Like all things FDR, if he said one thing, he was doing the opposite: FDR was publicly against graft, and one of the largest recipients of it in history -- both directly and through his immediate family. His Son's (James and Elliot) both became rich men through FDR's influence peddling. His wife made millions from foreign gifts, ads, and other forms of payola. And FDR stole rare stamps from the post office, had the government pay for home improvements, and deeded his property to the government so that they would pay the taxes for him. Dirty by his day's standards, criminal by today's.
Corruption - All in the Family
It isn't like just one of them suckled at the teat of corruption, the whole family was involved. And this wasn't just Chelsea getting paid exorbitant sums for no experience and a mediocre academic record, this was all of them being far more blatant.
James Roosevelt (FDR's oldest son and law school dropout) was to become an insurance agent while FDR was in office.
- He admitted that he was only given the job (at an extraordinary salary) because of his fathers name (and position), and his influence over his father. For the record, Herbert Hoover's son was also offered a similar "fat" salaried, do nothing job -- which he refused by saying, "My father's name is not for sale". Jimmy had no such morals limiting his behavior -- and took things much further.
- Jimmy would call from the White House (where he was also his fathers aide) and say, "This is Jimmy Roosevelt of Roosevelt and Sargent Insurance, calling from the White House" and then proceed to give them a sales pitch on using his insurance. Since he was calling companies that were getting millions of dollars from Govt. Assistance, Contracts or Programs, they would almost all see this is "payola" and switch insurance to his company. A few whined about the corruption and saw it as "protection money" or a "shakedown" -- but most kept quiet and paid.
- Jimmy also got more direct payoffs, with companies and organizations (like the National Grain Yeast Corporation) paying him $100,000's of dollars as a consultant, all for a 28 year old with no experience of their business what-so-ever.
- Samuel Goldwyn (of MGM) paid Jimmy $50,000/year to help him with a Dept. of Justice case that was investigating the movie companies under antitrust laws -- problem solved.
Elliott Roosevelt decided to follow in his brothers footsteps and went into "deals and promotions".
- He sold the Soviet Govt. 50 military airplanes for a profit of $1,000,000. His partner admitted later (to a Senate Committee) that the price was excessive, but that Elliot had enough influence with the Export-Import Bank and Russian Purchasing Commission to "swing the deal".
- Elliott then became Vice President for a Radio Station (for $30K/year), right when the radio station was having problems with an ownership transfer because of the FCC. The FCC commission that was against this transfer got a call from the White House that said to let this thing go through, "because it means so much to Elliott". The problem went away (the FCC approved the transfer) and Elliott got a bonus for each of the 4 stations involved in the transfer.
- There were dozens of "problems" that could be resolved through Elliott -- and dozens of things facilitated by him (for a price).
- Then Elliott decided to go into the army (to support the war effort), where he was put in charge of procurement and was quickly promoted to Brigadier-General (ahead of West Point Graduates with far more experience than him).
- He also used his influence to help people that entertained him well -- like Howard Hughes got a $22,000,000 plane contract after spending $5,000 entertaining Elliott.
- Elliott borrowed money from men that he helped (or the President helped), and did very well for himself while the President was in office. The Chicago Tribune estimated that Elliott earned over $1.1M during the presidents tenure, and that almost every dollar was made on the strength of his White House connection. This isn't including deals that "coincidentally" worked out in his favor.
The family payoff wasn't just the the sins of the sons -- Eleanor (Wife of the President) did even better. She went from making nothing per year, to earning over $3,000,000 while FDR was in office.
- She was doing paid speaking engagements (from $1,000 - $4,000 a pop)
- She was selling soap in national advertising, and in fact took on all sorts of advertising contracts.
- Foreign governments paid her to help them with issues (like a South American Coffee Consortium).
- A Candy group was worried that Candy might be classed as "nonessential" to the war -- so they enlisted her aide (at high price).
- She was paid to do movie shorts.
- She wrote a daily column for Newspapers (for high pay, and which had little literary value beyond her name)
- She gave a small percentage to charity -- but the majority seemed to benefit the Roosevelt's.
More than that, she went on to take great advantage of her position in other forms of graft -- extravagant spending, perks and so on.
- She accepted very expensive gift from foreign governments, like furs and jewelry. When challenged she said, "The President cannot take a present from a foreign government, but I can accept a present from anybody." Her excesses were a disgrace to the nation -- and many before her, and since, had wisdom and integrity to ask that gifts be given instead to favored charities.
While the war effort was on and people were heavily rationed there were commercials stating that a single B-17 bomber sortie would take as the equivalent of 5 car trips across the continent -- Eleanor made a 26,000 mile trip in a specially outfitted transport plane (dressed as a Red Cross field worker) -- all while she was telling others to "conserve for the war", which obviously didn't apply to royalty.
$3M is not a bad take for someone who had no earnings at all before her husband was the President.
The President even partook of his Government power (and it's rewards) directly as well -- though not to the degree his wife or sons did.
FDR had been a stamp collector for his entire life, though he didn't delve into the more extravagant side, and preferred the $10 and less stamps, he was quite familiar with the business side.
- As President he appointed Jim Farley as his Postmaster-General. Then he got Farley to give him imperforate first sheets of stamps (sheets before they are "cut"). These are rare, and valuable (each having a value of $20,000 at the time) -- but Farley gave them to FDR, Eleanor, and a few others (at FDR request).
- When new stamps are made they run a "proof" of the die. Since the dies changes over time, these die proofs are quite valuable. Politicians were getting them and giving them out as payola until Theodore Roosevelt passed an order forbidding those proofs from going to any one person. When FDR got in office, and knowing the value of these proofs, he had them ALL delivered to him -- going all the way back to 1896 -- which he put in his personal stamp collection. After FDRs death, his estate got $275,000 for his otherwise modest stamp collection.
- FDR was the first President to create a shrine to himself, in a shameless act of self worship. President's families or friends usually create shrine after their deaths -- but FDR didn't want to wait that long, and wanted to make sure it was worthy.
- In 1938 (when the Depression was rearing it's ugly head, again), he started negotiations with Collier's Magazine for a $75,000 a year post writing a weekly column (in case he didn't win the next election).
- He decided that it would help this job if he had a convenient library to do his research. So FDR decided to create a Franklin D. Roosevelt "Memorial" Library on his Hyde Park estate -- it was "Memorial" so that others could pay the bill for its creation, and so it would be tax exempt. His bundlers raised $400,000 for this purpose -- the land was deeded to the Govt. to alleviate Roosevelt from the tax liabilities, and so that the National Archives could pay for its upkeep.
- But by 1943 the visions of writer had left (and the Collier's job was passé), and he decided the Library was not enough of a shrine to himself -- so he expanded on the idea, and deeded over the entire Hyde Park Estate. Of course his family members would be entitled to live there, and congress got stuck with a $50,000 a year bill for upkeep (which has since grown substantially) -- but FDR got a shrine.
FDR became the only president whose home and grave are maintained by the Govt. as a national shrine, and the government was doing this before his death, at his request.
FDR's two sons both became rich men through the use of their fathers office. By today's standards that is blatant corruption, but by standards of the day it probably wasn't quite as bad. However, FDR himself considered it corrupt and immoral when others did similar but lesser infractions. FDR knew of the actions of his sons, and directly supported them in many of them.
Eleanor was blatantly abusing her position as First Lady -- to a greater degree than has ever been done before or since. Most politicians refuse or divert gifts to charity while they are in Office -- go just to avoid the look of impropriety. Eleanor and Franklin had no such moral compunctions. Let us also remember that payola to Eleanor was shared bootie to the President himself.
Worst of all was the actions of FDR for himself. He really did abuse his official powers for his own gains -- and that just reflects on what kind of person he was. While most were relatively minor compared to what he could have received they still resulted in substantial graft. Not only were his actions flawed, but he was blatantly hypocritical about it.
This was the most corrupt and blatant abuse of official power for personal gain by the First Family that has ever happened in this nation -- and this includes Harding, Nixon (Agnew), Clinton and Grant. While others corruption was in their cabinets (except Clinton) -- this graft and corruption was tied to the President and his immediate family and to degrees that boggle the mind to this day.
Absolute Power corrupts absolutely -- and FDR had more power than any other President in history -- and more control over more relative wealth than probably any one person ever will, or should.