Daniel (Dapper Dan) Flood, the flamboyant politician with the handlebar mustache who was a king to some but a crook to others, died Saturday.
Flood, 90, died of pneumonia at Mercy Hospital near the scene of his greatest political triumphs and his resounding, humiliating defeat in the swirl of a national bribery scandal 14 years ago.
Known for wearing debonair clothes to which he sometimes added a cape, Flood left Congress in disgrace in 1980 after 32 years. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy after a jury was unable to reach a verdict on 13 counts of bribery, perjury and conspiracy.
Prosecutors alleged that the Democrat used his powerful position as chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on labor, health, education and welfare to line his pockets with thousands of dollars from contractors and lobbyists and to divert payroll money into his own pocket.
Before a second trial could begin, Flood pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy. He was fined and placed on one-year probation. The original charges carried a maximum sentence of 155 years and $220,000 in fines.
The ailing Flood--who was suffering from a bone condition--told reporters at the time of the compromise: “I don’t think I have the physical or intellectual resources to defend myself adequately.”
He returned home to Wilkes-Barre, where his constituents would remember him more for his efforts on behalf of coal miners and victims of a 1972 flood than for his trespasses.
He greeted visitors while seated in a chair, with a sign that read “King” at its head and an American flag at his back.
There, he would speak quietly of how he helped change laws so the victims of the Susquehanna River flood that almost wiped out Wilkes-Barre in 1972 could be helped back into their homes; how he steered a bill through the Congress providing loans to the 80,000 flood victims at 1% interest, and providing $5,000 forgiveness for losses on income tax returns.
It was, he said in a 1982 interview, “the greatest (work) in my career.”
At his peak, he enjoyed the privileges of power as few had before him.
He spoke glowingly before his trial of that career:
“Nobody has more clout than Dan Flood,” he said. “Defense and HEW (Health, Education and Welfare) goes through my hands. Chum, that’s a big role. . . . Luckily, I’m a nice fellow. I can help out a lot of nice people.”
Flood’s chief accuser was Stephen B. Elko, his former administrative assistant. Elko served a three-year term for taking $25,000 in bribes to influence Flood.
Afterward, Flood maintained a low profile, venturing out only occasionally for a political dinner, veterans gathering, union meeting or a party celebrating his birthday.
Two years after his forced retirement, Flood spoke with sadness about his new role.
“I feel lost,” he said. “I was so active in Washington from early in the morning until midnight or later every night. Going to so many places, and doing so many things, and then mixing with the Senate and their problems and the conference committees. Learning and hearing about the whole spectrum of legislation which is before a Congress at any given time. . . . I especially miss the members coming to see me and asking me for help.”
Flood was born in nearby Hazleton. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Syracuse University and his law degree from Dickinson Law School.
Michael Clark, his aide from 1968 to 1980, said history will put Flood’s actions in perspective.
“Those Flood years will probably surface in glowing contrast to what is going on today in Washington,” Clark said.
Flood is survived by his wife, Catherine.