Editorial: Another clue in the case of the senator’s loot
A couple weeks back we wrote about the mystery of New Hampshire Sen. Styles Bridges’s loot. Turns out, the story might be slightly different than we knew.
To recap, Politico Magazine recently published a terrific piece about scandals and corruption in 1950s Washington, based on a never-before-published transcript of interviews with longtime Washington insider Bobby Baker. Included was a tale about Bridges’s widow, Doloris, asking Baker and Vice President Lyndon Johnson for advice. The widow had found a large stash of cash among the senator’s possessions after his death and didn’t know what to do with it. Baker said he never knew what came of it. But Michael Birkner, a Gettysburg College historian and former Monitor editorial writer, was able to fill out the story for us.
Mrs. Bridges, Birkner reported, had also asked Richard Upton, the former speaker of the New Hampshire House, for advice about the money. Upton told her to donate it to the Republican Party – and she did. Birkner knows this because he interviewed Upton before his death for a history book he’s working on.
Last week we had a call from Upton’s son, Bill, who said the version he heard from his dad was slightly different in one key element:
Richard Upton had advised Doloris Bridges to give the money – anonymously – to the national GOP, not the state Republicans as Birkner suggested. There’s logic to that version: A big anonymous gift to the state GOP might have ultimately been traced to Bridges. But a big gift to the national party would have had a better chance of staying anonymous.
Bill Upton, an antiques and fine arts appraiser and historian in Concord, said his father surmised that the money was surplus campaign contributions that Bridges had simply kept for personal use.
Bill Upton also notes that his father was involved in advising Mrs. Bridges only because his law firm settled Sen. Bridges’s estate after his death – he and the widow were not close.
How much money are we talking about? Baker called it $2 million. Birkner and Bill Upton describe it as considerably less –$120,000 or so. Did it ultimately benefit the national GOP? Those who know firsthand, alas, are long gone.