Category Archives: Don Boyd Scandal of 1977

Where have you readers been all this time, you little Dickenses?

The title is a paraphrase of something my daughter’s first daycare provider told me she heard another child’s Mother say.

Joyce from across the street no only took in children like ours but also took in children that the county sent her on an emergency basis. One such child was found abandoned and brought to Joyce for overnight care. The next day the Mother showed up having been told by the County, after spending the night away from home, where they had taken her child. The Mother bent down to her frightened child and said teasingly, “Where have you been all night you little Dickens?”

Its been six or so weeks since I last posted. Its not a great way to keep one’s readership going. Nevermind the millions of posts one can plumb by leafing through the extensive column to the right showing entries going back to 2006. Internet readers want fresh meat and I’ve not provided it. I may not provide much more for a while leaving this short explanation until I find my fingers again.

I’ve been enjoying one of those fertile periods of mind where lots of information is playing around between my ears. I’ve read several books and put two of them on my old webpage’s page for the books I’ve read from cover to cover. I started doing this in 1999 and could do it because I’d been keeping track of such reading since my third year of marriage after I’d lost my first teaching job. (There’s a story there. Can’t recall whether I’ve ever written it up in a post)

One of the two new editions I read out loud to Claudia, The Book Thief. Its the second book by Zusak I’ve read to her. I don’t think I listed the first, “The Messenger” on my book list because I’ve not included young adult fiction like, for instance, the seven Harry Potter books I’ve also read out loud to my wife. Neither did I include another such book by Jack Gantos which I also read out loud this Winter. I did include the Messenger because its clearly a book that straddles the fence between adult lit and books about young people. Hell, the narrator of the book is Death himself, and a jolly grim story teller he is. He was very busy during the years of the Second World War. It brought tears to my eyes at the end for a show of humanity which always has a good chance to paralyze my reading voice as I wipe my dripping cheek.

I’ve cheated a little on the second addition, The Barbarous Years by Bernard Bailyn. I stopped reading it a month ago as I busied myself with another project and had a heck of a time motivating myself to finish the last 60 pages. I still have thirty to go, one last chapter, but I’ve swatted away half that yesterday and today. The last chapter promises to be a good summing up of the founding of British America and the last bit of the chapter I concluded at 4AM this morning (couldn’t sleep) was about the beginning of the infamous “triangle trade” that put Godly puritans on a path to flood America with African slaves.

That’s a subject I’ve never been able to step away from for long. I’ve got the newly purchased “The Warmth of Other Suns” sitting on the reading table next to me but it has been pushed back on my menu by another book that I just started reading to Claudia.

We traveled to St. Louis last week to see my Brother’s family. It wasn’t just to renew family ties but to scout out the digs where my son will soon be moving to pursue a doctorate Degree. Yes, my school hating son, graduation averse son has nearly completed a masters degree and has secured a post in the prestigious Washington University. If you are a long time reader you may dimly recall this ancient column on my publicity shy offspring.

I thought I ought to find a new book to read out loud while we traveled south and Mark Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi” came to mind. I knew it was one of my Grandfather Robb’s favorite books. He was a great admirer of Twain and he was contemptuous when the NAACP attempted to have it banned from some libraries because it had the “N” word in it.

Claudia did most of the driving down and back and I managed to finish almost half of the book. It should be the next one I add to my webpage reading list. I have enjoyed reading it and it has piqued my interest again in Mark Twain. On the second day I discovered an interesting old book mark. It was the stub of a ticket dated 1984 for the Six Flags Over Mid America theme park in St. Louis. We had bought the ticket 29 years ago on the same trip where I’d stopped to visit Twain’s old home in Hannibal, Missouri.

While there I’d purchased “Life…” but set it aside unread for nearly three decades. I had to go hunting to relocate it before our latest trip to St. Looey. The first trip was three months after the birth of our son. It had been a cold winter and Claudia was near the end of her three months of maternity leave. We wanted to “find spring” so we decided to take a trip down the Mississippi to find it in the more inviting Missouri environment. We must have regaled our three year old daughter with tales of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer on that trip because she came back to Duluth convinced that her real parents were Becky Thatcher and Jesus’s Father Joseph.

My most vivid remembrance of that trip was a stop on the way North to Galena, Illinois where US Grant had a home and had run a fallen on hard times as a Harry Truman-like small town merchant before saving the Union. The remembrance is aided by a photo of picnic we enjoyed under a cupola in a Galena Park. We’re all in the picture which must have been set for a delayed exposure so I could get in the frame with Robb nestled in a bassinet.

Nine years later we would take another trip down the Mighty Mississip with our kids in tow during a terrible flood year and make a second stop in Galena to look in Grant’s former home. Robb locked himself in the car at that stop telling us he didn’t want to “see the house of another dead President.” That just about killed my social studies teaching heart. Did I mention that he’s studying chemistry?

Well, back to cases… I’m enjoying Twain’s Life. It came to my head when MPR’s Cathy Wurzer mentioned that Twain had visited St. Paul 100 years ago to do research for his book about the Mississippi. I have heard no mention of Minnesota yet. I did turn the last couple of pages and saw St. Paul’s name leading me to wonder if our state was an afterthought. Twain was a pilot on the river from its most commercially important stretch between St. Louis and New Orleans.

Its about the Olden days long gone from before the Civil War and the ruination of commercial river traffic. Its a paean to passage of time that is easy for a sixty-year old guy like me to appreciate. Blacks are mentioned a couple of times in none to flattering a way although I can’t recall the offensive N word being used. That got me to thinking about how Twain ended up living next to Harriet Beecher Stowe, the little lady that Lincoln so famously claimed (maybe) “started” the Civil War. The book has me rethinking Twain and what he was up to. Perhaps, like LBJ, he spent a lifetime hiding behind a popular prejudice only to expend his later years blowing it to smithereens.

In the third of fourth chapter Twain announces to the reader that he has spent about five years writing a book (to become Huckleberry Finn) about characters from his youth and expects to spend another five years at it. This encouraged me because I’ve been sitting on a book for well over five years and can easily imagine it might take me that many more to actually finish it. It also gave me a chance to read a very funny selection from the book in progress which he inserts in this early chapter.

Suddenly I find myself wanting to pour through a chronology of this ex confederate writer who abandoned the sacred cause of the South early in the war to look for gold out west. Perhaps its also wetted my appetite for my own book writing as I’ve just dashed off a rough couple chapters of the very first book I started thinking about writing a quarter of a century ago when I’d made a hash out of my teaching career. I started writing “The Worst Teacher in the World” but gave it up when I couldn’t quite see how to proceed with it. I think I see that way now or at least its early stages and with a possible race for the school board to encourage me maybe I can crank it out in a hasty couple months. Unlike the book on Minnesota Politics that I’ve saddled myself with a book about my sorry teaching and school board career will require very little research. If I do undertake it the writing of it will undermine my immediate interest in writing for the blog.

Oh, its not that there haven’t been plenty of things for me to grouse about. I’ve resisted several juicy stories about the Duluth Schools. One was a remarkable admission that the energy savings weren’t all JCI cracked them up to be. I suspect that the story was built out of lies and that the energy savings are much worse than the story hinted at. Its primary contributor is already a notorious liar. Then there is the annoying news that Hermantown is proceeding with having JCI build it new schools, annoying in part because it seems Duluth’s new Super who bemoans the way things were handled in Duluth seems to have a wife on the Hermantown Board hell bent for leather to use JCI’s services in her community.

What intrigues me about being on the Duluth Board however, has very little to do with the Red Plan other than thinking our way around the disaster to once again offer a good education. It has occurred to me that the unfulfilled imaginings I had back when elected to the Board in 1995 might be a little more possible to do now that the District is desperate for some good news and since the terrible federal NCLB initiatives are being put to the side. What better time for me to tell the world how NOT to be a really bad teacher by avoiding the mistakes I made?

Even if I decide not to run for the School Board that wouldn’t be a bad motivation for writing a book.

(this post really should be proof read and edited but I’m really not into blog posting right now. I’ve got two books to finish reading another to commence and I haven’t even mentioned the herculean labor I’ve undertaken over the past month to organize a lifetime’s worth of family photos. I think there’s a book in them too!)

2AM – 5/9/2012 – Orderliness in lieu of accomplishment

My eight loyal readers have often read in my posts a claim that I am more interested in writing a book than getting elected. I still think that’s true. My recent blogging quiescence began with a month of intensive final organizing of materials related background research. I was partly driven by the death of my principal eye witness, Don Boyd. As Don grew weaker I worked, not on writing, but on making sure ever last scrap of information he provided me would be instantly retrievable. I’ve pretty well accomplished that task.

Don’s passing also gave me a new sense of freedom. For the past four of six years I kept telling Don that I wasn’t sure I could finish the book before he died. It turned out to be true. Still as Don grew more infirm over the past year I made some furious attempts to crank out random selections to the book. All the “bookin it” postsin LIncolndemocrat are a reflection of that mania.

Over time it became apparent to me that to do the book justice I had to start at the beginning and move on. In the last two weeks of Don Boyd’s life I figured out what the first chapter had to be and even began it. I also have a pretty well worked out chapter plan for everything that follows. Now I need to do some interviews.

Thursday and Friday I’ll go down to the Twin Cities to do just that. Claudia’s going. She will visit museums. I will research. We have a good reason to want to be out of town. Our house sounds like the internal workings of a factory as workment undo the damage I did thirteen years ago. More on that in the next post.

After I finished putting all of Don Boyd’s information in order (including 500 or so pages of my own hand written notes) I decided to finish organizing my house. I’ve been tidying up nearly forty years worth of debris from my married life for the past ten years beginning shortly before I quit the School Board and met Don Boyd. This clean up was badly sidetracked by my war with the Duluth School Board during the dark days of the Red Plan and other personal family crises but those are past me now.

I do have one corner of my attic crammed with five or six tubs of Red Plan records that I can’t part with yet in case I’d like to write a book about the war. I also have a file cabinet with a lot of paper left over from my school board days. That will be easier to throw away when I get around to it. Even so, I managed to get my entire house put into good order during the recent blog lite hiatus.

I did still have one organizational weak point our second home where my grandson’s live. I maintain a second workshop for house repair. My last week of organizational mania at my house was directed at my workshop. For the past couple years it was the one room I refused to clean. It had become useless as a workshop. If I needed a screwdriver to tighten up the cover of an electic outlet it took me ten minutes to wade through the tiny workshops debris to reach one on the peg board. The workshop was my id. It had become a jungle. It’s confusion made every home improvement task a nightmare and probably doubled the time it took me to do home maintenance. No more. Over a week’s time I cleaned it and organized it and its better than its been at any time for the past ten years. I even gave the work bench a fresh coat of paint.

I was almost ready to begin by book research again until I decided to fix my front steps. The tumult that sprang from that project drove my wife and I over to our daughter’s house where helping her organize her home has proven much more tranquil than staying in our home. Tomorrow will be the third day of our escape from our house. I’ve almost gotten my second workroom as organized as my first. Claudia has worked wonders with my daughter’s closets. Goodwill will get another visit from us this afternoon.

Tomorrow we will escape out house yet again. Now its time to explain the reason we need to escape.

Christmas Carol and other stuff

Blogging and other political things were largely shoved to the side from Christmas to New Years. A couple days after Christmas Claudia and I traveled to the Twin Cities for one night. Neither of us had ever been to the Guthrie Theater and we were long overdue. As Claudia makes it a habit to watch six or seven VHS versions of the Christmas Carol each year I suggested that we see the famous Guthrie version. By the time we ordered tickets a month in advance the only seats available were for post Christmas presentations. 

We stayed in the old Milwaukee Road Depot which has been converted by the Marriott to a Hotel and dined in Cue (not the Cue) the Guthrie’s fancy restaurant which only serves locally grown produce. We wandered around the Guthrie in the afternoon before the performance and were impressed by the views of the Mississippi from its lofty overlook on the Guthrie’s cantilevered projection. The next day we took in the Mill City Museum in a largely destroyed grain mill. It’s only a block away from the Guthrie and is part of the gentrified and condominiumized grain elevators along the River. The museum is excellent and I learned a number of things about the business that I had not known before like for instance that the milling companies all but closed shop shortly after I moved to Minnesota in the 1960’s and switched over to the much more lucrative business of selling cereal. They’re Great! 

The little movie “Minneapolis in 19 Minutes” by home grown humorist Kevin Kling was a hoot and we bought one of his CD’s to listen to on our way back to DuluthWe then had lunch at “Spoonnriver” next door and sat two tables away from Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page. Page was one of the famed Viking Purple People Eaters when I attended Mankato State in the 1970’s. He was seen in Mankato bars carrying what looked to be a very large cloth purse. No one ever gave him any grief about it any more than they would have harassed Rosie Grier for his needlework. 

The last time I saw Page I threw water on him. He was running one of the early Grandma Marathons and Claudia and I happened to be near Brighton Beach and pitched in to hand cups full of water to the runners. Page was running with his wife much to the chagrin of Viking management which was not eager to see one of its PPE’s shedding so much weigh to train for a marathon. When Page ran past I held out the water but he just asked me to throw it on him so I did. 

After lunch Claudia wanted to see the new Minneapolis Library which was also in the vicinity. It’s a grand building and made me long for the life of a librarian. Naturally we had to visit the Museum’s Book Store and to my delight I found three big biographies of Nixon including the Tom Wicker tome that reportedly was very kind to the old goat. They only cost me eight bucks and then on my way out I saw a pile of 25 cent books which included the Haldeman Diaries. I purchased that as well. Upon reviewing it for mentions of HHH I was surprised to see how little Humphrey was mentioned. This was leading up to the time that the Nixon Administration was investigating Humphrey’s campaign misdeeds. Although there was a very intriguing reference to a potential mutual blackmailing by Nixon and LBJ of each other’s actions (which was blacked out due to national security considerations) there wasn’t much on Humphrey. 

Now that Claudia is heading back to work I must renew my historical research. I can’t wait.   

 

Master of the Senate

I finally finished Robert Caro’s Master of the Senate and not a moment too soon. I began it last Spring but set it aside to campaign. I read a bit of it on our trip to Denmark but at a thousand fifty pages of small print and with my slow methodical reading pace it was taking forever.

A week ago I told Don Boyd that I needed to finish the last hundred pages before I finally resumed reading his 700 page tome but’ in fact’ I had over 200 pages left to read. Well, I finally got the job done.

The book gave me more insights into the ambitious people who become slaves to their desire for political advancement. HHH who is one such figure was an important figure in Caro’s book just as he is in Don Boyd’s.

I rebuffed Don a week ago when he asked to have a cup of coffee because I felt embarassed that I kept putting off reading his work. In the next couple days I hope to wade into it with the same doggedness that helped me finish Caro.

LBJ may have been the “master of the Senate” but after HHH’s death the historians of America listed Hubert as the second most important Senator in US History. To help make better sense of him I got on the Internet a week ago and ordered half a dozen books on Humphrey. Most of them have arrived and I’m looking forward to digging into this little research project. I wish I had some super skills like the Heroes I’ve been watching or like Harry Potter. Then maybe my reasearch would go more quickly.

Fun with paranoia

Last night I was up till midnight again reading Robert Caro’s Master of the Senate. What a great book! Oh, I’m sorry. I think I’ve said that before.

Before going to bed I googled Billie Sol Estes and came up with a JFK assassination website which had lots of interesting information in it. I sent the site’s author an email inquiring about a mysterious news story I’d read in the late 1980’s about a man who had just claimed on his death bed that Lyndon Johnson had ordered another man’s murder. (Not JFK but someone else who was in a position to blackmail the President about his personal corruption)

Having just read Caro’s book the story seemed considerably more credible but my newspaper never followed the accusation up. This was in the days before the Internet or Google so the story just receded from view. Then last night after finding the site (one of many such JFK sites) I sent an inquiry about that mysterious old news story (along with a link to my web page about the Boyd Scandal) to the website’s author.

He wrote back this morning and said he would post my question on his site. He also invited me to send him a biography which he also offered to post for people who might have information about my research.

Here’s the email I just sent him.

Thank you John, After I sent you the email I realized that I probably saw the news story shortly after reading Robert Caro’s first book in 1984 or 85. The news story must have come out between 1985 and 1990. Caro’s book so impressed me with LBJ’s mania to be President and his ties to Brown and Root that it enhanced the credibility of the death bed confession I’m trying to locate. It was such a potent accusation – US Senator/President orders the murder of a political threat – that I could never understand why it was never followed up by our newspaper. I am a JFK conspiracy skeptic but I am open to serious research about the interesting little dust bunnies that history tried to sweep under the rug after JFK was murdered. Coincidentally, conspiracy enthusiast, Jim Fetzer, is a neighbor of mine but I’m non-plussed by his theory that Paul Wellstone’s charter plane was brought down by an electromagnetic pulse. In my opinion Fetzer’s work mostly serves to discredit other assassination researchers. I’m a local eccentric in Duluth, Minnesota. I’m an ex-liberal Republican (I’m still a liberal) who has failed to establish much of a political presence in our very Democratic oriented part of Blue State, Minnesota. I’m best known in town for my winter snow sculptures. I was a history teacher and served on the Duluth school board for eight years. I run for office promiscuously. I just ran a Quixotic race for Congress. It was my 12th campaign but my 5,508 votes were about 150,000 votes short of a victory. I was a columnist for our local tabloid the Reader Weekly and my columns and other miscellaneous stuff can be found with a little poking around on my Internet closet: www.snowbizz.com. I also blog every so often at www.lincolndemocrat.org Six months ago an interesting lead from another JFK website wetted my appetite to dig deeper into the 1973 Boyd Scandal which is closely tied to HHH. The new lead involved yet another long-forgotten Minnesota scandal from a decade earlier, 1963-64, that threatened my Father’s pension. My father was particularly chagrined about this at the time because he had been a fraud investigator for the Kansas State Insurance Commission prior to moving us to Minnesota. This time period coincided with LBJ protégé HHH’s, move from the Senate to the Vice Presidency when money would have been at a premium for the 64 presidential campaign. This earlier scandal involved a failed Minnesota insurance company (like the kind my Dad used to investigate) which managed Minnesota‘s state pensions. One of the company’s leaders threatened to expose the state’s Democratic party to charges of corruption (he never did) while another executive who was sent to prison later claimed to have information about the Kennedy Assassination. I don’t know where my research is headed but it is an interesting little cul de sac. Feel free to use this email as my biography. Harry Welty

Giving up the Reader

I told the new editor of the Reader Weekly that I would resume writing for them last week. I began a column on “Initial Politics” which was about LBJ, JFK, RFK and HHH. But after hammering out a rough draft I choked at the thought of spending a day to polish it up for publication.

My blogging is also being neglected because it too is a distraction for a project that sorely needs my attention. I want to get back to the story of the Boyd Scandal and to do it any kind of justice means that I’ll need to put 30 or more hours a week into it on a more or less regular basis for a year or two. Stopping for a day every other week to write a column demands too much time.

I’ve got other priorities, church choir practice, reading news for the blind, serving at the soup kitchen, trying to figure out how to raise money for the Duluth School Endowment. Something has to give so I decided it had to be the Reader, and dependable blogging - at least for the time being.

Oh, the blog isn’t done for yet. Who knows what will come? I’m even holding off on closing out my PO Box and bank account for my Congressional Campaign. I’m not ready to burn my bridges. Even the Duluth City Council is starting to look interesting. Poor Claudia. Please don’t tell her.

“Do you want to backtop my driveway”?

I keep bumping into people who tell me that they voted for me. I tell them that they were in pretty exclusive company.

The 5,508 votes I got cost me $1.8 each. It looks like Grams spent about $5 each for his 97,000 votes and Oberstar $7.75 for each of his 180,000 votes. I’m salving my wounds with this remarkable financial success. My sense of humor, which seems to have returned in full now that the election has come and gone, is also a helpful tonic. Now I can return to doing something useful which in my case means resuming the book I was writing until I filed for Congress.

I decided not to harp on the book during the campaign because its old news. It might be a cautionary tale for the resurgent Democrats who have just regained control of Congress because it involves beloved Minnesota Democrats of the past and proves that the scandal plagued Republicans were no aberation. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I met with my principal witness, Donald C. Boyd, today for breakfast. He told me he got a call from an old friend who still close to Jim Oberstar. Don was surprised because he hadn’t heard from this fellow for ten years.

“What do you want?,” Don kept asking him. Eventually the caller asked Don if he would be interested in paving his driveway. Don’s paving days are long past and given this lame excuse Don told him to tell Oberstar that he and Harry (meaing me) were just fine.” Thus ended the conversation.

Three months ago I would regularly talk politics with a person intimately acquainted with the workings of the Oberstar DFL of decades past. We often swam in adjoining lanes of the Miller Dawn Fitness Center Pool. Our conversations continued until I asked her about the UGLRC and she told me that her friend, a former secretary at the Commission, had one refused to hand a paper bag filled with cash in it over to a mayoral candidate. Shortly afterwards when I began writing about the old scandal on the Web she stopped coming to the fitness center pool.

What should I make of a call out-of-the-blue or a regular swimmer’s sudden loss of interest in exercise? I don’t know. I’m like a cat that can see shadows underneath a locked door. They make me want to slide my paw under it to bat at them. 

Oberstar Watch – Earmarks

This morning I woke to an interesting bit of intelligence about our seniority rich Congressman. It seems that Oberstar used the much criticized earmarking power to authorize 11 million in pork for an almost nonexistant entity (Its only met once since 2004 according to the post) called the GLMRI or Great Lakes Marine Research Institute.

I’ve grown suspicious of anything Oberstar related with the word “Great Lakes” in it. That’s because of the infamous UGRLC Upper Great Lakes Regional Commission which at federal expense provided the work of three secretaries to help win Jim Oberstar the contested Democratic primary in 1974 and his automatic election to Congress. After writing about this last November the only man convicted for stealing any portion of a much talked about missing million dollars gave me a call and prompted me to begin writing a book about the scandal. Sorry to say campaigning for Congress has forced me to shelve the project for now. If only I had three federally financed secretaries to help me mail out fund raising letters. 

Back to the earmark. Some of you may recall that the so called blogosphere ganged up to discover the US Senator who put a hold on legislation to publicize the names of Congressmen who stick earmarks secretly into legislation unbeknownst to the world. Lots of old salts in the Congress hate the idea of transparancy where people can see whose bidding they are doing. Jim must be one of them as he’s been touting his seniority as an important reason to reelect him. Who can quibble with more pork, especially if its our children who have to pay for it?

Business North

I let Chris and Mel know that I wanted a day to get myself back in campaign mode before we got together again so we will meet at a bagel shop tomorrow morning.

But politics did intrude before the day was over. I returned a call from, Wayne Nelson, the editor of Business North magazine. He wanted an interview pronto so I told him I could show up after our cat inspections. He took that information gamely enough and when I got to his offices in the old Carnegie Library we had a good two hour long talk/interview.

I mostly covered the same ground that is on my website and he’d already been there so he wasn’t taken by surprise by anything I had to say. It was fun visiting him because to of my old associates now work with/for him. Richard, my old editor from the Duluth Reader and my former student, Paul, one of the best writers in Duluth.

Wayne inquired after Don Boyd. It turns out that Wayne had just started working for the Duluth News Tribune when the Boyd scandal broke out. Wayne had a number of very interesting insight to share about the hotest political scandal in the state’s history. He spoke a little derisively of Minnesota’s reputation for honest government. When the scandal broke out 20 or more reporters camped out in Duluth’s Radisson hotel which put the Trib in a panic not to get scooped.

Wayne told me that this resulted in some sloppy stories about the missing million dollars which turned up later not to have been missing – at least not the million that Don Boyd had been responsible for.

Apparently the state wasn’t the only dumping ground for political hacks back then as many worked for the Trib. Wayne told me that some were very poorly trained at journalism. Furthermore some actively leaked information from the newspaper to the movers and shakers in the DFL which helped the latter point the finger at the happless naieve Don Boyd. That by the way is my interpretation not Wayne’s.

I pricked up my ears at this info because I had begun writing an online book about the scandal and only gave it up when it proved incompatible with campaigning for Congress. If I lose I’ll pick it up again in November. If I win I’ll search for someone else to write the story.

 

Best of Enemies

When I was a kid I saw a David Niven movie which I believe was called “Best of Enemies.” It was about the British and Italians fighting each other in North Africa. The British forces led by David Niven would capture the Italians and vice versa and through it all stayed cordial and respectful of each other.

That’s how I thought Republicans and Democrats should behave. It used to be that way. I saw a little glimpse of that old cordiality which has all but ceased to exist this morning in the Duluth Budgeteer.

Chuck Slocum, a former Minnesota GOP Chairman and friend wrote a little column about Minnesota’s Democratic Governor Rudy Perpich. The column was prompted by the recently released biography of Perpich by Betty Wilson. I recently bought the book and read about half of it as background research for my book on the Boyd Scandal.

The column is worth a read just to remember how things used to be, especially when you compare it to the self-righteous, partisan, venom of folks like Tom DeLay.

Gerald Heaney Retires

Gerald Heaney was interviewed by MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill for Voices of Minnesota. Heaney has an laudatory past but he’s also a key figure in the story I’m writing about the destruction of Don Boyd.

When I first moved to Duluth 33 years ago Republicans in particulary spoke of him in hushed tones. He was their nemesis and they regarded him as the power behind the area’s political scene. Its not surprising that he figures into the Boyd scandal when his old friend Senator Hubert Humphrey was in a position to be badly embarrassed.

Blog Metamorphosis

As of today loyal readers, whoever you are, this blog has undergone a change from caterpillar to butterfly or, depending on your point-of-view, vice versa. For the past four months I’ve posted things that interested me but which were heavily drawn from other sources. I will not give up on this entirely but as the last week has demonstrated getting wrapped up a consuming project really distracts a blogger from scanning the internet for newsy items, insightful opinion and my favorite – hoots. I’ve started a mad four-month dash to the November election and I won’t have time to vacuum the news. I’ll still be blogging but lincolndemocrat will turn into more of a campaign diary than a political blog.

As long ago as 1976 when I was a 26-year-old kid running for the state legislature I imagined myself writing a regular column about what I saw daily as a legislator. Although I kept running for office I didn’t finally get elected to anything until 1995 almost twenty years later. By then I realized that no newspaper would print one elected official’s daily observations. But then a wonderful invention became available – the World Wide Web with a whole assortment of new communication tools. Long before blogs people began experimenting with public diaries. When I finally got a dial-up connection and discovered this I was halfway through my school board experience. I realized immediately how I could make that ambition from my youth possible and I began my “school board diary.” I was a faithful diarist for a year but, for a variety of reasons, I quit. Short lived political diaries of one sort or another succeeded the first but they too winked out.

Apparently, I’ve been drifting slowly to a new ambition to replace politics – writing. I’m still drawn to politics but more so as a writer than a practitioner. I want people to have the chance to see the political world from the inside. I’ve gotten 200 pages into Caro’s fabulous 1,000-page book about LBJ’s Senate years. What I wouldn’t give to write something like that. Well, its too late for that. Caro has already devoted thirty years to the LBJ story and he still has one book left to go. Anything I do will be much more modest – like my school board diary.

An elected bodies are more mysterious to people than what happens to their children during junior high. That’s because everyone has been in junior high and can imagine what their children are experiencing. Elected bodies, which seem to pull decisions out of thin air after a series of posturing speech”…well that really is mysterious. Fortunately or unfortunately the speeches are usually so anesthetizing that people stop watching and rely on the next day’s headlines to sort out what happened.

Well, this is just a long-winded way of saying that I’m going to devote the lion’s share of this blog to my Congressional campaign. I’ve been planning to run since before I wrote a snarky column about Jim Oberstar last November. To my surprise that column led me to Don Boyd and Don Boyd led me to a historical research project that I can’t really do justice to as a candidate for public office. In fact, because the project seems to involve the fellow I’m trying to unseat my motives must be questioned. But I can’t help myself. I think I’ve stumbled onto a story about how Minnesota’s politics of the late 1960’s and 1970’s was riddled with corrupt practices. This is history which should be investigated by a writer who is not contaminated with political ambition. For the next few weeks the story has to be put on hold. I have ten days to get 1,000 signatures on a petition to put me on the ballot. I also need to start alerting voters to a very interesting 3-way race for Congress. I intend to win if it is at all possible.

As time permits I will continue writing more about Don Boyd’s ruination at the hands of a political machine whose brightest leaders aspired to great nobility. In Watergate’s dark aftermath this machine successfully covered their own misbehavior when threatened with exposure. They did this by sacrificing an innocent scapegoat to federal prison. This at least is what I am beginning to believe took place. Its a story that should be told by someone else but for now I’m the only story teller that Don Boyd has.

Thirty years ago he was smeared so badly that no one, not his friends and probably not even his family, could imagine that he was completely innocent. It is hard to believe but that is what I’m coming to believe. If this is true then I’m deeply offended by this miscarriage of justice. In an odd way this story is a terrible distraction from my Congressional campaign but at the same time its given me a tremendous motivation. Nothing animates me so as a hunt for the truth.

Kelm anecdote

One man who looms large in the story of Don Boyd is Thomas Kelm a cat who always seems to have landed on his feet. The subject of numerous unflattering stories during his days as Gov. Anderson’s Chief of Staff he seems now to be the stuff of legends. Last week in his Budgeteer Column, Ralph Doty slipped in a little anedcote about the fellow. A sample:

“On the day the bill was scheduled for a final vote, Gov. Wendell Anderson let loose his lobbyists, led by his chief of staff, Tom Kelm, a tall, robust man who, to folks less than 6 feet tall, looked like the giant in “Jack and the Beanstalk.” He was skilled at intimidating even the toughest lawmakers.”

Hooray, 1000 pageviews

Yesterday I broke 1,000 pageviews. That’s particularly satisfying because I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t been putting much content on the blog. I hope today to be able to put together a convincing explanation about how unjust Don Boyd’s prosecution and incarceration was. He’s told me several times that the IRS agent who investigated him admitted that he wasn’t guilty of anything. I’m inclined to agree. His boss, however, who was found guilty on the same count was later found innocent on a technicality. Justice indeed!

I spent a large share of yesterday organizing and filing Don’s voluminous records so that I can more easily access them as I continue writing the book. It’s occurred to me that to do this justice it may not be practical to count on finishing it by November.

I had lunch with the Publisher of the Reader Weekly yesterday. I warned Bob that I may take on a new project in a few weeks that might conflict pose a conflict of interest. He asked me to postpone my decision for a couple of weeks while he considers whether to let me continue my column, Not Eudora anyway. I’ve written it for four years and while its been a pleasure I might be better off concentrating on the book writing that I’ve flirted with for the last few years. If I quit that could be the end of the column for good but I’ve roughed out one more for next week.

278 stories on the Boyd Scandal

To give a sense for the intense interest in the Upper Great Lakes Regional Commission scandal a quarter century ago I’ve scanned in the Duluth Public Library’s catalogue of news stories about it.

The scandal broke half way through 1978 and was wrapped up early in 1981. My count of the news stories in both the Duluth Tribune and Herald is 278. They were mirrored by similar articles across the state of Minnesota. After all this effort the Feds only managed to convict one man for mail fraud in what they claimed was an attempt to steal a piddling $60,000. Of this amount about $20,000 was proven in court and to the IRS’s satisfaction to have been taken by Don Boyd’s boss but only after Boyd got out of prison for attempting its theft. His boss got off on this charge on a technicality. No one has ever accounted for the missing million dollars alleged to have been embezzled.

How badly did HHH want to be President?

As I write this book its been important to put the times in context. Governor Rudy Perpich was a generation past Humphrey and not particularly in awe of him. I’d always assumed the opposite. A lot of people didn’t take Humphrey seriously at the time. His nickname, “the Happy Warrior” is both fond and dismissive. Certainly he didn’t have LBJ’s famous streak of cruelty. But as this article points out HHH would do what he had to hold his place in line for the Presidency:

“Historians later wrote that Johnson told Hubert Humphrey to “crush the rebellion” and get the MFDP off the front pages, or Humphrey could give up on the idea of ever becoming vice-president. Humphrey instructed fellow Minnesotan and future Vice President Walter Mondale to “suppress the MFDP by any means necessary” and this was accomplished through secret meetings, and false statements, and by using information on the MFDP’s strategy gathered from FBI informants.

Johnson, Humphrey, and Mondale finally offered MFDP to seat two at-large delegates to be selected by Johnson (to ensure Humphrey that Hamer would not be selected). MFDP delegates refused the compromise. Humphrey reportedly pleaded with Hamer (whom he reportedly found “distasteful” because she was poor and uneducated) to accept the compromise so he could become vice president and push civil rights.

Mississippian Rev. Ed King, also a delegate, years later told how Hamer expressed no sympathy for Humphrey’s dilemma:

‘Senator Humphrey. I know lots of people in Mississippi who have lost their jobs for trying to register to vote. I had to leave the plantation where I worked in Sunflower County. Now if you lose this job of vice president because you do what is right, because you help the MFDP, everything will be all right. God will take care of you. But if you take it this way, why, you will never be able to do any good for civil rights, for poor people, for peace, or any of those things you talk about.'”

Perhaps, as Fannie Lou Hamer predicted, it was just this kind of pusillanimousness that cost HHH the Presidency. He also stuck with LBJ on Vietnam like glue and lost his race with Nixon in 1968. In the process he lost the loyalty of Minnesota Democrats like Rudy Perpich. Further, his better than decade-long ambition for the presidency may also explain much about the events which I’ll be writing about.