In a 1961 memo to the White House, an agent summarized allegations that Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr. took payoffs from applicants to the police force, and helped to hinder the investigation and prosecution of crimes.
While Washington, D.C. was riveted Jan. 6 on events at the U.S. Capitol, the FBI quietly released a trove of files from an “urgent” — yet seemingly controlled — investigation 60 years ago into Nancy Pelosi’s father.
The files reveal the results of an intense two-month investigation into Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr., a Maryland politician who served in a long career as a member of Congress and mayor of Baltimore.
John F. Kennedy’s White House ordered the investigation after JFK planned to appoint D’Alesandro to a government post. A routine FBI name check revealed “allegations” against D’Alessandro, according to a Feb. 6, 1961 teletype from “FBI Director.” The director at the time was J. Edgar Hoover.
The “urgent” teletype seemed to signal the goal of ensuring that D’Alesandro would be appointed to a government watchdog board that reviewed defense contracts.
“The White House has requested that we proceed with a special inquiry investigation but that if substantial derogatory information were developed, we should report this and discontinue any further inquiries because substantiation of any of the allegations would eliminate Mr. D’Alesandro,” the FBI director wrote in the teletype that is located on page 19 of the trove.
“Assign immediately,” Hoover wrote, instructing the Baltimore and Washington field offices to “afford continuous attention” to the investigation.
In sometimes illegible and heavily redacted reproductions, the 248-page collection shows that FBI agents were tasked with running down rumors and facts surrounding their man.
“There have been allegations that D’Alesandro has associated with the Baltimore criminal element and [redacted] and the son, Franklin Roosevelt D’Alesandro, had been arrested for rape,” an agent wrote on page 14 of the trove. The allegations may have been rumor, the agent noted.
Elsewhere in the trove, agents wrote about the son, who was arrested and acquitted on charges that saw others convicted of raping two young girls, aged 11 and 13. The young D’Alesandro, who died in 2007, also was tried and acquitted of perjury in relation to that case.
In the 1961 inquiry into the senior D’Alesandro, the G-men delved decades into their subject’s past.
“In 1945 it was alleged that one Charles F. Cammarata had been able to get away with all sorts of criminal activities in Baltimore, Maryland, and had operated almost unmolested due to his friendship with and the protection of Congressman D’Alesandro,” one unnamed agent wrote in a Jan. 30, 1961 memo to the White House.
In the same memo, which begins on page 38 of the collection, the agent summarizes allegations that a powerful D’Alesandro took payoffs from applicants to the police force, and that he helped to hinder the investigation and prosecution of crimes.
Elsewhere, the memo cites a “confidential source, who has furnished reliable information in the past,” reporting that D’Alesandro appeared onstage at a 1943 rally for the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, which was formed in 1943 by the Coummunist Party USA as a Soviet front group, according to the FBI.
The following year, the memo notes, D’Alesandro was reported as the main speaker at an event for the International Workers Order, an insurance organization placed on a list of subversive organizations by the U.S. attorney general in 1947 and later disbanded by order of the New York State Insurance Department for being too closely aligned with the Communist Party, in violation of regulations prohibiting political activity in the industry.
In a series of endorsements commencing on page 129 of the trove, a phalanx of associates — judges, politicians, friends, and acquaintances — described D’Alesandro in glowing terms. He was “upright,” they said, or “loyal,” “honest,” and a devoted family man.
Two acquaintances hedged their praise. In an undated memo, one agent wrote: “Another individual stated he would be hesitant in recommending D’Alesandro for any office where he would be in a position to award contracts without first having the approval of another supervisor.”
Following the investigation, the Senate confirmed D’Alesandro for the contract oversight position. He was sworn into office on March 28, 1961, while his wife, along with JFK and a young Nancy, looked on. D’Alesandro served on the Renegotiation Board, which later was disbanded.
In 1966, Mildred Stegall, who at the time was an assistant to President Lyndon Baines Johnson, contacted the FBI and asked them to search their files for material on D’Alesandro. The resulting FBI memo, dated Sept. 21, 1966 and reproduced on page 16 of the trove, did not explain why Stegall wanted the information.
The FBI did not disclose why the entire collection was released on Jan. 6, and did not immediately respond to the News.
Thomas D’Alesandro died in 1987, at age 84.