Dapper Dan Flood: The Controversial Life of a Congressional Power Broker
By William C. Kashatus
360 pages. 41 illustrations, 2 maps, bibliography, notes, index
ISBN 978-0-271-03618-2 $29.95 hard cover
Daniel J. Flood was among the last of the old-time movers and shakers on Capitol Hill. A flamboyant vaudevillian who became a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania, he was a sight on the House floor, sporting white linen suits, silk top hats, and dark, flowing capes. Flood 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 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. This consummate pork-barrel politician was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for sixteen terms. Eventually 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.
Based on recently declassified FBI documents, court records, public papers, and contemporary newspaper accounts, as well as more than thirty interviews of Floods widow, congressional colleagues, and Capitol Hill staff, Dapper Dan Flood explodes the myths surrounding this controversial Pennsylvania congressman.
“Kashatus’s account has all but made Dan Flood return to life. He chronicles the strengths and weaknesses of one of our nation’s most colorful — and powerful — congressmen. It is a fascinating story that should be read by those who wish to enrich their knowledge of our political system. As one who interacted frequently with Dan Flood, I can recommend Kashatus’s biography. His judgments on Flood are not always favorable, but they are always balanced and fair.” – Frank C. Carlucci, former U.S. Secretary of Defense
“Dan Flood ranks among Pennsylvania’s leading twentieth-century public servants. A remarkable legislator and orator who had the unusual qualities of empathy and compassion for the struggling, Flood was deeply committed to the Eleventh Congressional District as well as to national Great Society policies, such as Medicare and Appalachian economic development. William Kashatus has done justice to Flood and his legacy. This biography is a must-read for those interested in politics, public policy, and history.” – Kenneth C. Wolensky, Historian, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission