From creativity to corruption, Mandel was a political force

31 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Former Gov. Marvin Mandel dies.

Marvin Mandel, the former governor who dominated Maryland’s political landscape in the 1970s and is remembered not only for modernizing and streamlining the state government but also for a racketeering conviction that was overturned on appeal, as well as a nationally publicized divorce, died Aug. 30, a son said. Marvin Mandel, whose record of modernizing Maryland’s state government was overshadowed by a messy divorce and a fraud conviction for helping associates profit from a racetrack deal, died on Sunday in St. Marvin Mandel, who won acclaim during two tumultuous terms in the State House as one of Maryland’s most effective chief executives only to be forced from power on corruption charges in 1977, died Sunday afternoon, his family said. Marvin Mandel died Sunday, ending a remarkable life that made him one of the most influential Maryland governors of the past century and one of the most colorful, with personal drama providing flourishes to his large public accomplishments.

Mandel, then speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, was elected governor by the state legislature to serve the remaining two years of the governorship of Spiro T. He was 95. “The state of Maryland lost not only a former governor but also a truly great leader and someone countless people thought of as a friend, including myself,” Hogan said. “I will be forever grateful for the advice, wisdom, and stories Governor Mandel has shared with me throughout the years. A half length portrait of Governor Marvin Mandel at this desk, the first governor the come under criminal indictment in the history of Maryland, for mail fraud and racketeering, 1977. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images) Mandel was known for being one of Maryland’s most effective governors, bringing Maryland into the 20th Century by significantly modernizing all three branches of government, building a subway in Baltimore and spending $1 billion on school construction. If you live long enough in politics, all may not be forgiven, but most is forgotten, and if you’re lucky, only the good stuff is remembered, MarylandReporter.com wrote in May. But the former governor’s accomplishments were overshadowed by personal problems, including a divorce in which he moved out of the governor’s mansion to marry another woman.

That’s certainly true of Mandel, who turned 95 in April and was feted at a birthday celebration that was an old-timers reunion for a man who left office 36 years ago. Mandel died while visiting with his family and the family of his late wife, Jeanne Dorsey Mandel, while celebrating the 50th birthday of Paul Dorsey, Mr. The charges stem from a scheme in which prosecutors say Mandel was given money and favors for vetoing one bill and signing another to help his friends make money on a horse racing track deal. Governor Larry Hogan expressed his condolences on the passing of Mandel on Sunday night saying, “The First Lady and I send our deepest sympathies and condolences to the Mandel family and all those who loved and cared for him. He lived life to the fullest.” In recent years the lifelong Democrat re-emerged in the public arena as a regent of the University System of Maryland appointed by Republican Gov.

Mandel, a Democrat, had compiled a substantial record that included placing strict limits on carrying handguns, protecting the environment, streamlining the court system, helping Washington and Baltimore build subways and having the state assume school construction costs that were burdening localities. In a brief interview for this obituary in 2011, he said he was proudest of reorganizing state government, consolidating 248 independent agencies into 12 cabinet-level departments. “We reduced the government to a sizable figure of agencies where we could adequately work with them,” he said. “You have no idea how difficult it was to get them to surrender their ‘freedom,’ as they called it.” He added, “I had legislators crawling out of my pocket.” In his first two legislative sessions, 93 of the 95 measures he proposed were enacted.

But it was a later legislative episode that brought him down and sent him to prison for 19 months before President Ronald Reagan commuted his sentence in 1981. Mandel has been called “the architect of modern Maryland.” He took hundreds of disparate state agencies, and put them together under a modern cabinet system. Beginning as an accidental governor chosen by the legislature, Mandel, a Baltimore native, quickly established himself as a formidable statewide politician.

Maryland became the first state to have a transportation department overseeing roads, mass transit, port and airports that he purchased for the state to run. The governor became enmeshed in a convoluted legal case that led to his conviction in 1977 of accepting $350,000 to help longtime allies obtain extra racing days for a Prince George’s County racetrack they had secretly purchased. Mandel and a former state House majority leader, gave the governor a $320,000 share of a profitable investment company that owned land leased by the federal government for the Social Security Administration. He has been for and against the same bill.” Cohen wrote: “He has occasionally lied, generally told the truth, but mostly says as little as possible.

His moves are calculated, without passion.” Visitors to the governor’s office invariably described a scenario in which a relaxed but attentive Mr. Mandel’s legal travails tainted his image as a dedicated public servant and eroded the enormous political power he had amassed over 27 years of public life.

Mandel, feet up on his desk, omnipresent pipe in his mouth or hand, leaned back in his chair and listened without comment to their stories, requests, complaints or proposals. However, his accomplishments as a state legislator and governor could neither be easily dismissed nor readily forgotten by people long familiar with state government. Serving as governor “is far more difficult today than it was 20 years ago,” Mandel told MarylandReporter.com in an interview five years ago. “I think the legislature and the governor have done a pretty good job at keeping the state functioning, But you can’t keep raising taxes. You just can’t keep doing it.” “We’ve reached a point where we have to reduce the size of government,” Mandel said. “I just think government is getting too big. William Donald Schaefer and Mandel, who told tales about their terms as governor. “Part of us will remember him in a period of great corruption with Agnew and everything else, and part of us will remember him as someone who contributed to the well being of the state,” Glendening said. “The state will be better because of his work long after we’ve forgotten his personal failures.” A short, soft-spoken man, Mr.

I don’t think you should spend money you don’t have.” When he entered the legislature in 1952, Mandel said, the budget was $250 million and today it is $32 billion. “Nobody knew what a billion dollars was,” he said. During his years in the legislature, he had learned the political value of paying attention to detail, and in his head he kept tabs on the strengths and weaknesses, the fears and ambitions, the likes and dislikes of the men and women who served in the General Assembly. Mandel recalled that he didn’t raise “general” taxes during his tenure, but according to historian George Callcott, the budget under Mandel rose 180% – going up double-digits all but one year. Agnew’s 1973 resignation as vice president on bribe-taking charges, was not universally popular in Maryland, where some defenders saw only traditional state political practice, not crime, in his actions.

That decision did not bear on what the jury had found he had done, but turned on a Supreme Court decision that denying Marylanders the “intangible” benefit of honest government — as the charges read — did not constitute a crime under the federal fraud statute. The governor’s legislative program included eight constitutional amendments —including reform of the state’s court system — and legislation reorganizing the executive department’s 248 agencies and departments into 11 departments headed by Cabinet-level secretaries. Mandel’s leadership, hard work and intimate knowledge of state government earned him a reputation as a capable executive when successive presidential administrations had been pilloried over the prolonged U.S. involvement in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal.

In a 2010 memoir, “I’ll Never Forget It: Memoirs of a Political Accident from East Baltimore,” he wrote, “I said then, and I say now, that I never did anything illegal as governor of Maryland.” A balanced appraisal of his record came in 1984 from Bradford Jacobs, an editor of The Baltimore Evening Sun, in his book, “Thimbleriggers” (a word describing operators of a shell game played with thimbles). “He played legislators as one would keys on a piano,” wrote Mr. Jacobs, after praising him for keeping “the state budget commendably tight” while enacting a progressive, modernizing agenda. “He was excellent at legislating, competent at administering, and an embarrassment at acknowledging the difference, publicly perceived, between right and wrong.” Mr. Mandel’s divorce — an event he and his wife both later called a “soap opera.” In July 1973 he issued a news release announcing that he was going to divorce Barbara Mandel, his wife of 32 years, and marry Jeanne Blackistone Dorsey.

Callcott, professor of history emeritus at the University of Maryland and author of “Maryland and America, 1940 to 1980.” But during the Fourth of July weekend in the summer of 1973, the unraveling began. The following year, the State Central Committee was faced with the problem of filling a 5th District vacancy in the Baltimore delegation to the House. Mandel, and by a son from his second marriage, Paul Dorsey of Gaithersburg, Md.; a stepdaughter, Helen Dorsey of Leonardtown, Md.; two stepsons, Philip H. Mandel, who by this time held the influential chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee, ran successfully for speaker and won re-election to that post five years running.

In April 1974, two of the governor’s friends had been notified by the U.S. attorney’s office in Baltimore that they were under investigation by a federal grand jury. Helping to make up the difference was Irvin Kovens, a wealthy Baltimore furniture store owner, political kingmaker, and longtime friend and political supporter of Mr.

Mandel and five associates, alleging that the governor used his power to push legislation in Annapolis that benefited his friends, who in turn gave him hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and gifts. Central to the indictment was the Marlboro Race Track, a run-down facility in Prince George’s County with few amenities, a shoddy ambiance and a low allotment of racing days. Hughes as governor, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions of all six men and ordered a new trial — an outcome that allowed Mandel to shoulder Lee aside and reclaim the powers of office for 451/2 hours. At a subsequent legislative session, the governor’s friends lobbied behind the scenes for an override of the veto, increasing the track’s racing-day allotment. According to prosecutors, Kovens and the others paid travel expenses for the governor, bought him clothes and a diamond bracelet for his wife, and cut him in on two lucrative real estate deals.

Mandel and the five others guilty of defrauding the people of Maryland of their right to the “conscientious, loyal [and] faithful . . . services” of the governor. That statute, the high court held, was intended as a protection against being defrauded out of money or property but not the loss of such “intangible rights” as honest government. The Board of Regents determined in May 2006 that Mandel’s actions that year and in the previous two sessions had violated its policy prohibiting members from lobbying the legislature. Marvin Mandel was born April 19, 1920, and grew up in the Pimlico area of Baltimore in what then was a lower-middle-class, mostly Jewish neighborhood near the famed racetrack. Mandel never emphasized his Jewish identity, but he attended High Holy Day services and once in the Maryland State House volunteered to be the necessary 10th man for a basement memorial service for a state delegate’s father who had just died.

While the future governor was in law school, Bootsie Mandel worked to help support them, as she would remind the media decades later when the governor sought a divorce. “We climbed the ladder together,” she would say. As a private citizen, after his political career had ended, after he had served his prison time and after his conviction had been voided, he practiced law again, handling a broad range of cases.

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