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Daniel D. Rostenkowski

Democrat, Illinois (1959-1994)

The Honorable Dan Rostenkowski, Democrat-Illinois, spent nearly 36 years in the House of Representatives (1959-1994), and was chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee (same committee that Wilbur Mills chaired).

Rosty got a little greedy.  He admitted that he converted office funds for his own use for gifts;  put people on the his payroll who did little or no work;  and mailed payroll checks to his district office for workers who did political or personal service for him.

The Jailbird Count:  15 months in a minimum security prison, Oxford, Wisconsin;  2 months in a halfway house.  $100,000 fine. He spent a couple of days in solitary confinement because he was insubordinate to a social worker.

Indicted for 17 counts of embezzling public and campaign funds, mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice.  


+Abusing Congressional Payroll:  Accused of placing on his Congressional payroll from July 1971 to July 1992 at least 14 people who did little or nor official work, but who performed a variety of personal services for him, his family, his family insurance businesses and his campaign organizations.  Payments to these people exceeded $500,000.


+Trading Stamp Vouchers for Cash:  Accused of taking cash on numerous occasions from 1978 to 1991 in exchange for vouchers that members of Congress use to buy stamps.  Charged that he obtained at least $50,000 in cash by disguising transactions at the post office as stamp purchases.


+Misusing Office Expense Accounts:  Accused of charging Congress more than $40,000 for items from the House stationery store, including hand-painted chairs, crystal sculptures, and fine china, which he gave as gifts to his friends. 


+Misusing Personal Vehicles:  Accused of buying seven vehicles from 1987 to 1992 for use by himself and his family and paying for them with more than $70,000 in official House funds, and $100,000 from his campaign funds.


+Obstruction of Justice:  Charged that he had a House employee engrave brass plaques for him at no charge and then told the employee not to mention this to the grand jury investigating the case. 

GuiltyRostenkowski pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud.


Rostenkowski is a member of the Congressional Prison Caucus.


The Martha Stewart Gambit.  Rosty could have copped a plea and gotten only 6 months in jail. But he was adamant:  "Federal prosecutors threatened to indict me if I fail to plead guilty to a series of crimes I did not commit.  I will not make any deals with them.  I did not commit any crimes.  My consciences is clear and my 42-year record as an elected official is one I am proud to once again run on."  (Pierre Thomas and David Broder, "Rostenkowski Rejects Plea," Washington Post, May 31, 1994, A1.)  (Click here for other examples of "Lyin' Through Their Teeth").


Let the Campaign Pay for It How did he pay for those big-league legal bills?  Well, it pays to have money left over in your campaign fund.  From January 1, 1993 to December 31, 1994, Rosty diverted $1,162,852 from his campaign funds to his legal defense. 

Rostenkowski also paid the legal fees for his congressional staff when they needed help.  His administrative assistant, Virginia Fletcher, had $106,058 in legal bills paid by Rostenkowski's campaign funds.  Nancy A. Panzke, his executive assistant in the Chicago district, had $62,112 in attorneys fees paid by the Rostenkowski campaign funds.  For the full story, see Dwight L. Morris, "Take and Switch," Washington Post (April 15, 1996).

Eighteen Months in Prison.  Let Rostenkowski Pay for It.

U. S. District Court Judge Norma Holloway Johnson ruled that Rostenkowski, then making a $97,000 pension could afford to pay for his own prison time.  $1,800 per month, thank you very much.


Some Lousy Crimes?  No Big Deal

Although he plead guilty, Rostenkowski dismissed his offenses as merely giving away ashtrays and chairs and hiring the children of his friends.  -- Neil A. Lewis, "Clinton Pardons Political Master Rostenkowski," New York Times, December 23, 2000.


16 Cents Per Hour in Prison;  $104,000 in Pension

Rostenkowski earned 16 cents an hour at his prison job (monitors boiler gauges in the prison powerhouse);  but he got his Congressional pension when he was released:  $104,000 a year.


Pardon Me

Merry Christmas!  On December 23, 2000, President Bill Clinton in his last few days in office pardoned Rostenkowski.  Rosty wasn't eligible for a pardon request through regular Justice Department channels, because a felon has to wait at least five years after completing a sentence before filing a pardon application.  But that didn't stop Clinton, since no such rules apply to a direct Presidential pardon. 


Which other BadBoy got clemency from President Clinton?  Answer.