thumbnail of People talk back; Ethics in government, part two
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
A code of ethics for public officials. Hena Warley a real estate dealer from Columbus Ohio feels this is only one side of the picture. We recorded Mr. Wally's views for the people talk back at his office. I'm glad Senator Douglas that you sad in your opening remarks that you believe that the vast majority of public officials in Washington are honest and that the abuses are confined to a few. I'd like to point out that in Fortune magazine of February 1952 it was stated that there are shocking numbers of American businessmen are quite prepared to bribe their way through Washington. Senator Douglas what do you suggest we do about these crooks. To my mind they are as bad for democracy as the office holders whom they would pervert. It is also necessary to punish the impious who are in the crapper as well as the employees to be tracked.
How are you going to deal with those two. Do the expensive entertaining offer the valuable gifts. Talk about employment. Hire these men can send them in jail should sentence you but you can withdraw your rights and privileges which they now possess. If they are firm they should be at least liable to have contracts revoked and privileges extended to them of appearing before public bodies can be withdrawn. And public censure can be passed. We may need I'm not certain of this in a court to try these offenses in the civil service. I have made my mind up on that as possible. Senator Douglas in his book and in his Godkin lectures compared ethics in public and private life.
He believes that other events during the past year have shown that the evils which have been revealed in government are far more deep rooted in the life of our own nation than many of us would like to leave a large number of players on leading college basketball teams and confessed to accepting money from gamblers in order to fix the point scoring games for the rink we developed at the colleges in question themselves were not guiltless. Since they have allowed the sport and the players to be professionalized it was father of the of the major portion of the football team of the United States Military Academy an institution which prides itself on its own and systematically cheated upon their examinations in order to maintain their eligibility. Informal polls of the student bodies of a number of colleges have indicated that cheating was apparently a widespread practice. I hope it is not impious to suggest here that the professionalization of college football has become more and more evident. These are all symptoms of ethical.
These are all symptoms of ethical weaknesses which permeate wide sections of ah society from which we had expected the highest standards. They have certainly given a feeling of disgust to the vast mass of Americans. They have made many men and women sceptical about the reality of an active life of integrity by which we talk so much cynical about professed virtues. Many people however and I think this is probably the revelations of aroused desire for postal and social liberals. Herein lies the hope for the future. You said Senator Douglas I think morals can undoubtedly stand improvement all through society. I've noticed a tendency even in people of my own age to think that things are alright if you can get away with them. That was John Strong senior at University High School in Columbus
Ohio talking back to Senator Douglas on the causes of graft. It's interesting to note that 500 or so miles to the south of Columbus Ohio. A man in Birmingham Alabama was making a similar observation. That man was Herbert Levinson concertmaster of the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Levinson was recorded in his home in Birmingham Alabama. In connection with grand endeavor you saw I think it's just an outgrowth. Of our whole way of thinking everything you know whole life is centered towards getting the right over something no. We're conditioned to newspaper news movies any any certain medium has been shown to us through the years to to think in those terms. For example.
If you read the tabloid newspapers. And there's your stand as well because big bank robbery going well we can leverage person who listens or so I suppose. So. Money has been brought back to. Life. That letter to have the
steps and it's our right as long as they can get away here as we said because we want the seven conditions through their homes to think in those terms. So I think it's a case of getting away with it as long as we have. Our whole life here to that. So I was thinking. Of too smart a level of thinking in terms of extra I think within the home. Right. I'm not moralist. I'm not a teacher of ethics I'm a hard boiled politician. I don't want to preach a sermon here. But I would say that all of us need to watch ourselves on a conflict of values. We were asked what the most dominant value of our set of values that we had we would say we want to be men and women
of integrity. We want to tell the truth. We want to be good stewards. We want to be honest. We want to live in a world of kindness and goodwill. We want to have the virtues. A life of integrity we say to ourselves those other things which we want to have and I think vast majority of people want. But we're also cause with a tendency that runs through all life but is particularly strong in our society. The tremendous desire for success and for quick success. What your philosopher philosopher country once called William James once called the Bitch Goddess success. And we want to succeed to make good. I was making good money that I could be one of many things making money. That's why God is making good. Acquiring power are supposed to be making
good. Acquiring fame which we quickly tend to confuse with notoriety when we're fundamentally I suppose we want to succeed. No I won't say we but a large part of ourself wants to succeed wants to make good. When that becomes the dominant desire then these other desires become subordinated to it. And I would say the greatest change the greatest improvement we can make is in improving ourselves and the people around us. Making putting First values first needed tremendously. Senator Douglas third and final God can lecture dealt with legislators and Ethics in Government. The senator believes that the central route of difficulties which legislators face has to do with the high cost of
campaigning the high cost of getting elected and getting defeated. A person who has not been in politics who is not running for office or who is not participated in the conduct of a political campaign really does not appreciate the tremendous work of the tremendous amount of money which is required to conduct a political campaign. I want to offer a little personal testimony tonight not I hope for the sake of egotism but because one can speak more intimately about what one knows how did a sense I offer of my own experience as a cadaver upon which the political scientists may operate. I started in politics at the very lowest level in political life running for alderman the Chicago Board of Alderman my ward. In my naivete when I was first persuaded by my friends to run I thought that the mere fact that I would offer myself for office are as the British say
stand for election would ensure my election that the voters would immediately appreciate by fine qualities and spontaneous they would flock to buy Bennett. It only took two or three days for that idea to be dissipated from my mind. But I then thought that it would be sufficient if I engaged in a very strenuous personal campaign going around to meet voters in person which I did in a few days before it dawned upon me that we needed a tremendous amount of money merely to carry on the public's A-T of the campaign and the position of all the one pays $5000 here and the term is four years. It cost me $10000 to run for alderman $3000 of that was contributed by my friends and I borrowed the remaining seven thousand from my wife out of the savings which she had painfully accumulated out of. After 15 years of household experience a
loan which I may say I have not fully repaid to the present day. This however merely went for the expenses of publish City Hall leaflets for radio time for billboards ads for the job of convincing the voters that I was an estimable character who should be elected to the Chicago Board of Alderman. It did not pay except for a few hundred dollars for workers upon election day. I added my party the Democratic Party which supported me along with the independents in the ward paid large sums to provide workers with modern day you do not buy votes who hire workers rule. And you. Get your work is if you can find them. Other things being equal for people who are members of large families and who
therefore have a straw to put in. I did not know the full amount distributed by the members of my party but I have good reason to believe that it was not less than twenty thousand dollars so that I'm ready to make an estimate that at minimum it cost my friends and myself my party $30000 to get elected. I later became good friends with my opponent and after a indirect conversation I came to the conclusion that it would cost him $40000 to be defeated. And when I became a member of the Board of Aldermen and talked with my colleagues I found that this was about the cause. Now this illustrates the great difficulties of running for office even for so small an office as Alderman. The merit it costs in many cities literally run into boxed figures
in my own city I know of no candidate who ever spent less than two hundred thousand two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. I know of some candidates who spend into the millions of dollars. I could testify about what the minimum cost for running for the United States Senate is in a state in an industrial state of appreciable size out of say three or four million or above. I do not believe that you can make even a respectable race for the United States Senate for less than $200000. One of the candidates for the Senate in the state of Ohio in the recent election I will not mention his name. O rā. Admitting to costs in his behalf of six hundred twelve thousand dollars. And I have my friends tell me that this is only the beginning. That if there were a full accounting of all the expenditures for this candidate and he undoubtedly made an honest
statement but did not know all the costs that if there were a full accounting that the cost would be fired there are 2 million dollars and that if you took into account the indirect expenditures by companies placing advertising in newspapers are strongly weighted in favor of this particular candidate that the cost might be as high as five million dollars. And this I may say does not these expenditures do not allow anything but the payment of workers are for the actual costs of getting out the vote prior to Election Day or carrying on the political solicitation from door to door in presidential elections that cost literally run into the millions. Many of the people who talk back on this subject of corruption in government wanted to know more about campaigns and campaign expenditures. This is a CTA mechanic who works as a part time telephone operator in a New York hotel.
Put it this way. Then either I would like to ask you about the plans for the campaign how they come to be in such a big quantity and who contributes that money. And I understood there was supposed to be a limit contributions and how did they get out to collect such a big amount of money. And then after that. Their. Common sense that any body any corporation that contributes. Let's say a month or a small amount but big to the people that give it expect some return on that. Be one of the principal causes of graft corruption. Of course people will expect some kind of radio. They
weren't going to give them or to give them a contract or to look the other way when they do something against the law. And after all you believe that you can find a way to stop that and would that be the beginning or cleaning up. Perhaps you know what the costs are colossal and the problem therefore becomes where do the candidates and the parties in order to make a showing get the money. Unfortunately the average voter is it feels that his duty is discharged when he votes. He thinks that he's really doing a very handsome thing when he goes to the polls. The average voter feels little or no responsibility for supporting the candidate or the party of his choice by either work or by contributions. We do have fortunately a considerable number of small contributors and their number is
increasing but their contributions meet only a fraction of the total campaign expenses. And I may say that of IT costs according to the figures of my managers around 45 or 50 cents to open enter and acknowledge each contribution so that contributions of a dollar only yield a net of about 50 cents. The small contributors while very valuable still meet only a small proportion of the total campaign costs out of the candidates and the parties are therefore forced to fall back upon the big contributors for the main financing of campaigns. Some of these men contribute because they sincerely believe in the principles of the candidate or the party and ask nothing in return. Others are sort of ambivalent on the issues of the campaign but take the same interest in candidates and parties
that they do in the racetracks and in horse races and therefore will support a candidate in the same way that they would support a racehorse and have the same sporting interest in his success. These are. The people who operate not so much walk principle but on the basis of friendship and they are happy if their horse makes a good showing. These two groups are relatively distant arrested in their motives but the vast majority of the big contributors to big money want something in return for their contributions and they show up after the election reminding the candidate and the party what good friends they have been of the victorious man and implying that they want something in return. They ask for legislation. They ask for contracts. If they get in trouble with the tax
collector they want a friend to temper the wind. They may want a loan from the IFC if they're a utility company they wanted to be treated leniently when the question of rate comes up if they're a labor union they do not want a vote greatly at variance from a political platform of the labor unions. In other words the successful candidate of the party largely finds himself in hock to the groups who have financially backed him and the decisions therefore take place. Not entirely in an atmosphere of Pure Reason. In addition to this of course and it is a very serious thing. The party of the candidate is not able to raise the money he suffers at a tremendous disadvantage in waging the campaign. Campaign is not conducted on equal terms. If the financial
resources of vastly disparate and it makes it difficult for the cause of poor men to be good. If you don't have the financial resources with which to judge those claims. We Democrats think that this has a particular significance. You know I could. Add if I may tend to an allied topic. You find the pressure of this big money coming from the underworld in city elections. And sometimes in state elections not so much in next elections. The gambling interests wish to be permitted to gamble and they therefore will contribute to the political lock party or candidate whom they have reason to believe will allow them to operate. They will dish out enormous amounts of money which will be greatly needed both in the initial stages of the
campaign. But you have to sign up for radio time and especially in the concluding days of a campaign when you're desperate to get money to man the polls as we said. At these times the gambling interests come for giving the largest amount of money to the side which they think will win but not neglecting the side which they think will lose in order that they may be safe in case they have made an incorrect appraisal of the situation. Saw that very frequently both parties come to power committed to local aid to the gambling group. Now let me clear up one of these primes. A lot of men who are elected mayor who themselves never take a dishonest dump. And what you couldn't give them a dishonest dollar nevertheless have either accepted
themselves or allowed their managers to accept campaign contributions from these groups so that while they themselves up pure they nevertheless feel look that hands are tied and the organizations frequently want them in. Who themselves are unimpeachable but who commit the boys in the back room to operate. Now this may throw some light upon a very curious manifestation in American politics which is frequently startled many people. It is that the tribunes of the people who defend the interests of the people in quotation by it frequently are allied locally with disreputable groups. The great mayors of Toledo I cited Golden Rule Jones who believed in the literal application of the Golden Rule. Rant by a celebrated scholar who succeeded golden rule as mayor of
Toledo. Tom L. Johnson who was the greatest mayor the Clevelanders ever had and others was supported not only by the municipal reform laws but were also supported by the gamblers or vice district of the criminal element generally. Now why is this. It is this curious fact which caused many people good people to denounce Golden Rule John's Brand Whitlock and Tom Johns. In the case of these two cities it was caused by the fact that the struggle then was over streetcar lines and gas companies at Johnson Whitlock ad and Jones all took the position of keeping utility rates down and regulating utility Erdos the utility companies therefore combined against these men through in large sums of money against the Adam Johnson and the Toledo group in order to fight the utility group had to accept OSS so they
thought had to accept money from the underworld. Therefore sometimes you find this curious situation of men defending the popular interests. Allied with very strange characters are being condemned by those who operate in a very respectable way to gouge the public as a whole. And this is beginning to have some application upon a national scale as well. Particularly with the rise of the intermediate world of entertainment. Halfway between the world of respectability and the underworld. Now well what of the revelation of his situation in the first place. I submit that there is a tremendous need for much wider financing of political parties by individuals
and much greater need for people to give time and money to the parties and the candidates of their choice. We merely begin to merely begin to discharge our civic responsibility when we vote unless we give the support to candidates and parties and for the moment I'm not concerned which party. Unless we give of our time and our money the parties will be forced to fall back upon the big dollars. While the mother and the people whom we elect will come into office with their hands tied not able to be fully independent. I hope therefore that we may have a great rise in the voluntary popular support of parties. I'm not saying that everyone should tie up with a political party because we need the skeptics and the independents who swing from party to party keep parties peace. But we do need large groups inside the parties who worked and who
financed the parties and who helped them and keep them independent and even the independents as they swing would do well to carry their pocketbooks and not merely their votes with the remedy number two in my judgment is some limitation upon the total loans which can be spent for and I emphasize that proposition which can be spent for a candidate or a party not merely a limitation on the total amount spent by a candidate or a party. The present laws on this subject are grossly inadequate. Very few states have any limits for party expenditure or even require public reporting a few contributions by corporations but that can always be evaded. The federal laws seem to be much more rigid. Senator Douglas went on to discuss in some detail on campaign
contributions under present regulations of the federal Corrupt Practices Act. These regulations are faulty and incomplete he believes the law sets a limit of $25000 which can be spent by a candidate for the United States Senate and $5000 for the House of Representatives and a ceiling of three million which the national committee of a party can spend in a presidential campaign. The law has two weaknesses according to Senator Douglass. First it sets no limit on the amount to be spent in the primaries and second it is in many cases unrealistic. A $25000 ceiling may be good for a senatorial campaign a smaller or a one party state but it is not enough for a vigorous campaign in a large state which has a lively rivalry between the parties. And this brings us back to Mrs Mike Canales question.
Please note: This content is only available at GBH and the Library of Congress, either due to copyright restrictions or because this content has not yet been reviewed for copyright or privacy issues. For information about on location research, click here.
People talk back
Ethics in government, part two
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-z892df75).
Episode Description
This program, the second of three parts, explores "Ethics in Government" with Senator Paul H. Douglas of Illinois.
Series Description
This series presents a series of questions posed to politicians about current affairs.
Broadcast Date
Politics and Government
United States--Politics and government--20th century.
Media type
Funder: Fund for Adult Education (U.S.)
Host: Merton, Robert King, 1910-2003
Producer: Tangley, Ralph
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Speaker: Wheatley, Parker, 1906-1999
Speaker: Douglas, Paul, 1892-1976
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 53-13-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:18
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “People talk back; Ethics in government, part two,” 1953-03-05, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 28, 2023,
MLA: “People talk back; Ethics in government, part two.” 1953-03-05. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 28, 2023. <>.
APA: People talk back; Ethics in government, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from