After listening to what I believed was a GREAT State of the Union speech from President Trump and hearing both parties chanting USA...USA, I thought to myself, given this new found unity, I wonder how long before they start to chant, build the wall and lock her up....but I digress.
By Marc Kelley
SYndicated by: Montana News
One of my favorite historical periods in US history, is the Gangster era of the late 20's to the mid 30's. Much like today, the city of Chicago was indeed, a Sanctuary City. Corruption by Chicago's political leaders, created an environment in which criminals felt safe, not only to conduct their business, but to seize on any opportunity, to expand their syndicates.
On January 29, 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment to our Constitution was signed into law and established national prohibition. Coined, the "Nobel Experiment" in 1928, by then President Herbert Hoover, who would write, "Our country has deliberately undertaken a great social and economic experiment, noble in motive and far reaching in purpose". As prophetic as this statement seems today in 2019, there can be little doubt, our political leaders have once again failed to learn the lessons of history. As they attempt to legislate morality, while at the same time lining their own pockets; now, just as it always has been, corruption is the driving force behind many of our politicians today. This is the story of one of the most infamous criminal syndicates ever to exist in our country. Alive and well and operating today in 2019 under the protection of the same corrupt, morally bereft, political ideology, that is... American Politics.
The Temperance Movement of the early 1900's, was driven by a coalition of religious leaders, Ku Klux Klan members, supporters of eugenics and liberal Internationalists known as the Tammany Hall Society. The members of the Tammany Hall Society, would go on to found the Democrat National Committee and the marriage between early organized crime and the Democrat Party, would set into motion an ideology from which we have not yet become un-entangled. As part of this effort, many of our political leaders engaged in what would become known as "Wheelerism" or "Pressure Politics". An organization called the Anti-saloon League, is credited for perfecting the tactic of "pressure politics" by manipulating the media to drive their narrative, supporting the position, that most American citizens were in fact, in favor of prohibition. In addition to this "Fake News", our political leaders relied on their friends in organized crime to employ threats, intimidation and violence against anyone who did not support their point of view. The message delivered to other political leaders was very clear. It was not the personal behavior of the individual politician they wanted to change, but rather the way they voted. This strategy would lead to the enactment of the 18th Amendment and the national prohibition of alcohol. The stage was now set for one of the most extensive surges in organized crime, our country has ever seen.
As a result of the American consumer's unwillingness to simply give up on their vice, the consumption of alcohol moved into the shadows and a new lexicon appeared virtually overnight in the American language. Terms like rum running, bootlegging, speak-easy, rotgut and the jake walk, all had specific meanings in the dialogue of illegal alcohol. The rise of illegal activity as a result of Prohibition, almost certainly should have been foreseen. Basic economic principles of supply and demand are not, in and of themselves, difficult concepts to grasp. On one side of the equation is demand, if demand for a product is high, a corresponding increase in supply will result. As demand accelerated, so did supply and the end result was a new, cash rich opportunity. A crime syndicate, called the "Chicago Outfit" would be one of the first groups to recognize this opportunity. The Mobster running the Chicago Outfit….none other than "Scarface" Al Capone.
Mobsters, like Al Capone, would employ brutal violence, against those they considered as competitors in business or adversaries in politics. Eliminating their competition, bribing, politicians and maintaining the appearance of legitimate businessmen, would allow Capone to gain both power and influence. Capone understood there was money to be made by supporting corrupt politicians in their campaigns for election. Using the tactics of voter intimidation, falsifying voter registration lists and stuffing ballot boxes, the Chicago Outfit would keep their dirty politicians in power, while remaining behind the scenes. Recognizing a politician has three goals…To be re-elected, remain in a perceived position of power and make themselves wealthy, Capone believed he had found the perfect solution to unwanted scrutiny by law enforcement.
Wasting no time, Capone quickly expanded his influence in the lucrative "bootlegging" business. Utilizing his New York connections, Capone oversaw a smuggling operation to bring alcohol into Chicago. Capone's bootlegging operation was quickly making him a very rich man and business would have continued in much the same manner if not for an incident in which a young, hard-nosed prosecutor by the name of Billy McSwiggin, was accidentally gunned down by a Capone henchman. No substantive motive could be established for the killing and it widely accepted that McSwiggin was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. For the first time, public outcry would turn against Capone. Intense criminal investigations would turn up nothing of incriminating value against Capone. Taking out their frustrations, rank and file law enforcement, would begin almost constant raids on the clubs, whorehouses and gambling dens owned by Capone. This new pressure from law enforcement forced Capone into hiding for nearly three months. Then, as if he had found a conscience, Capone turned himself in to Chicago authorities. In what would turn out to be a mockery of our legal system, Capone would call upon his Tammany Hall friends, who would make sure the police did not have enough evidence in the crime to even charge him, let alone take the matter to trial. This pattern of violence and protection from law enforcement, would only serve to embolden Capone and tighten the bonds between the political leaders of Chicago and organized crime.
On February 14, 1929, another gangland styled execution would occur and go down in the annuls of history, as the St. Valentines Day Massacre. At 10:30 AM, seven men were detained by two uniformed, Chicago Police Officers, as they walked in the Lincoln Park Neighborhood on Chicago's North Side. The officers led the men into a local garage with the intent of questioning them, but as soon as they were inside, two more men, who were laying in wait, opened fire on the group, with Thompson sub-machine guns. Among the dead, were 5 members of the North Side Gang operated by George "Bugs" Moran, a Capone competitor. Among the men killed would be Moran's second in command and brother-in-law, Albert Kachellek, the organizations business manager and book keeper Adam Heyer, two Moran enforcers Frank and Peter Gusenberg as well as 3 men, believed to be associates or businessmen who were conducting business with Moran. The motive for the killings was believed to be retaliation for Moran's gang hijacking Capone's alcohol shipments. While this event severely hurt the Moran Gang organizationally, it failed in that, "Bugs" Moran was missed, having left the others behind just minutes before they were engaged by the uniformed police officers. As a result of the murders, yet another investigation into Capone was started. The police circulated mug shots of their suspects and took witness statements, all to no avail. No one would ever be charged with the massacre and public perception would align with Capone's contention, the police themselves, conducted the murders.
Now, nearly ninety years after this event took place, many historians are still enamored by the mystique of the Gangsters and Mobsters of the 20's and 30's. Moreover, our politicians continue their corrupt association with organized crime. It is hard to believe, so many politician's on both sides of the aisle, fail to recognize, if you start doing business with the mob, your life will end….doing business with the mob.