Sept. 18, 1905, New York Times,
PARKER ON CORPORATE CORRUPTION OF PARTIES;
Declares Equitable and Mutual Also Aided Republicans.
GAIN PLACED ABOVE POLITICS
Unembarrassed Raids Upon the Public Through Trusts the Reward of Campaign Contributions.
ESOPUS, Sept. 17. -- Ex-Chief Judge Alton B. Parker to-day referred to the charges made by him last Fall, when Democratic candidate for President, that corporation funds were being used in aid of the Republican campaign.
Asked if he had anything to say in relation to the statement of Vice President George W. Perkins of the New York Life Insurance Company to the legislative committee investigating the insurance business, that President John A. McCall of that company had caused a contribution of about $50,000 to be made last year to the Republican National campaign fund, Judge Parker said:
"Yes, I believe I ought to say, now that there is no political excitement to distract the public attention, that the President of the New York Life was not the only such contributor. The officers of other great life insurance companies, such as the Equitable and the Mutual, also contributed of the policy holders' funds for campaign purposes last year.
"What has been proved in the case of the New York Life will undoubtedly be proved in the other cases. The facts exist, and honest and able counsel, backed by an honest committee, will undoubtedly bring them out for the public good.
"Were there an investigation of railroad, manufacturing, and other corporations, it would be found that these life insurance officers were not the only corporation officers who put their hands into the Treasury and took out moneys belonging to widows and orphans to help secure a partisan triumph.
"That their acts were unlawful and their purposes corrupt goes without saying. They intended to have the money used, as it was, in corrupting the electorate. Mr. Perkins makes the point that John A. McCall, the President of the New York Life, is a Democrat. Apparently he would have the public assume that when Mr. McCall unlawfully and wrongfully contributed these funds---the company's share probably as a member of the underwriting syndicate---it was evidence of political virtue rather than misconduct.
"The truth about it is, and I say it without feeling, but emphatically, that men like McCall have no political convictions that stand in the way of their personal advantage. Such men desire the triumph of that party which will better serve their personal financial interests and will---for contributions, past, present, and future---continue to protect those interests by lenient legislation and by pretense at execution of law which shall be tenderly blind to all their offenses. That party they espouse in the board room, and contribute to it of the moneys they hold in trust, and, occasionally, a little of their own.
"The underlying principles which divide the great mass of the people into parties have no effect upon such men. Their one inquiry is, will the party organization in its hour of triumph remember our generosity, and respond to our demands? Of course the organization does remember, for it expects a similar contribution next time. And the expectation is not in vain. Last year was not the first time. Such contributions had been made before in National, State, and municipal elections.
"The officers responsible for these raids upon the treasuries of corporations have received their reward in unfettered management of life insurance corporations; in unembarrassed raids upon the public through trusts---condemned by both common and statute law; in refusal to punish criminally the officers of railroad and other corporations violating the laws. and in statutory permission to manufacturing corporations to levy tribute on the people.
"There can be no hope of checking the unlawful aggressions of officers of great corporations so long as they may thus form a quasi-partnership with the organization of the dominant political party. For in the hour when the administrative official seeks to punish the offender he is reminded by the head of the organization of the magnitude of the contributions of the corporation.
"There is, however, something worse, if possible, than the escape of such offenders from justice. It is the gradual demoralization of voters and the dulling of the public conscience caused by the efforts to make these vast sums of money procure the ballots they were intended to procure, corruptly and otherwise.
"It is not my purpose to claim that the Democratic Party, subjected to the temptation which has overcome the other party during the last few years, would have acted any differently. Mere party advantage should not be sought from the disclosures made in this investigation. But their facts should be diligently sought, that the people may become so aroused that they will insist upon legislation making it a criminal offense for officers to contribute corporate funds for political purposes and depriving the apparently successful candidates of their offices.
"Efforts in that direction have been making in different States since November last, and particularly in this State. But the Republican organization would not consent to it, so the Legislature defeated the bills. And the organization never will consent until an aroused public sentiment shall threaten legislators with political oblivion who fail to enact effective laws upon the subject."
Wants Law to Stop Corporation Gifts to Political Parties.
"Contributions by corporations to political campaign committees is most iniquitous---it's a damned iniquity," declared District Attorney Jerome at his Summer home in Lakeville yesterday. He said this when he was asked about an interview in The Brooklyn Eagle, which quoted him as saying:
"I hardly see how it is criminal in itself. If the truth were known, I suppose that there is hardly a single large corporation in the City of New York which did not contribute to the campaign fund. The heads of corporations which manage fiduciary funds have a good deal of latitude in the matter of disbursement. There is a wide difference between an act or a course of action which is morally wrong and one which is criminal.
"Intent is the important factor in the consideration of the criminality of an act. There are many cases where a suit in equity would lie and a verdict could be obtained ordering men to restore money wrongfully used or expended, in which it would be hopeless to attempt to show the commission of a crime.
"You say that Mr. Perkins explained the payment of the campaign contribution by saying it was made to protect the policy holders from possible disaster, which the officers believed would follow the election of Bryan and the adoption of the St. Louis platform. If that statement is true, I can see no criminal intent in the act. I can understand how the trustees of fiduciary funds might consider it their duty to protect the policy holders or bank depositors or stockholders from threatening danger.
"Suppose a big bank should be built in a place especially exposed to danger from fire. Would it not be right for the officers to employ special watchmen to guard against the danger? I do not mean that the cases are identical, but the latter case illustrates the point I am trying to make that judgment must always play a large part in the policy pursued by those in control of corporations in guarding the funds entrusted to them.
"If there is evidence that any of these men have violated the Penal Code, in other words, have committed a crime in New York County, I shall certainly submit the evidence to the Grand Jury, and ask for indictments. I shall prosecute them to the very best of my ability."
In his talk to a TIMES reporter yesterday about the contributions of corporations to campaign funds Mr. Jerome said:
"It is a practice that should be severely checked. As I view it, the best way to bring about its eradication would be the enactment of corrupt practices acts. As is well known, efforts for the passage of such legislation have been made at Albany session after session, but we have not been able even to get them out of committee.
"Why? Because the politicians and leaders knew full well that with such laws the practice of corporations contributing would become absolutely illegal, the flow of money into the coffers of committees would cease, and the men who run the machines and organizations would naturally have just that much less to put into their own pockets in return for their political activities.
"When serving on the Legislative Committee of the City Club, which I did for four years, I was opposed to the practice, which was so much of a feature at the investigation by the legislative committee, and I am no less opposed to it now. I condemn it.
"No one would want to give an opinion on the particular phase brought out by the committee unless the complete stenographic reports were at hand, and the statutes as well.
"Incidentally, it is well known that there was hardly a corporation or large business firm that didn't contribute to the Republican campaign fund in 1896 and 1900."