Election 1944: Aid to labor boomerangs against GOP Congressman (10-14-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 15, 1944)


Aid to labor boomerangs against GOP Congressman

Endorsed by national union leaders, he finds local groups – who vote – oppose him
By Daniel M. Kidney, Scripps-Howard staff writer

Evansville, Indiana – (Oct. 14)
Rep. Charles M. La Follette, who gained national prominence by following “labor” rather than the Republican leadership in Congress, returned here to find he drew a blank.

Although endorsed by national labor leaders and the high command of the Political Action Committee, he learned that local union leaders are more interested in places on the Democratic ticket than Mr. La Follette’s record in Congress.

And it turned out that his Democratic opponent, Charles J. Eichel, as Vanderburgh County chairman, was a boss with sufficient power to give the labor-politicians what they wanted.

Mr. Eichel tells the story quite frankly. It was verified by union leaders themselves. The union leaders asked for all the Vanderburgh County seats in the Indiana Legislature. Mr. Eichel was glad to oblige.

Union men are nominees

Consequently, the Democratic Legislature ticket shapes up like this:

  • STATE SENATOR: Charles F. Lietz (Typographical Union, AFL)
  • STATE REPRESENTATIVES: Walter Hayden and Charles E. Wright (Electrical Workers, CIO) and Leo A. Meagher (Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen).

In return, the local PAC has not endorsed Mr. La Follette for reelection. And Mr. Eichel says with assurance they will not do so.

A visit to their headquarters confirmed this. John Sternaman, head of the Vanderburgh County CIO Council, said the local PAC will not take a stand. He was wearing an Eichel button.

So, Mr. La Follette will have to be content with endorsements from AFL President William Green, CIO President Philip Murray, A. F. Whitney (president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen) and Indiana State PAC leaders, none of whom vote in this district.

Roosevelt is issue, too

Mr. Eichel explains that Republicans shouldn’t have PAC support (in addition to the local deal) because they are against President Roosevelt.

He declared:

Labor wants to keep President Roosevelt in because they know he will protect them in the courts.

Mr. Eichel calls himself a “labor attorney.” He represents some unions here. When he saw a case-hardened reported wince at such remarks, he added: “You know, appointments and things like that.”

Money problem solved

It takes money to run a campaign – even with union support. Mr. Eichel, an old hand at such matters as fundraising, has solved that problem.

Just two doors away from his spacious Democratic County Headquarters is “The Young Democrats Club.” An electric sign above the door says “Playland.”

An afternoon visit there failed to unearth any “young Democrats.” Instead, one of the biggest bingo games was going on. Middle-age women were packed by the dozens at long tables. A fat fellow sat on a perch calling out the numbers. It’s bingo that brings in the dough.

‘Price’ of votes increases

The police have no interest. The legal explanation is that gambling is OK in “clubs.”

Mr. Eichel contends that Republicans are rich, anyway. He says they have about $100,000 to spend in the Vanderburgh County campaign. He estimates the Democratic kitty at $40,000 and admits they want all they can get. He explains why:

You see we will have to pay more for votes this time. We used to buy them for $2 or $3, but this time it will take at least $5.