That was then, this is now, Hubert Humphrey edition

Is this only slightly corrupt, or very corrupt?  It is not obvious to me:

The financial assistance wealthy friends provided, in an era when ties between politicians and businessmen were not scrutinized, was indicative of Humphrey’s longer-term dependence on such people. His three sons…attended Shattuck Military Academy…courtesy of scholarships provided to the school by Minneapolis-born William Benton, who had made a fortune in advertising before becoming Humphrey’s Senate colleague from Connecticut during 1950-52…Eventually, Ewald [a wealthy Minnesotan dairyman] also helped.

Later, when Humphrey became vice president, he would turn over his modest stock holdings to Dwayne Andreas, the multimillionaire agribusinessman who transformed the Archer-Daniels-Midland Company into a multinational powerhouse, to be put into a blind trust.  Andreas commingled Humphrey’s funds with his own in his mutual income fund that invested heavily in ADM stock.  Andreas never mentioned this arrangement to Humphrey, who never inquired.  By the time of his death in 1978, Humphrey’s share of the mutual income fund was about half a million dollars…

That is all from Arnold A. Offner’s Hubert Humphrey: The Conscience of a Country.


ADM chairman Dwayne Andreas was possibly the biggest and most bipartisan political donor in America. He had been tried (but not convicted) for a $100,000 contribution to Hubert Humphrey in 1968. Four years later, he left $100,000 in cash on the desk of Richard Nixon’s secretary Rose Mary Woods. ADM planes were always waiting to transport potential presidents, such as Bob Dole.

The 2009 Soderbergh movie "The Informant!" is about Archer-Daniels-Midland's participation in an international cartel.

Here's my theory of the caper: What Whitacre (played by Matt Damon) found unsatisfactory about ADM, I speculate, was that it was a family firm, with countless Andreases standing between him and the CEO position. His plan appears to have been to use the FBI to take down the Andreases. Then, when he had the most politically well-connected job in corporate America by the time he was 40, well, who know where his ambitions would have led him next?

'Is this only slightly corrupt, or very corrupt'

Business as usual, pretty much. Especially considering how senatorial collegiality is an important feature of the Senate (as Trump seems to have not quite learned yet regarding Sessions), so that this is not the sort of thing that the Senate is likely to condemn in terms of helping a colleague's children - 'made a fortune in advertising before becoming Humphrey’s Senate colleague from Connecticut during 1950-52.'

So is senatorial "business as usual" only slightly corrupt or very corrupt?

It's traditional, and neither slightly or very corrupt. Or is one hand washing the other at all corrupt, or just business as usual?

Quid pro quo is not corruption, it's literally business as usual - of course, business as usual can be an exemplar of virtue or an exemplar of corruption, depending on circumstances.

Which is why the framing here is not quite honest - senators have traditionally extended themselves all sorts of courtesies they prevent others from indulging. Whether hypocrisy is the same as corruption is a very broad question, and that corruption exists and is a problem is beyond dispute.

But one senator helping another senator to get re-elected, and the re-elected senator then backing a bill proposed by the helping senator is not corruption by any meaningful measure - it is business as usual.

That what occurred two generations ago is now viewed in a different light simply means things change over time. For example, there is no way that Trump will ever defend himself by pointing out his wife wears a good Republican cloth coat, and she's going to continue to. To give a quote from a Republican in exactly the time frame that William Benton was in the Senate, and one very relevant to corruption in government.

Political deal-making is not (generally) corruption because it is an exchange in which both parties are achieving the ends for which they were elected. Agreeing to support each other's bills, or re-election so one can stay in office and advance one's goals, is serving one's constituency.

Exchanging a personal favor for a political one is corruption, because the politician on the receiving end of the favor is selling out his/her office for personal gain. Having a child's schooling paid for is a huge favor that at least raises a concern that political favors may have been done in return. It's at least a little bit corrupt. If HHH actually did exchange political support for this, I think that would be very corrupt.

I'm not sure exactly what you are saying about business as usual, but I don't think the fact that the practice is widespread or long-standing has any bearing on whether it is corrupt.

So Trump thinks Sessions is a dumb Southerner, is having an opinion so wrong?

Chris Dodd did very well in the Senate. But he's a democrat and still alive. We can't talk about him.

During Humphrey's time in the Senate, it was widely believed that the most brilliant Senator was Robert S. Kerr (D-OK), but that he was just too corrupt to be allowed to become President.

Humphrey was on one side of the line, Kerr on the other.

I believe Kerr (but I'm not sure) that Kerr is the militaristic oil industry politician in the surreal political movie "Winter Kills" that's kind of a sequel to "The Manchurian Candidate."

The first index funds were created a year after Humphrey left the vice-presidency. So most blind trusts then would seem overly concentrated now.

Excellent comments above by Steve Sailor and Matt F. Back then there was more corruption than now, but today there's more 'legal corruption' like becoming a K Street lobbyist shortly after government service, not to mention Hank Paulson, Neil Kashkari and the like. Which makes it surprising Nixon had to resign for something as innocuous as Watergate (recall Hoover's FBI spied on lots of Americans illegally back then).

Bonus trivia: Nixon, Nixon, he's our man, Humphrey in the garbage can! (schoolboy political slogan)

"'legal corruption' like becoming a K Street lobbyist shortly after govt. service..."

...Or top secret security clearances. Don't forget about those either.

Why change dicks in the middle of a screw, vote Nixon in '72

Hard to imagine but people hate Trump more than Nixon or Lincoln for that matter. The investigation will end the day after the 2018 elections.

Nixon's 27-acre Western White House on the ocean cliff in San Clemente was more than he could afford without help from very rich friends.

In contrast, Reagan's mountaintop Western White House was a more affordable $527,000 around 1974. It's magnificent land but the creature comforts were spartan. I'm impressed that socialite Nancy Reagan put up with its cowboy remoteness for so many years out of love of her husband.

On the other hand, Reagan's friends outright gave him in 1989 his opulent retirement home overlooking the Bel Air Country Clubs where only the richest oligarchs could afford to build today.

Beware the "blind trust". When Blair was the British PM he claimed to have put the family investments into a blind trust but it emerged that his wife used to instruct what the money should be invested in. So not blind at all, then.

Mind you, they were both lawyers so what do you expect?

In times past, certain occupations were considered a sacrifice for the greater good, as reflected in relatively low compensation. Ministry and teaching are two examples. It was not uncommon for individuals or groups to supplement the compensation of those making the sacrifice, as when the minister's or teacher's children were provided a tuition-free, or tuition-reduced, education, in a private school or at college or university. Even today, the children of teachers are often granted tuition-free or tuition-reduced education at the school where the parent teaches. It may seem naive today, but many considered public office as a sacrifice for the greater good, back in a time when public officials were paid very low comepnsation. I say naive because in our cynical age it is assumed that anyone conferring a benefit on a public official does so expecting something in return. What about the minister or the teacher, is something expected in return from them? I suppose passage to the promised land and special treatment by the teacher of the donor's own children come to mind. Whatever one's view of past practices, the level of corruption today is many times greater than the benefits conferred on public officials in the past. The payoff to a corrupt former public official, whether as a paid lobbyist, member of the board of directors, "scholar" at a think tank, or talking head on television, can be enormous, is visible for all to see, and accepted practice. The Happy Warrior never had it so good.

"What about the minister or the teacher, is something expected in return from them?"

Maybe, maybe not. But it's not comparable. The minister's and teacher's positions provide them with very little to offer in return, and essentially no potential to do major public harm. Quite the opposite is true of politicians.

Love this blog

I am surprised anyone knew HHH.

It's extremely simple, Mr. Cowen: Humphrey was a _Democrat_, therefore all of this is "totally not corrupt." That's in the Constitution, I think.

GOP is the current party of mass corruption. Waiting for Mueller to indict another felonious Trumper, Sessions to expose more corrupt Republicans, and Trump to cry and whine like a little baby all over on social media. Trump ran on draining the swamp. Yes, lets.

Half a million bucks in 1978 is a nice piece of change, but not a fortune. I bought a decent middle class house for $125,000 then. Maybe politicians were cheaper back then.

In 1978, I could have put $500,000 into a 30-year US Treasury Bond and retired with more than $50,000 taxfree income the next 30 years, and annual income greater than most CEOs. Afraid Slugger is mistaken.

Long bonds (30 year treasuries) ranged from 8.07% to a high of 8.99% in 1978. And treasury bond interest is not tax exempt.

So, no, you wouldn't have earned "more than $50,000 taxfree income the next 30 years."

To put it in perspective, the inflation calculator indicates 375% inflation since then. So, the $500K would be worth, $1,8750,000.

For further context, Barack Obama currently commands a $400K speaking fee. However, in aggregate Hillary Clinton has done much better:

"Reports said she made a total of 92 speeches to banks, financial services organisations and suchlike between 2013 and 2015, earning up $21.6m in two years"

Apparently they pay O by the word.

Trump tweets his 255 characters for free. But then again I wouldn't pay for it.

I believe it was Simon Cameron who said, an honest politician is one, who when bought, will stay bought.

If you mean Simon Cameron, governor of Pennsylvania and Lincoln's first Secretary of War, he was the subject of a delegation from his home state urging Lincoln not to appoint him because, um um ... Lincoln said, "Do you mean he steals?" Thaddeus Stevens replied, "No, I don't think he'd steal a hot stove."
Not a good source for defining honesty.

This is very corrupt. Its just that Attorney General Sessions has been slow bringing charges, so he doesn't hurt a Democrat before mid-terms.

I’m wondering if the dappling of gray line to a bold black line in the acceptable crossing between niceties to corruption has something to do with the liquidity of payment. For example, cash payment for a political vote is clearly corruption; a trade where the politician benefits from the ubiquity of cash in exchange for a particular political outcome. The next notch down would be a payment-in-kind (improvements to property, paying for scholarships) for favorable treatment in political decision making- that is most likely not specified and could be held in reserve over time. Which appears to be the HHH examples. And finally, the ghost of corruption where people who interact frequently trade referrals and lend each other their ear- both very illiquid or specific purchase oriented.

It is not clear to me what is supposed to be corrupt about the blind trust arrangement as described.

Andreas never mentioned this arrangement to Humphrey, who never inquired.

Isn't that the way a blind trust is supposed to work?

The scholarships certainly can be questioned, though it's worth asking what the donors may have gotten in return before condemning them as "very corrupt."

" By the time of his death in 1978, Humphrey’s share of the mutual income fund was about half a million dollars…"

That is a small number besides the payoffs modern candidates get from sweet heart book deals and speaking fees, that it seems a bit much to label it corruption.

I would say in retrospect it looks pretty gentle.

As an egregious counterexample from our age, I would point to ..

That isn't getting your kids education, that isn't assisting a retirement, that is just looting.

LOL, you might have made a good point, except the article you linked to is about how there wasn't any corruption.

You've got the entire internet at your disposal and you come up with one about an incompetent 'spy' who was more interested in capitalism than spying. And the two 'deals' both fell through.

"but the deal fizzled after Butina requested $25,000 up front. A second failed deal collapsed with an Israeli-American associate who realized the Butina and her boyfriend "had no idea what they were doing," the Times reported. "

This is the plot line to a Rocky the Squirrel cartoon, not the epitome of corruption in our time.

Go back and try again. Think about insiders in an American conservative party reaching out to Russia, not to build any kind of moral free market capitalism in Russia, but to import oligarchic theft.

"Active Measures" (it's on Hulu) is also good.

Only $500,000 and tuition for his sons? No wonder LBJ didn't think much of HHH.

$500K in 1978 is about $2 million today...

He didn't get $500K given to him. The claim is that he turned his 'modest stock holdings' into $500K over a 13 year period.

Don't get me wrong. This might well have been a case of corruption. But it's a vague accusation.

We know that Hillary Clinton turned $1K worth of cattle futures into over $100K in a 10 month period in 1978/1979. Comparatively the HH story seems pretty weak.

Trump illegally paid $130k to Stormy. Anyone else thinks thats too much money for sex?

This is why I support reparations for every single living American who was arrested for simple possession of marijuana.

Imagine you have two sons, one of them basically steals half a million in return for political favors. Every single dollar came from the pocket of a person who was, if averages are to be trusted, a lot poorer than the thief.

Another son once had some cannabis in his pocket, maybe he was celebrating the fact that he was not killed in Vietnam when so many of his friends were. He was not stealing from the poor, as so many politicians and religious leaders do. But he had some cannabis in his pocket, and the local cops treated him brutally, arrogantly, and with total contempt.

Meanwhile, little Hubert had an airport named after him, and was never arrested, in the pride of his heart.

Nothing against Hubert Humphrey, he is like most of the other politicians of his day, but ...

this is why I support reparations for every single American who was arrested for a minor marijuana possession crime while the political class, exemplified by the sort of Hubertian person who makes half a million with no effort simply because he has powerful friends, gets airports named after them.

Humphrey helped establish the welfare state that is destroying our society.

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