Archive for the ‘Dan Rostenkowski’ Category

August 11, 2010

Dan Rostenkowski, who mastered the craft of brokering and compromise to become one of the nation’s most influential congressmen but whose imprisonment on fraud charges came to symbolize the excesses of power, died Wednesday at his vacation home on Benedict Lake in Wisconsin. He was 82 and also lived in Chicago, in the house where he grew up.

His death was confirmed by the office of Alderman Richard F. Mell of Chicago. Mr. Rostenkowski had been treated for prostate cancer in the 1990s.

Mr. Rostenkowski, the son of a ward heeler and congressman from Chicago, was reared by the Cook County Democratic political machine under its longtime leader, Mayor Richard J. Daley, and won a seat in the Illinois legislature almost right out of college. First elected to the House of Representatives in 1958 at the age of 30, he was its youngest member for many years.

From the start, the plainspoken Mr. Rostenkowski showed a knack for deal-making, often with his Republican colleagues, and it helped him land a coveted seat on the House Ways and Means Committee, the powerful tax-writing panel, in 1961. He served on the committee for most of his 36 years in Congress, 13 of them as its chairman, from 1981 to 1994, and was a central figure in shaping congressional tax policy.

As a young lawmaker, Mr. Rostenkowski helped write the legislation that created Medicare in 1966. As the committee’s chairman, he helped fashion laws on taxes, trade and welfare. In 1983, he brokered the deal that led to the passage of a bill that kept the Social Security system solvent.

“During that period, my daughters said there’s not going to be a Social Security system for them — that it’s going to go belly up,” he said in an interview in 1990. “Congress was concerned, and legislators made the difficult decisions and enacted a balanced compromise of tax increases and benefit reductions that saved the system from going bankrupt.”

Mr. Rostenkowski also forged compromises that led to the 1986 tax reform act, a major rewriting of the federal tax code that sharply reduced nominal tax rates and eliminated vast numbers of loopholes, special preferences and tax-avoidance schemes.

The Social Security and tax laws were both passed when power in Washington was divided between a Democratic House and the Republican administration of President Ronald Reagan. Yet legislative achievements were almost a sidelight to Mr. Rostenkowski’s true passion: the cajoling, arm-twisting and posturing that are the stuff of Washington lawmaking. He was so good at the game that for a time in the 1970s he was under consideration to succeed the House speaker, Carl Albert of Oklahoma.

But his candidacy for the post was hurt by the violence in the streets of Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and the post went to Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. of Massachusetts. Still, Mr. Rostenkowski had become a force in the House, gaining entry to a small circle of the most powerful figures on Capitol Hill.

Republicans came to rely on him as a bridge to the Democratic leadership, and presidents of both parties sought his support in advancing their legislative agendas. He was especially close with Presidents Reagan and Bill Clinton and the elder George Bush.

“Rostenkowski over the years has built a reputation on the Hill as likable, earnest, cautious and absolutely trustworthy,” Time magazine wrote in 1981. “Among the show horses of Congress, he is a workhorse.”

But Mr. Rostenkowski’s esteem and power on Capitol Hill eroded and then collapsed, starting in 1992, when a federal grand jury began investigating reports of wrongdoing in the House post office. Mr. Rostenkowski was pushed to the center of the scandal after investigators asserted that he had bought $22,000 in stamps from the House post office with public money and may have converted them to cash.

The federal inquiry lasted two years, during which Republicans, led by the Georgia congressman Newt Gingrich, accused Democrats of corruption and held up the accusations against Mr. Rostenkowski as symptomatic.

In 1994, Mr. Rostenkowski was formally charged with 17 counts of abusing his Congressional payroll by paying at least 14 people who did little or no official work; trading stamp vouchers for at least $50,000 in cash; misusing his office’s expense accounts to charge Congress for $40,000 in furniture and fine china and crystal; misusing personal vehicles and paying for them with $70,000 in House funds; and obstruction of justice.

Mr. Rostenkowski fought back. “I did not commit any crimes,” he told reporters. “My conscience is clear, and my 42-year record as an elected official is one I am proud to once again run on.”

Continuing his re-election campaign, he was beaten by a Republican, Michael P. Flanagan, in the watershed 1994 midterm elections in which Republicans won control of both the House and the Senate. The House post office scandal was widely viewed by political historians as a factor in that electoral triumph.

Two years later, as his federal trial approached, with a long prison sentence looming, Mr. Rostenkowski, the veteran power broker, negotiated his last important deal, pleading guilty to two counts of mail fraud. He served 15 months in federal prisons in Minnesota and Wisconsin and finished his sentence by spending two months in a halfway house and paying a $100,000 fine.

Two years later, as his federal trial approached, with a long prison sentence looming, Mr. Rostenkowski, the veteran power broker, negotiated his last important deal, pleading guilty to two counts of mail fraud. He served 15 months in federal prisons in Minnesota and Wisconsin and finished his sentence by spending two months in a halfway house and paying a $100,000 fine. 

On his release Mr. Rostenkowski issued an unapologetic statement that expressed some bitterness at how he was treated. “Bureaucracies all have a certain mindless logic,” he wrote. “I’ll reserve my critique of America’s criminal justice system for another day. I do believe that a strong case can be made for doing things better.” 

President Clinton, as he prepared to leave the White House, pardoned Mr. Rostenkowski in December 2000. 

Daniel David Rostenkowski was born in Chicago on Jan. 2, 1928, the only son and youngest of three children, in a house built by his grandfather in the city’s 32nd Ward. His father, Joseph P. Rostenkowski, was the ward’s alderman from 1933 to 1955 and later served in Congress. His mother, Priscilla R. Rostenkowski, died in 1949 when her son was 21. 

Tall and strong, and an exceptional athlete, the young Rostenkowski attended St. John’s Military Academy in Delafield, Wis., where he played three sports and was skilled enough in baseball to attract an invitation from Connie Mack to try out for the Philadelphia Athletics. Reluctantly, he turned down the offer, abiding by his father’s wishes that he pursue a career in politics. It was during this period that Mr. Rostenkowski changed his last name to Rosten, which he kept through much of his 20s. 

After serving in the Army in Korea with the Seventh Infantry Division, he attended Loyola University in Chicago, graduating in 1951. The next year he ran for the Illinois House of Representatives and won. After a term as a state senator, he was elected to Congress in 1958 for the first of 18 terms. 

His survivors include his wife, LaVerne, whom he married on May 12, 1951, and three daughters, Gayle, Dawn and Kristie. His youngest daughter, Stacy Rosten-McDarrah, died in 2007. 

Mr. Rostenkowski’s later career included stints as a political commentator on the Chicago television station WFLD, the Fox affiliate, and as a college teacher and the head of Danross Associates, a consulting firm in Chicago. 

And just as he did during his political career, Mr. Rostenkowski continued to keep his family home in the 32nd Ward, transformed from a neighborhood of immigrants into an enclave of young professionals. When asked about his loyalty to the neighborhood, he replied, “I felt like I should live where the people I represented lived.”  

from:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/12/us/politics/12rostenkowski.html


Dan Rostenkowski was born on January 2nd, 1928 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Rostenkowski

January 2nd, 1928

1 + 2 +1+9+2+8 = 23 = his life lesson = what he was here to learn = Athlete.  Leadership.

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