Most of you know her as Nancy Pelosi. When I first met my one-time neighbor, she was daughter to one Mayor of Baltimore, Tommy D’Alesandro, Jr., and sister to Tommy, III, who’d later become Mayor.
Some of the stories about her, as she prepares to become Speaker of the House, have mentioned her past, but not honestly. At most, the glowing stories refer to the Baltimore City politics she grew up in as “rough and tumble.” Politics there and then were much more than rough and tumble. They were crooked as a dog’s hind leg.
I know. I grew up there. I made my first run for public office there, in 1971. Lemme tell y’all how Baltimore politics were conducted, then.
Elections in Baltimore were run by the machines, which had a feudal relationships like barons in the Middle Ages. Strongest was the D’Alesandro machine. Second to that, but working hand and glove with it, was Jack Pollack’s machine. Pollack personally was a frugal man, never accused of taking a penny for himself. But he kept hundreds of thousands of dollars in safe deposit boxes, to be dispensed as needed. Pollack had, in his pocket, many politicians including Congressman and State Senators, plus more than a few judges.
Election day funds were called “walking around money.” Each precinct captain got a stack of money proportionate to the vote he was expected to produce. Sure, the captain would keep some for himself. But a wise captain would keep his greed within limits, and use most of his allotment to buy votes.
Was this illegal? Absolutely. Then, now, and all years in between.
Honesty or corruption had nothing to do with this process. Results were all that counted. This was displayed in the D’Alesandro family history. (Nancy’s Father) Tommy, Jr., was never indicted for anything. But (Nancy’s Brother) Tommy, III, was sloppy.
He was indicted for rape as a young man. He was indicted for corruption as Mayor. Both times, the charges were dismissed when the principal witness made herself / himself scarce until the charges were dismissed. In the latter case, the witness turned up alive and well in a Las Vegas casino, after the charges against D’Alesandro were dropped. The same charges against Councilman Mimi DiPietro, had not been dismissed. When I as a candidate pointed out that DiPietro could still be tried for corruption, the D’Alesandro response was to send a compliant State’s Attorney before a compliant judge, to drop those charges also.