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  Rostenkowski, Dan "Rosty"
NameDan "Rosty" Rostenkowski
Address1372 West Evergreen Avenue
Chicago, Illinois , United States
Born January 02, 1928
DiedAugust 11, 2010 (82 years)
Last Modifedev
Mar 22, 2019 08:41pm
Tags U.S. Army - Imprisoned - Catholic -
InfoDaniel David Rostenkowski was born in Chicago on January 2, 1928. It would be an understatement to say that he didn?t have a highly-charged political life. He graduated from St. John?s Military Academy in 1946 and attended Loyola University briefly before serving in Korea with the U.S. Infantry from 1946 ? 1948. He went on to serve in the State house of representatives in the 68th general assembly in 1952. He was elected as a Democrat to the 86th Congress and served from January 3, 1959 to January 3, 1995. He also served, for seventeen years, as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means (Ninety-seventh through One Hundred Third Congresses), and Joint Committee on Taxation (Ninety-seventh through One Hundred First Congresses). In 1983 he helped secure legislation to keep the social security system solvent and played a major role in the 1986 passage of a new federal tax code.

A literal son of the Chicago political machine, Daniel David Rostenkowski was installed in politics by his father, Alderman Joseph P. Rostenkowski, and by his mentor, Mayor Richard J. Daley. In his thirty-six year congressional career, he served nine presidents, forming close friendships with many of them. His legislative masterpiece was the 1986 tax reform law. But this would not be what he would ultimately be remembered for; eight years later he was indicted on federal charges for misusing tax dollars and campaign funds.

In 1981 Rostenkowski (sometimes referred to as ?Rosky?) accepted the chair of Ways and Means rather than seek appointment as party whip for the Democratic majority. He sought to reverse the Committee's diffused structure of the 1970s and reinstated the Chairman's historical function as power broker. Rostenkowski's life is a model of machine politics ? the days of father Joe Rostenkowski and Richard J. Daley. Rostenkowski's life in Congress had some interesting personal elements, in terms of his rise and his fall, his tough years after the Chicago Convention of 1968, his return as Ways and Means Committee Chairman, and his struggles with divided government. His ability and the way that two Republican presidents, Reagan and Bush, were able to produce so much legislation is striking given the politics of the divided government in the '80s.

For those who love the game of legislation - the brokering, the bluffing, the ability to read your colleagues and find the compromise that gives just enough and gets just a little bit more - he was as good as it gets.

His career had the arc of history, beginning with the legendary organization of Chicago's Mayor Richard J. Daley, which sent Rostenkowski to Congress in 1958 at the young age of 31. For most of the next 36 years, he was either member or chairman of the most powerful committee in the House, while it engaged in legislative feats like the creation of Medicare and the 1986 overhaul of the tax code. Reformers deplored his ''back-room dealing,'' but Rostenkowski's willingness to grant ''technical provisions or local favors'' enabled him to move broad legislation.

In fact, one committee member has said that Rostenkowski summoned him to a darkened room and opened the negotiation by asking, in the voice of Don Corleone, ''What do you need, kid?'' Another has recalled Rostenkowski promised him, ''I will be with you until the end'' on a tax issue of great local importance; when Rostenkowski had to jettison that promise to save the larger bill, he said: ''I told you I'll be with you until the end. This is the end.''

Rostenkowski was indicted on 17 counts (including embezzling public and campaign funds, mail and wire fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice) just six months before the Democrats lost their majority in the House for the first time in 40 years. In both the man and the party, many saw the arrogance of too much power for too long.

It would take more than 17 indictments to shake him. Rostenkowski didn't tap personal funds or take out bank loans to pay his legal bills. Instead, he dipped into his campaign treasury, diverting more than $1.3 million to his legal defense. That money paid not only for his own lawyers but also for the lawyers retained by key staffers questioned by federal investigators. Attorneys skimmed off 47 percent of the money Rostenkowski spent during the 1994 election cycle.

While federal law prohibits members of Congress from using campaign funds in ways that are purely for personal benefit ? and federal prosecutors were busy proving that Rostenkowski had done just that ? no one seemed bothered that he paid Katten, Muchin, Zavis & Dombroff nearly $179,000 in less than three years, hoping that the Washington, D.C. law firm could keep him out of jail. In 1992 ? when federal prosecutors began exploring his embezzlement of campaign funds, his use of federal employees to perform personal tasks, and his habit of tapping his taxpayer-funded House office account to pay for expensive gifts ? he paid another Washington firm, Brand & Lowell, nearly $172,000.

Two other law firms collected at least $100,000 from Rostenkowski's campaign during this period, while four others received payments totaling at least $50,000.

Rostenkowski's campaign treasury also paid more than $106,000 to cover the legal bills of Virginia Fletcher, an administrative assistant who handled bookkeeping in his Washington congressional office. More than $62,000 went to cover the legal bills incurred by the bookkeeper for the district office in Chicago, and more than $51,000 paid lawyers representing an old political crony, whose wife was paid $79,000 for congressional work that other staffers said she never performed.

Rostenkowski ultimately pled guilty to reduced charges, (using his account at the House stationery store to buy gifts, for example). He served 15 months in prison, but continued to see himself as unfairly singled out, a victim of shifting rules. When asked if he put the son of a friend on his payroll as a favor, Rostenkowski answered, ?Yeah. Did I expect him to do some work? Yes, but not a lot.? In his own mind he was untouchable. And it seems he was pretty much correct in thinking that; President Clinton pardoned him in 2000.

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Start Date End Date Type Title Contributor

Date Category Headline Article Contributor
Aug 11, 2010 11:00am Obituary Former Congressman Dan Rostenkowski Dies  Article Thomas Walker 

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