Daniel J. Flood was among the last of the oldtime movers and shakers on Capitol Hill. Known for his wardrobe of white linen suits, dark shirts, white ties, silk top hats, and dark, flowing capes, as a vaudevillian who became a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania, Flood was a flamboyant sight on the floor of the House. He presented his addresses and arguments with the overly precise and clipped accent of an old-fashioned stage actor, and he reveled in the attention he attracted for each and every performance. At the same time, 'Dapper Dan' understood the complexities of the old power politics and played the legislative game with sheer genius. He worked his will by employing the common practices that greased the wheels of the political process in the post - World War II era: persuasion, manipulation, arm-twisting, and grandiloquent oratory rarely matched by his congressional colleagues. Between 1945 and 1980, Flood used his clout as a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee to wield near veto power over the $300 billion federal budget. Flood was instrumental in funding the Cold War as well as the 'Great Society' social reforms of the 1960s.
A consummate pork-barrel politician, the mustachioed congressman channeled billions of dollars into a northeast Pennsylvania district suffering from a declining anthracite coal industry. As a result, the well-educated scion of the middle class was accepted by his blue-collar constituents as 'one of their own' and elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for sixteen terms. Accused of improprieties in arranging federal contracts, Flood became the subject of sweeping investigations by the U.S. Attorney General and the House Ethics Committee. A federal court case resulted in a mistrial in February 1979. Stripped of his congressional power, ravaged by illness, and facing a second bribery trial, Flood resigned from Congress on January 31, 1980. Based on recently declassified FBI documents, court records, public papers, and contemporary newspaper accounts, as well as more than thirty interviews of Flood's widow, congressional colleagues, and Capitol Hill staff, "Dapper Dan Flood" explodes the myths surrounding Pennsylvania's controversial - and colorful - congressman. It is a story of power, accomplishment, and, ultimately, failure and humiliation.
William C. Kashatus is a professional historian who earned a doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania.