The Pittsburgh Press (August 24, 1940)
Willkie Complains ―
Charge of WPA ‘Packing’ Brings Immediate Denial
Republican Nominee Says Rolls Were Boosted 90,000 In July for Campaign Purposes But Federal Aide Insists That Isn’t True
Washington, Aug. 24 (UP) –
Policies of the Work Projects Administration today became a matter of political dispute, as they were in the 1936 and 1938 campaigns.
Republican candidate Wendell L. Willkie yesterday charged that the spirit and letter of the Hatch Act had been violated by an increase of 90,000 persons in WPA rolls in July. He called upon Attorney General Robert H. Jackson to investigate.
Acting WPA Commissioner Howard O. Hunter said in a formal statement that this charge “simply is not true.”
Mr. Willkie’s accusation followed by less than a week a charge that the Willkie Club of Indiana had solicited WPA workers for contributions of $1 each. Mr. Hunter referred a copy of one of those letters to Mr. Jackson to see if the Hatch Act has been violated.
The Hatch Act, barring use of relief funds for political purposes or solicitation of political contributions from WPA workers, was inspired by Senate findings of coercion of WPA men in 1938.
In his reply to Mr. Willkie, Mr. Hunter said:
The statement attributed to Mr. Willkie in press dispatches that a WPA increase in employment in July was a violation of the Hatch Act and a prediction that the WPA would increase its employment on account of the election simply is not true. As a matter of actual fact, the WPA employment decreased from June to July by approximately 100,000 persons.
There was a drop below the authorized level of WPA employment for a very brief period about the first of July, because of the changes in operations necessary at the end of our fiscal year. This minor fluctuation had nothing to do with job authorizations and I fail utterly to see what connection it has with the Hatch Act.
WPA Job Figures
WPA’s figures showed that average employment in June was 1,755,526 and in July 1,655,641.
The authorizations set by WPA were 1,761,900 for June, 1,709,000 for July, 1,701,300 for August and 1,706,500 for September.
Due to what Mr. Hunter called year-end adjustments the rolls were down to 1,665,553 on June 26 and to 1,611,213 by July 3. Then began a series of weekly increases which totaled 89,941 by the end of July – the 90,000 to which Mr. Willkie referred and which WPA contended merely represented a normal increase from the year-end drop in order to get back in line with the authorizations. By the end of July, the total was 1,700,284.
The latest WPA report showed 1,708,154 for the week of Aug. 14.
Citing the testimony of Commissioner F. C. Harrington before the House Appropriations Committee, Mr. Hunter said Mr. Harrington “made it perfectly clear” to Congress that WPA employment would remain at approximately the same level for July, August and September, with a very small increase proposed for October and a further increase during the winter months p1rovided relief needs warranted such increase.
Mr. Harrington was quoted as saying:
I presume that it will be described in some sections of the press as being made to influence the election. I want to put in the record the fact that, if Congress makes the money available, we propose to increase employment in October and November.
Mr. Willkie said:
During July of this year the relief rolls have increased by nearly 90,000. It is generally conceded that one person placed on relief may affect as many as four votes. Consequently, the addition of 90,000 in July could mean a switch of 360,000 votes from the Republican to the Democratic column.
Mr. Willkie’s statement followed a luncheon with Archbishop Francis J. Spellman of the New York Roman Catholic archdiocese to which Mr. Willkie declined to attach political significance.
Blames New Laws
Mr. Willkie asserted today that New Dealers “are as worried about the South as I am hopeful.” and began work on a speech which he said would show that New Deal reforms and their administration had caused continued business stagnation.
He said he was uncertain whether the business speech would be delivered at the formal campaign opening in Coffeyville, Kansa, Sept. 16, or at some other place in his 4,000-mile western slumping tour.
This speech, he said, would “show how New Deal legislation and administration of this legislation has caused continued business stagnation and prevented the country’s recovery from depression.”
Defends Racial Freedom
Mr. Willkie’s comment about his hopes and the worries of New Dealers in the South followed an observation about President Roosevelt making two speeches in Tennessee within the next week.
It seems that the New Dealers are as worried about the South as I am hopeful.
After lunching with Archbishop Spellman, Mr. Willkie answered a Jewish newspaper reporter’s question with a declaration that he “repudiated completely” the support of persons who had racial or religious prejudices.
He made public a letter from James N. Rosenberg, Elizabeth, N.J., chairman of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, praising his record for racial tolerance and declaring that both candidates had satisfactory records on this question.
In his statement on WPA, Mr. Willkie cited Pennsylvania as an example where big relief rolls had produced a majority for the Democratic ticket. He said that Mr. Roosevelt had carried only 20 counties in 1936, and that 19 of these counties, previously Republican, had received the highest relief disbursements of any counties in the state.
Later, he eliminated this paragraph when he learned that his research staff had erred, and that Mr. Roosevelt had carried more than 40 Pennsylvania counties in 1936.
McNutt Offers To Debate Willkie
New Haven, Conn., Aug. 24 –
Federal Security Administrator Paul V. McNutt last night offered to debate Republican Presidential candidate Wendell L. Willkie, who has been seeking to get President Roosevelt to debate issues with him.
Mr. McNutt, speaking before the Connecticut State Democratic Convention, deviated from his text, in which he predicted Mr. Roosevelt’s re-election “unanimously,” to say:
If he [Willkie] is so keen about having a debate, I’ll take him on, I’ve done it before.
Messrs. McNutt and Willkie attended Indiana University at the same time.
Willkie Challenged by Norman Thomas
New York, Aug. 24 (UP) –
Wendell Willkie, Republican presidential nominee who has challenged President Roosevelt to debate campaign issues last night was challenged by Socialist nominee Norman Thomas to a series of debates.