The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, October 03, 2003

Plame affair and another historical back alley: who was Scott Lucas?

While the whole business is currently being crawled over by the journalistic world and his wife, a Plame piece in the Chicago Sun-Times today provides a little light relief.

After namechecking hapless (or is he?) Robert Novak as a
Chicago Sun-Times reporter
(I thought he was freelance), he continues with a nice piece of anecdotage:
More than a half-century ago, the legendary Ray Brennan was indicted for obtaining the secret testimony of a corrupt Chicago cop before a U.S. Senate committee and publishing this document. This scoop prevented a crook from being elected Cook County sheriff, promoted the resignation of the Chicago Democratic chairman, and sunk the career of Senate Majority Leader Scott Lucas. The charges against Brennan were dropped.

Brennan may or may not be legendary - but, to judge from material online, he was scarcely a household name in his own household [1].

Slightly more surprising, perhaps, is the almost complete online blanking of Scott Lucas [2]. Lucas took over as Majority Leader when the Senate changed hands following the 1948 general election - and must feature, therefore, in Robert Caro's Master of the Senate (mentioned here several times) though I have no specific recollection of seeing him there.

He was elected to the Senate from Illinois in 1938, to the seat vacated by William H Dieterich (also a Dem) who, after a single term, decided not to seek reelection (to judge from his Congressional Bio, Dieterich was a country boy, rather than one of the Cook County mob).

Lucas, too, has no evident Chicago connection [3]. But he must have been backed by the Kelly-Nash machine, because Cook County was where the Dem votes were in Illinois. (To go further would be merely connecting the dots - evidence needed!)

The connection most apparent from online material is with Senator Joseph McCarthy: for reasons that may have been purely partisan, he seems to have opposed McCarthy early on (during his February 20 1950 speech to the Senate, following his Wheeling, WV speech on February 9); and may have encouraged Millard Tydings (D-MD) to have his Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to investigate McCarthy's allegations.

(Tydings was one of the guys that FDR targeted in his 1938 primary purge. Roosevelt failed to dislodge him [4]. In 1950, Tydings lost (though, again, I'm missing any meaningful information on the part that McCarthy might have played in his defeat).)

Lucas also lost in 1950 - to Everett Dirksen - he was, I see from his Congressional Bio, scarcely the coming man - in eight successive Congresses (73rd-80th), he rose to the dizzy heights of - Chairman of the DC Committee! But he was too good for Lucas. In the detailed bio on the Dirksen Center site, there are a few pars on his campaign - I don't detect that he was majoring on McCarthy stuff. But, again, absence of actual facts prevent more than crude hypothesis-making [5].

And the Sun-Times story? Which was the Senate committee in question? I can only think of Estes Kefauver's Special Committee on Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce. How exactly did the hack's actions lead to Scott Lucas's demise? Answer comes there none.

Now that's what I call journalism. Not.

  1. Searching on name plus newspaper yields 7 of 11 items on Google.

  2. "senator scott lucas" produces 39 of 53 on Google. Political Graveyard and Congressional Bio.

  3. Strangely, he does not (unlike most serving US Senators) appear in the index to John Gunther's Inside USA, my vade mecum on the US of the period.

  4. It was a horse that ran to lose: the aim was (together with the court-packing bill of the previous year) to ensure bolster the conservative block in the Senate - of which Vice President John Nance Garner was the unofficial whip - and thus give him cover for the Roosevelt Recession of 1937 and the exhaustion of the New Deal.

  5. Dirksen has three interviews online on the LBJ Library site.

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