tell farmers how helpful their local congressman had been in passing the programs that had saved their farms. Johnson not only dispatched the speakers, he amplified their voices; when, after he had arranged for a visiting speaker, a candidate said he hoped the speech could be broadcast on a local radio station, Johnson provided the funds for the broadcast.

He was providing other types of help as well. His entree to Ickes and to other high officials of Interior was put to the use of other congressmen. “A lot of projects were approved that fall,” Walter Jenkins recalls. “Mr. Ickes was very cooperative.” Roosevelt had told Johnson to work through James Rowe, and Rowe’s entree to other departments—and the fact that he could speak in the name of the White House—was put to the use of still others. After more than a year of struggling with the War Department bureaucracy, Martin Smith had finally secured the requisite permit for construction of an airport in his district, only to see the project snarled in Works Projects Administration red tape. By making him seem ineffectual in Washington, D.C., “this delay is not doing me any good politically,” Smith wrote Johnson on October 26. “If I could get final approval of this project by the WPA, and have it approved by President Roosevelt, before the end of the coming week, it would be a great help.” A week later. Smith received a telegram from the Munsey Building: YOUR WPA APPLICATION HAS BEEN APPROVED BY WPA AND IS AT THE WHITE HOUSE AWAITING THE PRESIDENT’S SIGNATURE. WILL DO MY BEST TO GET THIS SIGNED FOR YOU AND WIRE You BY MONDAY. Time was running out; Monday was the day before election, but on that day, another Western Union envelope was delivered to Smith:

HAPPY TO REPORT PRESIDENT TODAY APPROVED WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION PROJECT FIVE OUGHT OUGHT SEVEN TWO, APPROPRIATING THREE HUNDRED EIGHTY TWO THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED FIFTY EIGHT DOLLARS FOR IMPROVEMENT MOON ISLAND AIRPORT

Suddenly, now, there was help available for congressmen not only on projects but on personnel. A “local labor leader” in Scranton was employed by the General Accounting Office, Representative Patrick J. Boland informed Johnson; “will you kindly try to obtain [him] an increase in salary?” Another example of many requests in this area that Johnson handled had been addressed to Drewry first, by Representative John M. Houston, of Kansas’s Fifth Congressional District. In a casual conversation in a corridor while the House was still in session, Drewry had assured Houston that if a federal job for one of his constituents would help in his campaign, he would obtain it, but when Houston asked for a job for W. W. Brown, of Wichita, “who swings a lot of votes” because of his membership in a “very strong” United Commercial Travelers local “here in Wichita, and is out of work,” the chairman of the Congressional Campaign Committee was unable to deliver. But when his assistant, Cap Harding, appealed to Johnson for help, Johnson was able to deliver. Telephoning a bureaucrat in the Agriculture Department’s Office of Personnel, he sounded him out on what was immediately available, and persuaded him to make a call to a higher official who had a $2,400-a-year job open in the Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation. A wire went out to Houston informing him: AT REQUEST OF CONGRESSMAN LYNDON JOHNSON HAVE REQUESTED OUR REGIONAL DIRECTOR IN MILWAUKEE ... TO FORWARD APPLICATION FOR EMPLOYMENT TO W. W. BROWN.

IN OTHER BRANCHES OF POLITICAL ACTIVITY IN WHICH similarly urgent appeals came in from congressmen, Johnson was also able to help. In the same letter in which he thanked Johnson for “sympathetically” helping him with various problems, Martin Smith added: “A new problem has arisen.” This problem was a strike that had tied up lumber mills in his district, and was arousing resentment toward the New Deal, which had encouraged the new militancy in organized labor. “As you well know,” Smith wrote Johnson, “the President, the Administration and the M.C. are given the bulk of the blame for allowing such conditions to prevail.” Although this strike could be settled only by the labor leaders in New York, and Johnson didn’t know those leaders, Tommy Corcoran did; the introductions necessary for Johnson to get them on the phone were arranged, and the very day he was informed of Smith’s “new problem,” he was able to assure the Congressman the width of a continent away that he was working on the problem: TALKED TO LUBIN AND HILLMAN TODAY. THEY ARE DOING EVERYTHING POSSIBLE ON STRIKE.

This assistance was also provided with Johnson thoroughness. Every telegram had a “follow-up” (to Kent Keller, of Illinois: AFTER TELEPHONE CONVERSATION WITH YOU IMMEDIATELY WENT TO WORK ON HOSPITAL PROJECT. ASSUME YOU BY NOW HAVE RECEIVED WIRE FROM VETERANS ADMINISTRATION ADVISING YOU THAT PRESIDENT AND BUDGET HAVE APPROVED THIS). Mistakes in numerals were so frequent in telegrams that Western Union policy was to repeat them at the lower left-hand corner of the telegram so that the reader could double-check. This precaution was not sufficient for Johnson. He took his own precaution, insisting that the operator spell out the numerals as words (PROJECT FIVE OUGHT OUGHT SEVEN TWO). He sent two and three copies of some telegrams.

And his assistance was provided eagerly. When a congressman asked him for help, he thanked him for asking. Replying to Smith’s request for help on the Moon Island Airport, Johnson began: “Thanks much for yours of the 26th. It had no more than reached me when I immediately got to work on your project. . . . You can be sure that I will do my best.” And he asked them to ask him for more help. “Do you have any other assignment for me?” he asked them. He reiterated his request: “Call on me, at any hour.”

No matter how many assignments he was given, he tried, in those frantic three weeks, to carry out all of them—and, in fact, thought of additional help he could give the candidates. His work for Nan Wood Honeyman was an example.

In her telephone call to Johnson on October 17, the call that had been transcribed by John Connally, she had asked for money—but for other assistance as well: for letters of endorsement from Rayburn and McCormack and, because “one of her big problems was the Townsend Plan,” from a congressman identified with assistance for the aged, Charles H. Leavy, of Washington; and for “Honorable George Norris to speak in [the] district.” That very day the Western Union messengers began arriving at the front door of her home—and each yellow envelope contained good news. The telegram that arrived that afternoon, of course, informed her that the AIRMAIL SPECIAL DELIVERY LETTER with a big contribution was coming. The next day two telegrams arrived from LYNDON. The first said that, while he had been UNSUCCESSFUL ON LEAVY MATTER, the Rayburn and McCormack letters were on the way. The second said that HONORABLE GEORGE NORRIS would indeed SPEAK IN PORTLAND, OREGON. HAVE TALKED WITH HIS SECRETARY ABOUT YOU, AND FEEL SURE HE WILL NOT FORGET YOU. HOWEVER, SUGGEST YOU HAVE SOMEONE CONTACT HIS PARTY AND HAVE HIM REMINDED OF THIS TO PREVENT ANY POSSIBLE OVERLOOKING OF IT. (Johnson had even suggested a sentence that the Senator could include in his speech: “I would like to live in Portland so that I might vote for Nan Wood Honeyman to be my Congressman.”) The Rayburn and McCormack letters were warm enough to satisfy even an anxious candidate, and Johnson’s work with Norris’s staff paid off on the front page of the Portland Oregonian: posing before the great dam after his speech, Norris had summoned Mrs. Honeyman to stand beside him, so that she was in the dramatic page-one picture.

In a letter that Johnson wrote on October 22, he told Mrs. Honeyman that he had been “thinking about. . . having you back here with us. That’s the thing that would really tickle me and the big job I want to do between now and November the fifth. So if you don’t write, wire, or phone me any time there is anything—big or little—I can do for you, I am going to be awfully mad at you.”Mrs. Honeyman gave him little chance to be mad. If he couldn’t get a letter from Leavy, she asked, how about one from Senator Sheridan Downey, of California, who, she said, “is next to Dr. Townsend in the eyes of his followers. ... A suggestion from him that the local pensioners support me would carry a lot of weight. ... I put this up to you as a real job.”Johnson was glad for the job, he wrote her on the 23rd; he asked her to give him more jobs: “Nan, I will look into the Downey matter you mentioned and do everything I possibly can to help work this out for you. Please, please let me know if I can do anything else.”And the letter of the 23rd brought other good news to Prospect Drive: “I am glad . . . the little financial contributions have helped you some,” he wrote. “I talked with them again last night and gave them three hundred fifty more to send you air mail special, so that you should have received that by the time this letter reaches you.” The next day, the 24th, there was another letter—and another $350. The extent of the money from Washington had by this time reached levels so unexpected that when, on October 28, Johnson asked Mrs. Honeyman how much more money she needed, she said she had all she could use.

Downey wasn’t the only senator beloved by pensioners; Claude Pepper was, too, and he was at that very moment campaigning on the West Coast. Johnson tracked Pepper down in Los Angeles and talked to him on the telephone. “I told him to do all he could for you and he heartily agreed,” he wrote Mrs. Honeyman. John Rankin, of Mississippi, was an important name in public power; Mrs. Honeyman was informed that a letter from Rankin was on its way.

Johnson volunteered, in fact, an even bigger favor—one for which she hadn’t dared to ask. She had requested letters from Rayburn and Norris; he got her one from a bigger name. He suggested she send a letter to President Roosevelt noting her role in the Bonneville Dam and Columbia River projects—a letter that would give the President an excuse to reply, and emphasize her role. He himself wrote a draft of her letter—and of the President’s reply—and persuaded Rowe to arrange to have the letter sent over the President’s signature: “My dear Nan: It was good to hear from you again and to receive from one who has fought shoulder to shoulder with me for the Columbia developments a picture of their present usefulness. . . .” Notifying her of this unexpected boon he had arranged, Johnson said: “I just thought this might give you another little push.”

IT WAS NOT ONLY CONGRESSMEN WHOM HE WAS Assisting. In an era before the widespread use of political polling, information was a commodity very difficult for a politician to come by quickly enough for him to use it. In a precomputer era, even the famous Gallup poll had to report its results several days after its polling had begun, by which time new developments might have changed voters’ attitudes. And relatively little polling was done on the effect of other political developments on specific segments of the population. A candidate might wonder—might be desperate to know-how his strategy was working, but information that would help him determine this was in short supply.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had never before been used to fill this gap. But it was used to fill it now.

With many of the checks that went out, there went out also a request for a status report, not only on the congressman’s own chances in his district but on the President’s. And since many of the men Johnson was asking for these reports were veteran congressmen—seasoned, experienced (and successful) politicians, their replies were often extremely informative. Some congressmen took their own local polls, and unscientific and rudimentary in technique though they were, the congressmen sent the results to Johnson, and he could pass them along to the White House—and the results of these polls, of course, were hard facts, the kind of facts for which a candidate and his advisers are so anxious. Ohio’s Ninth Congressional District, which included Toledo with its large factories, was considered a fairly typical urban, industrialized district, and a good indicator of sentiment in such areas. In mid-October, its congressman, John F. Hunter, had sent out “blind” postcards, postcards simply asking voters to write in their preference for congressman and President and send the cards to an unidentified postal box. He mailed them to 16,000 voters, and when, a week later, 3,654 postcards had been returned, he could report the figures to Johnson: 2,182 for Willkie, 1,472 for Roosevelt. But Hunter could shrewdly report to Johnson that the figures might not be as ominous as they seemed at first glance, because the return rate from factory districts was so “much less, by percentage, than from the Republican wards, it may be that factory workers are afraid to express their choice.”

Most important, Johnson could not only get information for the President, he could get it for him fast. Roosevelt, worried about a Gallup poll that showed Willkie rapidly cutting into his lead, began a series of radio addresses on October 23. Sending out checks to congressional candidates around the country, Johnson asked them to repay him with a report on how the speeches went over; within a day or two after each speech, he could tell the White House that, as one candidate put it after one speech—in a reaction echoed by other Johnson correspondents—“the President’s broadcast of last night has caused [a] definite swing toward the President’s candidacy.”

John L. Lewis broke his long silence with a dreaded roar on October 25, endorsing Willkie and announcing that he would resign as CIO president if Roosevelt won; not only was the speech shrewdly timed—Lewis had delayed for weeks while press speculation about his intentions aroused interest in his speech, and had finally struck twelve days before the election for maximum impact—but it hit at what was perhaps Roosevelt’s weakest point; the miners’ chief proclaimed that the President was determined to force the United States into war. Initial press reports speculated that Lewis’s speech would have substantial impact on the campaign, but no one—including an anxious White House—could know for sure. Johnson, however, soon had specific reports—from the very districts in which the speech would have had the greatest impact. Using his list of “Districts Which Produce 1,000,000 Tons or More Coal"—the fifteen districts, in six states, which, of course, contained the greatest concentration of the coal miners who formed the bedrock of Lewis’s constituency—Johnson sent telegrams to the congressmen from these districts asking for a report on the effect of Lewis’s speech. The initial responses were surprising: one of the first said that the speech “has not injured us any”; if anything, it had helped; several CIO locals responded to Lewis’s threat to resign by asking him to do so immediately. And later responses confirmed the trend: “The coal miners . . . rank and file . . . will stay with Roosevelt,” one said. Because the telegraph was too slow for him, Johnson telephoned several of the fifteen whose judgment he particularly trusted (his selection displayed again his keenness as a reader of men; among them were Jennings Randolph, of West Virginia, and Michael Bradley, of Pennsylvania, men who would rise). Their replies confirmed the others’ (Randolph. scribbling a note “following up our telephone conversation of a few minutes ago,” told him that Lewis’s speech would “cut in to the Roosevelt vote in my congressional district” by only about 10 percent, and that the President could still expect to win by a comfortable margin of about 15 percent). And as a result of these replies, Johnson was able to tell the White House that the press reports were wrong; he presented a reassuring district-by-district summary of the limited impact of Lewis’s defection.

The White House, frantic for information, suddenly realized that there was a new source of it: a young congressman from Texas.

TEN DAYS TO GO, AND THERE WAS NO TIME FOR THE mail now. Now almost all requests were couched in Western Union’s urgent capitals. For now defeat or victory was staring ambitious men starkly in the face, and so was the realization that just a little money might mean the difference—if the money arrived in time.

A single ad might make the difference—just one more ad. MUST HAVE $250 BY THURSDAY NIGHT FOR LAST ISSUE ADVERTISING, wired James F. Hughes, of Wisconsin, ADVERTISING PROGRAMS ACCOMPLISHING GREAT RESULTS DEADLINE THURSDAY NOON, wired Beiter, of Buffalo. On Monday, October 28, James F. Lavery, of Pennsylvania, wired Johnson asking for $100 FOR BADLY NEEDED advertising. When he did not receive a reply by Wednesday, he wired again. If Johnson could not spare $100, he asked, could he send $90? CHANCES BRIGHT ... IF WE GET RIGHT AWAY $14 FOR EACH OF FIVE COUNTY PAPERS AND $20 FOR TITUSVILLE HERALD.

One more mailing, HAVE SET UP MACHINERY TO REACH 11,000 VOTERS BY MAIL IF $250 MADE AVAILABLE BY THURSDAY, Kenneth M. Petrie wired. In Racine, Wisconsin, J. M. Weisman was staring at 65,000 circulars—and at the realization that he couldn’t get them into voters’ hands. URGENCY NEED AT LEAST $500 BY FRIDAY.

One more maneuver, of a more informal character. Cap Harding’s son, Kenneth, who would succeed him as secretary of the Congressional Campaign Committee, was running campaigns in California’s Eighth Congressional District. “There was a colored minister who controlled the bloc of colored votes in San Jose, and we bought him for fifty dollars. A small amount of money judiciously spent could mean more than a larger amount of money spent on political advertising. Just a few bucks strategically placed could mean all the difference in the world. But those last few days of a campaign—when the deals were beingstruck—that was when you either had the cash or you didn’t. And if you didn’t—well, that could mean the end of a man’s career.”

Election Day itself was looming before these men— Election Day, with Election Day expenses. Arthur Mitchell, returning to his Chicago district from his travels on behalf of other Negro candidates, found to his shock that, as he wired Johnson, PRACTICALLY ALL COLORED BAPTIST MINISTERS HAVE BEEN EMPLOYED BY THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. ... I CAN AND WILL BEAT THEM IF I CAN GET THE MONEY TO HIRE WORKERS. I NEED A MINIMUM OF $600. . . . WHATEVER HELP I CAN GET SHOULD BE IN HANDS TOMORROW IF POSSIBLE. Byron G. Rogers, of Colorado, wired: COULD USE $500 FOR WORKERS IN SPANISH AND ITALIAN DISTRICTS. WIRE TODAY HOW MUCH I CAN EXPECT. Francis T. Murphy, of Milwaukee: CAN CARRY DISTRICTS BY 2000 BY GETTING VOTE TO THE POLL IN KEY WARDS. NEED $300 FRIDAY TO CARRY OUT INTENSIVE WORK. . . . WIRE BY WESTERN UNION. Vernon Sigars, of Missouri: NEED $1,000 NOVEMBER 1ST TO HIRE POLL WATCHERS.

There were other Election Day expenses too, for San Antonio was not the only city and Texas not the only state in which money was piled on tables to purchase votes, just as Mexican-Americans were not the only immigrants whose votes were purchased; in New Brunswick, New Jersey, heavily inhabited in 1940 by first-generation Americans of Slavic descent and controlled by a ruthless city machine (to name just one northeastern city in which this practice was widespread), the big oak desks of city officials were traditionally cleared of papers on Election Day and covered with piles of cash. In the big cities of the Northeast, votes might cost more than the five dollars each they cost in San Antonio; in the slums of New York and Chicago, at least, it was not uncommon for Bowery and Skid Row residents to be handed tens or even, in a close election, twenties for their franchise. And for those candidates who were not planning to buy votes, money might be needed for poll watchers to prevent illegal balloting by voters bought by their opponents. As for rural areas, certain “boxes" in the Tenth District of Texas were not the only precincts that could be delivered for a candidate if a payment was made to a local sheriff or county commissioner.

There was no time for circumlocutions now. Money was what was needed, and money was what was asked for. Some candidates, in their anxiety to obtain funds, entrusted to Western Union stratagems usually mentioned only in whispers. Hardy Steeholm, of Dutchess County, New York, wired that TWO THOUSAND . . . WILL DO THE TRICK. The trick he had in mind was not, perhaps, a clean one; this Democratic candidate wanted the money for the payment not of Democratic workers but of Republicans, SUCCESS OF CAMPAIGN NOW HINGES ON FINANCES NECESSARY TO LINE UP REPUBLICAN WORKER IN EACH POLLING DISTRICT. Martin Smith, who had gotten funds from Johnson for radio and newspaper advertising, now needed more— for another purpose; I SHALL HAVE TO CONTACT KEY MEN

IN THE CIO. . . . THIS IS GOING TO ENTAIL CONSIDERABLE EXPENSE. John E. Sheridan, of Pennsylvania, required a cash subvention to offset the use he expected his opponent to make of cash on Election Day. KNOW ATTEMPT WILL BE MADE TO BUY THE ELECTION ... BY PAYING WORKERS AND VOTERS TO STAY HOME ON ELECTION DAY.

ND MONEY WAS WHAT THEY GOT. On Sunday, October 27, Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson met with Franklin Roosevelt at the White House. The youngest of the three men reported that eighty-two Democratic congressmen were in tight contests in which additional financial help—perhaps $1,000 per man—might be decisive. According to a summary of the conversation that Johnson wrote the next day, Roosevelt said that the Democratic National Committee should give the Congressional Campaign Committee at least $50,000 to distribute in these key districts. The next day, Johnson relayed his analysis of the situation—along with the President’s message—to Rayburn’s contact at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Biltmore, Swagar Sherley.

Dear Mr. Sherley:
Unless we are resigned to sizable losses in the House membership which may mean loss of control, the 82 men listed on the attached memo should receive financial help immediately.
If you will notice, 1,000 is to be given to each member unless otherwise designated. . . .
If you could get Ed Flynn to give the Democratic Congressional Committee 50 thousand tomorrow, I will raise the additional 26 [sic] necessary and tomorrow night will get out the funds according to the memo. . . .
The Boss said in his conference with the Speaker and me yesterday that he thought the Committee should get us at least 50 thousand in older to save this situation.
Excuse this hurried note because we are working day and night and am about to go out.
Sincerely,
Lyndon B. Johnson

The money from the Democratic National Committee was not forthcoming, so Johnson raised his own. He went to his original source, raising substantial new money from Brown & Root. And he went to his new source, working it this time not through Rayburn but by himself. Oilman W. W. Lechner, of Dallas, was in Washington, staying at the Mayflower Hotel. On October 29, Johnson spoke with him. and Lechner gave him a check for $1,500. On that same day, another $1,500 check arrived in the mail, from oilman Jack Frost, of Dallas, who sent a note: “All of us down here want to see Hatton Sumners hold his position at the head of the Judiciary Committee. It would be a shame if Texas lost its chairmanship of this and other powerful committees.” D. F. Strickland, of Mission, Texas, a powerful Austin lobbyist—and an oilman—sent Johnson a money order for $1,000 also with a message: “I am particularly interested in reelecting a Democratic House so that my friends Lyndon Johnson, Sam Rayburn. Hatton Sumners, Milton West and other Texas congressmen may retain their present positions of honor and influence in the House.” C. W. Murchison, First National Bank Building, Dallas, sent $5,000. Todde L. Wynne, First National Bank Building, Dallas, sent $5,000. If the pipeline for political oil money from Texas had been opened two weeks before, Monday, October 28, 1940, was the date the flow was increased. How much money arrived from Dallas on that date cannot be determined, because some never passed through the Congressional Campaign Committee but was distributed, at Johnson’s instructions, by others. But on Tuesday, October 29, one week before the election, the anxious congressmen received a telegram from Lyndon Johnson:

AM ATTEMPTING TO GET ADDITIONAL HELP FOR CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE IN ORDER THAT WE CAN GIVE YOU MORE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE. IF VERY URGENT WIRE ME TODAY ABSOLUTE MINIMUM AND DEADLINE.

A week to go—less than a week. There was desperation in those yellow envelopes now. THERE IS NO ABSOLUTE MINIMUM, George B. Kelly, of Rochester, wired, ANYTHING WILL HELP THE FIGHT AGAINST ODDS. VERY URGENT. Snatching the envelopes from the messengers, Henderson or Connally would read: WE NEED FUNDS AND NEED THEM BADLY. IMPERATIVE ANY AMOUNT. Or WE ARE SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS BEHIND NOW WITH MORE EXPENSE TO COME. ABSOLUTE MINIMUM NECESSARY $350. Or APPROXIMATELY TEN THOUSAND MAJORITY FOR WILLKIE IN MY DISTRICT. MORE MONEY NEEDED. Or LYNDON URGENTLY NEED AT LEAST FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS BY SATURDAY. WOULD ESTIMATE FIFTEEN THOUSAND MAJORITY FOR NATIONAL TICKET IF OPPOSITION MONEY DOES NOT INCREASE OVER WEEKEND. Or LYNDON SITUATION IN DANGER HERE. . . . REALLY BELIEVE DISTRICT MAY BE IN TROUBLE DUE TO HEAVY REPUBLICAN EXPENDITURES. ANY SUM WOULD BE MUCH APPRECIATED. COULD USE $1,000. PROSPECTS AND MAJORITY UNCERTAIN.

Some telegraphed repeatedly. Two wires arrived from the new congressman from Washington’s Second District. Henry M. (“Scoop”) Jackson, elected just a few months before in a special election, saw danger that his career would be over almost before it had begun, SLIGHT SHIFT MY DISTRICT TO REPUBLICANS. . . . THIS WILL BE CRUCIAL WEEK. MY ELECTION WILL BE CLOSE. HAVE RECEIVED NO ASSISTANCE FROM DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE. PLEASE WIRE ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS. When he did not receive an immediate reply, Jackson wired again: ABSOLUTE MINIMUM $750 NECESSARY IMMEDIATELY. MY RACE EXTREMELY CLOSE. AM ONLY NEW CONGRESSMAN IN STATE. NEED FUNDS NOW. PERSONAL CREDIT EXHAUSTED. WIRE ANSWER. Petrie’s 11,000 pieces of mail had been set in type, but the $250 for which he had asked Johnson had not arrived. He sent another telegram: ANXIOUSLY AWAITING REPLY.

Some of his fellow congressmen were trying frantically to get Lyndon Johnson on the telephone. J. Buell Snyder spoke to one of his secretaries, and her report of his message was to the point: “In trouble. Needs help.”Lenhardt E. Bauer, of Indiana, sent a wire at 1:37 P.M. on October 30; PLEASE CONTACT ME ON TELEPHONE EARLIEST POSSIBLE MOMENT. MUST TALK TO YOU. . . . When, four hours later, he had not heard from Johnson, he sent another telegram: NEED FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS STILL MUST TALK TO YOU.

Henderson, Connally, and Nichols summarized, state by state, each candidate who replied, the amount he needed, and any additional information he furnished. Lyndon Johnson sat down with this list and in the left-hand margin wrote the amount each man was to receive.

He wasn’t wasting his money. A candidate’s assessment of his chances was discreetly checked and rechecked through other sources; evaluations of the races in Illinois’s twenty-five districts, for example, were telephoned to Johnson by the dean of the state’s congressional delegation, Adolph J. Sabath, chairman of the House Rules Committee. If a report said that the candidate had a good chance to win, the candidate got his money. Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Grover Hill, of Texas, on a speechmaking tour through rural districts, reported from Kansas’s Fifth that, although the race was close, Democratic incumbent John M. Houston “has good chance to win.” Houston had responded to Johnson’s telegram by asking for $300; that was what he got. But if a report was highly unfavorable, so was Johnson’s response; Noel P. Fox, Democratic candidate in Michigan’s Ninth District, told Johnson that he was leading by 1,500 votes, but Johnson knew better (Fox in fact was to lose by 12,000); “None,”he wrote next to Fox’s name. Other considerations might also influence Johnson’s response. Montana incumbent James F. O’Connor, who was running well ahead in his district, had apparently antagonized someone in Washington. Johnson had promised him a contribution on October 24, but had not sent it, and now O’Connor asked for $300. OPPOSITION USING . . . LOT OF MONEY TO ELECT REPUBLICAN IN MY PLACE, he said. IF HAVE HELP SURE CAN WIN. “None,”Johnson wrote next to O’Connor’s name. “Out.”

Many of the candidates who responded received less than they had requested. Thomas R. Brooks telephoned the Munsey Building, telling one of Johnson’s staff that he had a “slight edge,” and said a scheduled election-eve visit to his heavily Norwegian district in Wisconsin by the Ambassador to Norway might pull him through—if he received money as well. He asked for $2,000, then lowered his request to $1,000 and, as the staffer noted, “finally came down to $500.”Then he sent a wire: WHATEVER YOU CAN DO. “$250,”Johnson wrote next to his name. C. Arthur Anderson, who “said he is in midst of a tough fight,”had asked for $350. Receiving no immediate answer, he telephoned Johnson and reduced his request to $200. “$150,” Johnson wrote beside his name.

Others did not fare that well. Francis T. Murphy said he had a “50-50” chance. He could win, he said, “by getting vote to polls in key wards,” but money was needed to accomplish that. “None,” Johnson wrote next to Murphy’s name. C. H. Armbruster, of Ohio, asked for $1,000, but said he would take less; “urgent,” he said. “None,” Johnson wrote. “$1,000 would be a lifesaver,” George W. Wolf, of Indiana, wrote. “Two counties hold fate. . . . Hard battle.” None.

Johnson’s decision to cut off some candidates was apparently not due to lack of funds. Most of the candidates who replied received at least a substantial portion of the amount they had requested. Scoop Jackson got $500 of the $750 he had requested, George B. Kelly $350 of the $400 for which he had asked. Some got all they had asked for. Rogers had asked for $500; “O.K.,” Johnson wrote next to his name, “$500.” Mitchell got his $600, Lee Geyer, of California, the $200 that enabled him to pay a printer. Some got more than they had requested—Francis J. Myers, of Pennsylvania, $700 instead of the $500 for which he had asked, for example; Havenner, of California, $1,250—and in other instances, Johnson did not wait for a candidate’s request, but pressed funds upon him. J. Joseph Smith, of Connecticut, received a Johnson check—and the next day, November 2, a Johnson telegram: IF I CAN BE OF FURTHER HELP TO YOU IN THE LAST MINUTE RUSH, LET ME KNOW. Some, in fact, were given so much money that they asked Johnson to stop sending it. Michael J. Kirwan, of Ohio, who had told John McCormack on October 18 that he was “hard-pressed for money,” had since received so much from Johnson—$200 on October 17, $500 on October 21, $350 more on October 24 (and these, of course, are only the contributions of which there is a written record)—that he replied to Johnson’s telegram of the 29th by thanking him for “your offer of further assistance" but adding, “However, I believe I have sufficient to see me through.”Charles H. Leavy, of Washington, had written on his questionnaire that he didn’t need money; “Think I will be able to handle situation without outside help.” he had said. Johnson had sent him $600 nonetheless. Now Johnson asked him how much more he needed—and Leavy replied by sending him a gift: a box of State of Washington apples.

ELECTION DAY. THE DAY ON WHICH INFORMATIONearly information—was most precious, because a candidate, his fate riding on the ballots, is impatient for an early indication of a trend; because if he learns early enough that the vote is close, a last-minute effort to get out his voters can be mounted or intensified; and because, in states in which some portion of the vote is controlled (Illinois, with its controlled Republican votes in downstate counties and its controlled Democratic votes in Cook County, was a prime example), early information is helpful in preparing for the necessary late adjustment in the figures.

Washington’s new source of information had geared up for Election Day. Sending out on October 29 his request for information on their finances to 175 congressmen across the country, Lyndon Johnson had added a request for other information—early returns not only on their own races but on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s—and (“if you do everything .. .”) had followed that up in later telegrams, including one on the day itself.

He had let the White House know he would have information for it. Rowe already knew, of course, but Johnson, as Rowe puts it, “never did anything through just one person.” He was not well acquainted with Missy LeHand, Roosevelt’s personal secretary and this was an excuse to communicate with her. He wired her that IF I FEEL THE INFORMATION IS OF SUFFICIENT INTEREST I WILL TAKE THE LIBERTY TO CALL THE PRESIDENT. FOR THAT REASON I AM LETTING YOU KNOW IN ADVANCE OF MY PLAN.

The information for which he had asked arrived—early, as he had asked. By 2:47 P.M. on Election Day, the first flash was in from Detroit. MICHIGAN FIRST DISTRICT VOTING HEAVY INDICATES BETTERING PREVIOUS DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY, Tenerowicz reported. By late afternoon, Western Union messengers were racing to the third floor of the Munsey Building in a steady stream. Other news came over the telephone; James Shanley, of Connecticut, telephoned at (5:45 because, as he was to write, “I certainly wanted to give you the first news in Washington.”

In the evening, the telegrams bore hard news. The first telegrams from other Detroit districts were less optimistic than Tenerowicz’s: the figures in the initial communication from Representative George D. O’Brien were close—too close (104 PRECINCTS OUT OF 222 . . . O’BRIEN 28,700, MCLEOD 24,769), but just twenty-four minutes later, O’Brien could dictate another wire (140 DISTRICTS OUT OF 222 .. . O’BRIEN 39,797, MCLEOD 28,586). Some of the telegrams were tinged with jubilation as well as gratitude. Edouard Izac’s last pre-election wire had told Johnson: ROOSEVELT SHOULD WIN BY 10,000 ... MY PROSPECTS DOUBTFUL, but on election night, the wire from California said: APPARENTLY WINNING BY APPROXIMATELY 8,000. THANKS. . . . Some were not. John G. Green, of Wisconsin, who had thought up to the last minute that he might beat out incumbent Progressive Bernard J. Gehrmann, wired: GEHRMANN APPARENTLY REELECTED. DAMN TIRED. At 2:37 A.M., a single brief line arrived from Ernest M. Miller, in Harlan, Iowa: PRESENT PARTIAL RETURNS INDICATE MY DECISIVE DEFEAT. Jubilant or dejected, however, the telegrams, taken together, added up to a great deal of information.

On the evening of Election Day Johnson wasn’t at the Munsey Building but at the spacious Georgetown home of James Rowe’s brother-in-law, Alfred Friendly, where a crowded election-night party was in progress. His staff, back at the Munsey Building, was taking the reports as they came in, and telephoning them to Johnson there. Many more reports came in than Johnson had expected so early in the evening, and he telephoned Walter Jenkins and told him to come out to Friendly’s house. Jenkins was installed in a bedroom, where he sat on the bed tabulating the incoming information.

Johnson and Rowe bantered back and forth throughout the evening in the easy and quite close camaraderie that existed between them. They had several wagers—twentyfive cents each, as befitted two young men with no money to spare—riding on the returns. Rowe, reflecting the prevalent Washington thinking on the likely outcome of the congressional elections, had bet that the Democrats would lose at least thirty seats in the House; Johnson had bet that the Democrats would lose less than thirty. And the two tall young men, both in their early thirties, also bet on several individual races while they waited for a call from Hyde Park.

For some hours, no call came.

In the house above the Hudson, crowded with family and friends, the President sat at the dining-room table, with news tickers clattering nearby and big tally sheets and a row of freshly sharpened pencils lined up in front of him.

“At first,” as James MacGregor Burns has written, in an unforgettable scene from Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox, “the President was calm and businesslike. The early returns were mixed. Morgenthau, nervous and fussy, bustled in and out of the room. Suddenly Mike Reilly, the President’s bodyguard, noticed that Roosevelt had broken into a heavy sweat. Something in the returns had upset him. It was the first time Reilly had ever seen him lose his nerve.”

“‘Mike,’ Roosevelt said suddenly, ‘I don’t want to see anybody in here.’

“‘Including your family, Mr. President?’

“ ‘I said “anybody,” ‘ Roosevelt answered in a grim tone.”

As the news tickers clattered feverishly, Franklin Roosevelt sat before his charts with his jacket off, his tie pulled down, his shirt clinging damply to his big shoulders. “Was this the end of it all?” Burns writes. “Better by far not to have run for office again than to go down to defeat now.” Would his enemies beat him at last, “and write his epitaph in history as a power-grasping dictator rebuked by a free people? ... In the little black numbers marchingout of the ticker, not only Roosevelt but the whole New Deal was on trial. . . . Still Willkie ran strong. Disappointing first returns were coming in from New York. . . .The ash dropped from the cigarette; Mike Reilly stood stolidly outside the door. Was this the end. . . .?

“Then there was a stir throughout the house. Slowly but with gathering force, the numbers on the charts started to shift their direction. Reports arrived of a great surge of Roosevelt strength. ... By now Roosevelt was smiling again, the door was opened, and in came family and friends. ...” And the President made a number of telephone calls—including one to James Rowe and Lyndon Johnson.

The twenty-two-year-old Jenkins had been thrilled by other calls he had been taking. “It was the most exciting night of my life,” he would recall. “I thought I was in the high cotton. All those big shots, you know,” voices on the telephone that had previously been only names in a newspaper. And then the call from the biggest name of all. “Mr. Roosevelt called and asked how many seats we were going to lose, and Mr. Johnson said, ‘We’re not going to lose. We’re going to gain.’ ” He and Rowe got on extensions and talked to the President. Rowe recalls: “Johnson got good early counts and we both got on the telephone . . . and told him [Roosevelt] how many congressmen we had elected, and it was impressive—a helluva lot of congressmen. And it impressed the hell out of Roosevelt. I remember that.”

LESSER POLITICIANS WERE ALSO IMPRESSED. Knowledgeable Democrats in Washington had reluctantly reconciled themselves to the loss of a considerable number of seats in the House. Instead, they had gained eight (while losing three in the Senate). “My father expected to lose,” Ken Harding recalls, “We were the most surprised people in the world when we didn’t lose.”

Many of the men most directly affected—the Democratic candidates—gave considerable credit for the surprise to Lyndon Johnson. Despite the frenzy of the last days before the election, several candidates had taken time out from their campaigning to write to express appreciation for the help he had given them. “I want to thank you again from the very depth of my heart for the interest you have taken in me, because of the confidence you have manifested and the effort you have put forth,”Arthur Mitchell wrote. Said Nan Honeyman: “As darling as I think it was of you I still was a bit perturbed over your taking all the trouble to enlist the interest of the state of Texas in my welfare. Really, darling, that was too good of you and of them. How can I thank you? If I am elected I shall really owe the victory to your efforts.” After the election, similar letters were received at the Munsey Building from scores of men who remembered the yellow rectangles from Western Union that had arrived with the information or the promise of money they needed, and who wanted to thank the man who had sent them. “Before you came to my rescue, I was really getting discouraged,” John Kee, of West Virginia, wrote. Thanking Johnson for the money he sent, John F. Hunter, of Ohio, wrote, “We were able to put on some thirty short radio programs in the last two days.” Lansdale G. Sasscer, of Maryland, said, “I used it among our colored vote very effectively both for the President and myself.” “Certainly I never had such grand cooperation from the Congressional Committee before,” wrote Draper Allen, of Michigan. “This is . . . the first time I have ever received any financial assistance from Washington, and I assure you I deeply appreciate it.” And some of the gratitude was expressed in a form that must have been particularly pleasing to a man looking ahead toward a great goal. “Congratulations on your fine and successful work in the campaign,” wrote Pat Morrison, of South Dakota. “We look forward to the date, not too far distant, when our delegation will be able to be of aid and assistance to you.” Walter Jenkins says there was a lot of gratitude among Johnson’s colleagues for what he had done. “I saw it in the phone calls and the letters. And the feeling of respect. It built him up from being just—he was barely a first-term congressman—to probably the most . . .” Here Jenkins pauses and searches for the right word; finally says, “He was the hero.” The same feeling was expressed by observers less impressionable than Jenkins. Drew Pearson and Robert S. Allen wrote in their “Washington Merry-Go-Round” column:

To the boys on the Democratic side of the House of Representatives, many of them still nervously mopping their brows over narrow escapes, the hero of the hairraising campaign was no big-shot party figure.

The big names got all the publicity, but in the House all the praise is for a youngster whose name was scarcely mentioned. But he left his mark on the battle—as GOP campaign managers will ruefully attest.

Their Nemesis and the Democrats’ unknown hero was Lyndon Baines Johnson, a rangy, 32-year-old. blackhaired, handsome Texan who has been in Congress only three years but who has political magic at his fingertips and a way with him that is irresistible in action.

How Johnson took over the Democratic congressional campaign, when it looked as if the party was sure to lose the House, and without fanfare turned a rout into a cocky triumph, is one of the untold epics of the election.

GRATITUDE IS AN EMOTION AS EPHEMERAL IN WASHington as elsewhere, but Lyndon Johnson obtained from his work with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee a reward more lasting.

During those three weeks in the Munsey Building, his assistants had compiled lists of congressmen who had asked for money, and the amounts they had asked for. And then the lists had been placed before Lyndon Johnson for decisions. If Sam Rayburn or John McCormack requested a specific amount of money for a specific congressman, Johnson would honor the request, but these requests were relatively infrequent. And except in those few cases, the decision as to which congressman got money, and how much he got, would be Lyndon Johnson’s decision. His alone. O.K., he wrote next to some requests. None, he wrote next to others. “1,000 would be a lifesaver"—None. “An additional $300 will, I am sure, get results”—None. Ont. The words and numbers he wrote on those lists were a symbol of a power he now possessed—over the careers of his colleagues. The power was a limited one—it was the power of the purse, and the purse was not a large one. Small though it might be in comparison to the purse that financed a presidential campaign, however, it was not small to most of the men whose campaigns it was financing; it was substantial in terms both of their needs and of their expectations. They needed its contents, needed them badly. What Lyndon Johnson wrote beside their names had played a role in determining their fates.

Returning to Washington after the election, congressmen compared notes on their campaigns, and in these discussions the name of Lyndon Johnson kept coming up; when someone mentioned it to a freshman congressman, Augustine B. Kelley, of Pennsylvania, Kelley said: “Oh, Lyndon Johnson! He really had a lot to do with me gettingelected. He sent money up to my campaign. He’d call up from Washington to see how we were getting along, and what we needed. ‘Gus, what do you need?’ And he sent me money, and kept up with my campaign.” Listening to his colleagues talk, a congressman who had received campaign funds from Johnson—funds on a scale unprecedented for a central Democratic congressional financing source—would realize that Johnson had contributed funds, on a similar scale, to scores of congressmen. Through cloakrooms and Speaker’s Lobby spread a realization that, in some way most of them did not understand, this young, junior, rather unpopular congressman, a scant three years on the Hill, had become a source—an important source—of campaign funds.

For some of the funds—the money from Texas—he had, moreover, become the sole source. The telegrams candidates had received from Johnson announcing that funds were on the way said they had been contributed by “my good Democratic friends in Texas.” By his friends. The recipients did not know who those friends were, and even were they to find out, they could hardly ask these Texans with whom they were not even acquainted to contribute to their campaigns. Their only access to this new—and, apparently. substantial—source of money was through Lyndon Johnson. He controlled it. The money they needed could be obtained only through him.

They were going to need money again in 1942, of course, in less than two years. In 1942—and in succeeding years. Whether or not they liked Lyndon Johnson, they were going to need him. Not merely gratitude but an emotion perhaps somewhat stronger and more enduring —self-interest—dictated that they be on good terms with him.

This realization, and the reality behind it. abruptly altered Johnson’s status on Capitol Hill. When Congress had left Washington in October, he had been just one congressman among many. Within a short time after Congress returned in January, the word was out that he was a man to see, a man to cultivate. Harold E. Cole, of Boston, a friend of John McCormack, had lost a close race, but was planning to run again. Because he hadn’t learned until late in the campaign of Johnson’s role in campaign funding, he hadn’t made full use of Johnson’s help, and he didn’t want to make the same mistake again. He wrote Johnson asking if he could come to Washington and drop in to see him. Working closely with Johnson, the perceptive Rowe had understood what he was trying to accomplish with the money from Texas. “He was really trying to build a power base as a new congressman,” he says. And he succeeded. Ray Roberts, a Rayburn aide, says that Johnson had

made lots of enemies [in Congress]. ... He was brash, he was eager. . . and he wanted people to move out of the way. . . . The thing that really gave him his power was becoming chairman of the congressional campaign committee. . . . There were some thirty or forty people [after the 1940 election] that figured they owed their seat in the House to Lyndon Johnson. Whenever he called on them, he could count on this group being for whatever he wanted.

Roberts’s remark is an exaggeration. Lyndon Johnson controlled no congressman that completely. As an analysis of the alteration in Johnson’s status, however, Roberts’s remark was in some respects an understatement. For it was not only junior congressmen with no influence whom Johnson had helped.

During the campaign, Majority Leader John McCormack had been asking Lyndon Johnson for funds for his Massachusetts delegation and for old friends from other states—and for credit for himself from those other congressmen for obtaining them. And Johnson had given the Majority Leader what he asked for. Now the Majority Leader owed him something. The situation was duplicated with other members of the House hierarchy. The William H. Sutphin, of New Jersey, who had pleaded with him for funds, and who had received in return $1,500, was the assistant majority leader. Andrew J. May, of Kentucky (“I hope you can do something for me, and I will owe you an undying debt of gratitude”), was chairman of the Military Affairs Committee. Normally, young congressmen were supplicants to the majority leader, or the assistant whip, or committee chairmen, for favors. In the case of this young congressman, the situation had been reversed. The extent of the reversal was dramatized the first time the House Naval Affairs Committee met following the election. Normally, in a committee, seniority was the determining factor. When the Democrats moved into their seats this time, Johnson was still five seats away from the chairmanship. But three of the five men ahead of him in seniority owed him favors because of his contributions to their campaigns. He had been not only dealing with the most senior members of his party in the House but dealing with them from a position of independent strength. When he asked Sam Rayburn and John McCormack to come to a luncheon meeting, they came.

Nor, during the campaign, had he dealt only with congressmen. When he had asked labor leaders in New York to intervene in a strike in the State of Washington, he had been playing a national political role. And his work with powerful political figures across the country had not consisted merely of liaison work. There had been a “Chicago line.” Precisely what it was, how Johnson operated through it, or how much he gave through it cannot be determined. But it had a connection with Chicago boss Ed Kelly. By the end of the campaign, he had become acquainted with, had worked with—had funneled money through—some of the most powerful men in America. There was a New York connection, too. At first, the connection had been Tommy Corcoran; it was he who raised cash from New York garment-center leaders such as Sidney Hillman or Isador Lubin or David Dubinsky. But by the end of the campaign, Johnson was personally acquainted with these leaders; several, in fact, were to become strong Johnson allies and generous Johnson financial backers. Men such as Kelly and Lubin were not without influence on congressmen; after the 1940 campaign, Johnson was in a position to ask them to use that influence; a congressman who would not respond to a Johnson request might receive a telephone call from his own home town. He even had a potential ally—if a low-level one—on the staff of the Democratic National Committee. Paul Aiken wrote to Johnson, “One of your chief boosters, Swagar Sherley, has been spending a lot of time with me in the last few days—I want to meet you.” All these things combined to radically alter Johnson’s situation.

The alteration was apparent at Georgetown dinner parties, where he dozed off at the table less frequently. His need to be the center of attention at parties had been thwarted by the degree to which, in Washington, attention was a function of power, but now, as the lobbyist Dale Miller puts it, “because of his political power,” he was more often the center of attention. The alteration was apparent in the House cloakrooms and dining room, where, before the 1940 campaign, some fellow representatives would snub Johnson, greeting other colleagues while ignoring him, because, as one says, “they wouldn’t put up with him.” He still acted the same way in the House dining room, strolling through it nodding to left and right as if he were a visiting celebrity, “head-huddling,” talking loudly. But his colleagues “put up with him” now. Symbolically, the shrinking away was much less evident. The fellow congressman whose lapel he grasped while staring into his eyes and talking nose to nose was often a colleague who had appealed to him for help, and who had received that help—a colleague, moreover, who not only had needed him once but would need him again. A congressman who was thinking about his next campaign didn’t resent Lyndon Johnson’s arm around his shoulders—he was all too happy to have it there. Before 1940, Johnson had never been shy about asking for favors, “irritating” colleagues by his insistence when he had no favors to do them in return. He was in a position now to return favors—in a big way. And if other representatives still felt irritated, they no longer allowed the irritation to show. One says: “A lot of guys still didn’t like him, but, unlike before [the 1940 campaign], you tolerated his idiosyncrasies. Because you knew this guy was going somewhere. You knew—I don’t think most of us knew how he had done it, but we knew he had done it— that he had already started going somewhere. A lot of guys still didn’t like him, but they knew they might need him someday. Now he was a guy you couldn’t deny any more.”

THE NEW POWER HE POSSESSED DID NOT DERIVE from Roosevelt’s friendship, or from Rayburn’s. It did not derive from seniority in the House, nor even—despite the relationship that power in a democracy bears to the votes of the electorate—to his seat in it. His power was simply the power of money. To a considerable extent, the money was Herman Brown’s. Lyndon Johnson had been attempting to use his work with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to, as Rowe puts it, “build a power base.” He had succeeded. His power base wasn’t his congressional district, it was Herman Brown’s bank account. Although he was young, he had been seeking national power for years. Now the power of money had given him some.

Simultaneously, it had given a new kind of power to Texas—through him.

This was a significant aspect of his work in the 1940 campaign. Texas had had power in Washington for nine years—since Richard Kleberg’s election to Congress had given the Democrats control of the House in November, 1931, and John Garner had taken the Speaker’s chair. But that power had been somewhat personal, and therefore in constant danger of dissolving. Much of it had been embodied in, and exercised through, Garner, leader of the delegation and standard-bearer in Washington for the concerns of his state, not only because of his position but because of the power of his personality. The ephemeral nature of power based on individuals was vividly demonstrated by the fact that Cactus Jack, no longer Vice President, was, abruptly, no longer even going to be present in Washington. Sam Rayburn’s ascension to the speakership and Texas’s continuing hold on so many key committee chairmanships in the House meant that Texas still had power in the capital—in fact, more power than before, for in the intervening nine years, it had become significant on the north as well as the south side of Capitol Hill, as the state’s two senators, Tom Connally and Morris Sheppard, had advanced up the seniority ladder to committee chairmanships. Great as this power was, however, it could vanish in a day—Election Day. Because of Texas’s predilection for keeping its congressmen in office indefinitely, there was little fear that they themselves would lose some November, but their power rested on an overall Democratic majority in the House and Senate that depended on less reliable states. A Democratic loss would cost them their chairmanships and their power. And a Republican victory was not the only way in which Texas could lose power: a chairmanship could be lost through death, as James P. Buchanan’s death, in 1937, had cost Texas the key Appropriations post, and the key “Texas chairmanships” in the House were held by elderly men. In the world of the pork barrel and the log roll, Texas had a commanding position because of Rivers and Harbors Committee chairman Joseph Jefferson Mansfield; let that elderly, wheelchairbound man die, and Texas’s power over public works would vanish in the instant of his death. A chairmanship could be lost through individual ambitions; arrangements had, in fact, already been finalized for the Agriculture Committee’s Marvin Jones to resign his House seat for a federal judgeship immediately after the election. In 1932, Texas had held not only the speakership but five key House chairmanships; Jones’s departure would reduce the number to three.

Moreover, because personal relationships are so important in a legislative body, the effects of increased Republican strength would be for some period of years irreparable. A Republican victory would sweep out of office congressmen with whom Texans had long and close alliances. The Democrats might return to a majority—but they might be different Democrats.

The power of money was less ephemeral than power based on elections or individuals. It could last as long as the money lasted, exerting its effect not only on an incumbent but on his successors. And there was enough oil in Texas so that it would last, in political terms, a long time. Personnel might change, but it would endure. Lyndon Johnson had become the conduit for this cash. To the extent that he could remain the conduit, his power would endure.

And there was a lot more Texas money available than had been apparent in the 1940 campaign. Lyndon Johnson’s base had been Herman Brown’s money, but he had expanded that base, and the new base was infinitely further expandable. It could become a factor in campaigns other than those for members of the House of Representatives. It could exert more influence. To the extent that he remained in charge of its distribution, he could exert more influence. In terms of power in Washington, his power was still quite small, but if the amount of money at his command grew larger, his power might grow with it.

If journalists did not understand the reason for Johnson’s new status, some of them were aware of that status. Alex Louis, a correspondent for a Texas newspaper chain, wrote:

When the United States Congress convenes for a new session in January, the familiar face of John Nance Garner will be missing for the first time in more than a third of a century. After a brilliant career as congressman, Speaker of the House, and Vice-President, the bushyeyebrowed Westerner who rose to higher official position than any other Texan in history will be absent.

Yet one of the eternal charms of politics is that as the old political oaks fall before the axe of retirement or death, sturdy new ones are rising in the forest to take their place. To many a Washington and Austin observer this winter, it seems that one of the sturdiest saplings in the forest—a young one which may grow into a mighty pillar of strength not only for Texas but for the American nation—is 32-year-old Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson of Johnson City.

A member of Congress for the past three years, tall, dark-haired, handsome Lyndon Johnson already has won an enviable position in Democratic circles and national affairs.

LYNDON JOHNSON’S WORK WITH THE DEMOCRATIC Congressional Campaign Committee had, in effect; added a new factor to the equation of American politics. The concept of financing congressional races across the country from a single central source was not new, but it had never been actively implemented by the Democratic Party; the amounts of money raised by the committee in previous years had been as insignificant as the non-monetary assistance it provided for candidates. “No one before had ever worked at it,” James Rowe says. “Johnson worked at it like hell. People running for Congress in those days never had much money; it had been that way for years, but Lyndon decided to do something about it; he got in it with both feet, the way he did everything, and he raised a hell of a lot of money.” In effect, says Robert S. Allen, “he was being a one-man national committee.” The scale of money he raised for congressional races was unprecedentedly large; his involvement in other aspects of scores of congressional races—liaison with the White House and, through the White House, with other government departments; the furnishing to candidates of wholesale and specific information—was unprecedentedly active. As to the liaison between candidates and White House on approval of public works and other governmental projects, this had not been undertaken on a similar scale even by the better-organized Republicans, possibly because under Republican Presidents, in the pre-New Deal era, the federal government had not sponsored public-works projects on the broad-scale basis that existed in 1940. Nor had the liaison-in-reverse that Johnson undertook: the use of congressmen as sources of information, the rapid collection of their information, its collating and dispatch to the White House. By the 1980s, when Democratic and Republican committees would be large-scale operations, with scores of staffers furnishing services and money to candidates, it would be difficult to imagine an era in which most congressmen were left to fight their campaigns without significant help from their national party, but before Lyndon Johnson, that was, certainly in the case of the Democrats and to some extent in the case of Republicans, largely the practice. Discussing what Lyndon Johnson did in the campaign of 1940, James Rowe says flatly: “Nobody had ever done this before.”

A HALLMARK OF JOHNSON’S CAREER HAD BEEN A lack of any consistent ideology or principle, in fact of any moral basis whatsoever—a willingness to march with any ally who would help his personal advancement. His work with the Congressional Campaign Committee brought this factor into sharper focus. Because Democratic congressional candidates in the one-party South had no opposition in the November elections, he was providing money only to Democrats in the North—who were primarily liberals. But the money came from men who were not liberals. Some of them, in fact, were archconservatives; among the “Texas friends” who had provided funds for Lyndon Johnson to distribute were men who would be bankrollers in 1944 of the “Texas Regulars,”Texans who bolted the party rather than support Roosevelt. He was helping New Dealers with the money of men who hated the New Deal.

In dealing with these men, Johnson did not make the slightest effort to paper over this conflict in his fund-raising efforts. It was not necessary for him to do so. Political philosophy played not the smallest role in his appeals for money. During the next congressional campaign, in 1942, after Ed Flynn had attempted to freeze him out but had been thwarted by Johnson’s control over Texas money (oilman G. L. Rowsey replied to a Flynn plea for funds: “My delay in replying is due to the fact that I expected to be in contact with our congressman, Honorable Lyndon Johnson ... I desire to know his wishes in this matter and to make my contribution to or through him”), Johnson, exasperated by Rayburn’s continued failure to understand the new realities, wrote the Speaker that “these $200 [contributions] will not get the job done.” What was needed, Johnson said, was to “get a ‘minute man’ group of thirty men, each to raise $5,000, or $150,000. This should be done between now and Wednesday. There isn’t any reason why, with the wealth and consideration that has been extended, we should fall down on this.”

The logic behind that advice was the logic of Mark Hanna. Mobilizing the business community against the threat of Bryan and the Populist philosophy embodied in his candidacy, the Boss of Ohio raised political contributions to a new level in 1896, by transforming campaign financing, in the words of his biographer, “from a matter of political begging . . . into a matter of systematic assessment according to the means of the individual and institution,”an assessment in which each great insurance company, railroad, and bank would “pay according to its stake in the general prosperity of the country. . .” “Dollar Mark” made campaign financing, in other words, a political levy upon wealth based straightforwardly upon gratitude for past government help in acquiring that wealth and upon the hope of future government protection of that wealth, and of government assistance in adding to it. Johnson’s fund-raising, not being for a presidential race, was on a much smaller scale than Hanna’s. But it was based on the same philosophy: a philosophy, naked and unadorned, of pure self-interest—“the wealth and consideration that has been extended.” And, as had been true in the case of Hanna, who raised millions more for a presidential campaign than had ever been raised before, Johnson’s logic was irresistible to those—oilmen and contractors—to whom it was directed. He had been so confident that it would be that he assured Sam Rayburn that the $150,000 could be raised in five days. It was, and it was distributed just as rapidly to candidates Johnson selected. □

This is the fourth in a series of five articles about Lyndon Johnson. The fifth will appear next month.