How did the American Mafia and corrupt politicians assert so much power over the nation's affairs that the Mob's influence actually reached into the White House? Harry Truman had been one of three key lieutenants of Kansas City boss Tom Pendergast. Truman controlled the county government, while another lieutenant, Mafia Boss Johnny Lazia, carried out murders and other crimes as required to keep the machine in power. Truman himself was never accused of corruption. Once elected to the Senate in 1934, he became known in Washington as Pendergast's errand boy. When Pendergast himself eventually ended up in federal prison for evading taxes on bribe money, Truman remained loyal to him. With the fall of Pendergast, Truman appeared likely to be defeated for reelection to the Senate in 1940. However, Bob Hannegan, who ran St. Louis in conjunction with Mayor Bernie Dykman, came to Truman's aid and provided the senator's margin of victory. Harry Truman eventually became president upon FDR's death, opening a period of tolerance for the Mob throughout the country. The need for margins in tight elections in certain key moments, such as John F. Kennedy's in 1960, increased Mafia influence. More connections are clearly documented during the Nixon and Reagan presidencies, when the Mob played a role in securing key voting blocs. Thomas A. Reppetto was commander of detectives in Chicago and dean of John Jay College CUNY. He is the author of American Police, American Mafia, and countless op-ed pieces in major daily newspapers.
by Thomas Reppetto
by Thomas Hardy
by Thomas Paine
by Thomas Bulfinch
by Otto Penzler, Thomas H. Cook
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