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Where the Evidence Leads

Where the Evidence Leads: An Autobiography, Revised and Updated

Dick Thornburgh
Copyright Date: 2003
https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjsqd
Pages: 460
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hjsqd
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  • Book Info
    Where the Evidence Leads
    Book Description:

    Set in any era, Dick Thornburgh's brilliant career would merit study and retelling. He was the first Republican elected to two successive terms as governor of Pennsylvania. He served in the Department of Justice under five presidents, including three years as attorney general for Presidents Reagan and Bush. As undersecretary-general of the United Nations, he was the highest-ranking American in the organization and a strong voice for reform.Nationally, Thornburgh is best remembered for his three years as attorney general, when he managed some of the most vexing legal matters of the modern age: the Savings and Loan and BCCI scandals; controversy over the "Iraqgate" and INSLAW investigations and the Wichita abortion clinic protests; and prosecutions of Michael Milken, Manuel Noriega, and Marion Barry, as well as those involved in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the Rodney King beating.As governor of Pennsylvania, he faced the nation's worst nuclear accident, weeks after his inauguration in 1979. Thornburgh's cool-headed response to the Three Mile Island disaster is often studied as a textbook example of emergency management. His historic 1992 battle against Harris Wofford for the late John Heinz III's Senate seat is one of several political campaigns, vividly recalled, that reveal the inner workings of the commonwealth's political machinery.Thornburgh reveals painful details of his personal life, including the automobile accident that claimed the life of his first wife and permanently disabled his infant son. He presents a frank analysis of the challenges of raising a family as a public figure, and tells the moving story of his personal and political crusade that culminated in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.This revised and updated edition includes a new chapter devoted to the highlights of Thornburgh's continuing career. He offers fascinating insights into his experiences as Bankruptcy Court Examiner for the WorldCom proceedings, leading the investigation into the CBS News report on President George W. Bush's military service record, representing Allegheny County coroner Cyril Wecht in a trial over alleged misuse of public office, and as part of the K&L Gates team consulted by Chiquita Brands during a federal investigation over payments made to Colombian guerillas and paramilitaries to protect banana growers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7388-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. 1 Beginnings
    (pp. 1-12)

    My earliest memories are of warmth—the warmth of family, the warmth of friends, the warmth of community.

    The community was Rosslyn Farms, established in the early 1900s about seven miles west of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On July 16, 1932, the date of my birth, it was still almost “country,” a comfortable upper-middle-class community of a hundred or so households where my family had settled during the 1920s. Rosslyn Farms was racially, ethnically and religiously homogeneous, and virtually untouched by the Great Depression. Any issues that surfaced were generally mundane and noncontentious. It was the kind of community where doors were...

  2. 2 Tragedy and Recovery
    (pp. 13-24)

    Some days you notice more than others. Some days you remember better than others. Some days you never forget. Such a day for me was Friday, July 1, 1960.

    Ginny offered to drive me to the office that morning, as she did from time to time, partly to keep the boys entertained. I waved good-bye as they set off to return home and settled into my routine. About 10:25, the telephone rang. The caller identified himself as a police officer. “Mr. Thornburgh,” he said, “there has been an accident.” My mind raced during the fifteen-minute cab ride to South Side...

  3. 3 Running for Office
    (pp. 25-36)

    The Fourteenth Congressional District basically encompassed inner-city Pittsburgh: downtown, several comfortable residential neighborhoods, and some of our most segregated and poverty-ridden sectors. It was multiethnic, with Irish, Italian, Polish and other Eastern European strains predominating, and vital black and Jewish communities. Democrats outnumbered Republicans by over three to one, and the area had long been represented by a Democratic congressman.

    The four-term incumbent was William S. Moorhead Jr., a wealthy lawyer from a prominent Pittsburgh family, who had been handpicked by the Lawrence machine in 1958. He was a good congressman and his campaigns had been easy ones, as the...

  4. 4 Federal Prosecutor
    (pp. 37-61)

    My initial response to Elsie’s question was, “What does a U.S. attorney do?” Nonetheless, I set about to explore the ramifications of the offer. Elsie and Bob Duggan were engaged in a struggle over the position, which Duggan sought for his cousin, First Assistant District Attorney James Dunn. I found the intensity of Duggan’s opposition to me somewhat surprising, as we had had a cordial enough relationship, and he had even campaigned for me in 1966. Only in years to come did the probable reasons for his concern over the appointment of someone not under his control become apparent.

    After...

  5. 5 Serving in Washington, D.C.
    (pp. 62-73)

    Favorable publicity regarding our prosecutions, especially of corruption and racketeering cases, led to some curiosity as to my personal agenda. After the first round of corruption convictions, Sherley Uhl, chief political writer for thePittsburgh Press, wrote a column projecting me into races for mayor, district attorney, congressman and senator. Others indulged in similar speculations. While flattering, these made me an even more inviting target for those, such as Governor Shapp and Sheriff Coon, who sought to lay all of their problems at the feet of a “political” U.S. attorney.

    The guesswork came to an end in March 1975, when...

  6. 6 Running for Governor: The Primary
    (pp. 74-85)

    Long before I left Washington, there was widespread speculation that I would seek the Pennsylvania governor’s office in 1978. This was fueled, in part, by Governor Shapp’s charges of political prosecutions. But the most potent argument for my prospective candidacy derived from genuine public concern about corruption and mismanagement in state government and the widely acknowledged need to “clean up Harrisburg.” Republicans, eager to end a two-term hiatus in control of the governor’s office, were determined to mount a serious campaign in 1978 and saw the issue of reform as a viable one. My credentials as a prosecutor therefore established...

  7. 7 The Victory!
    (pp. 86-104)

    A week after the primary election, a massive “unity brunch” was held in the Harrisburg suburb of Camp Hill. Nearly 1,000 excited Republicans jammed the event. GOP National Chairman Bill Brock was there to describe our election as “absolutely crucial” to the Republican Party’s hopes to regain the White House in 1980. All present left the event with a real sense of optimism about the fall campaign. But a number of bombshells were soon to fall.

    The first resulted from our tactical decision not to disclose, during the primary, the financial contributions made to my campaign. When we made the...

  8. 8 A Rough Start: Three Mile Island
    (pp. 105-124)

    As we settled into the “Executive Mansion,” one of our first items of business was to change its name to the “Governor’s Home.” As Ginny said, “Four boys and a black-and-white dog don’t live in a ‘mansion’!” The house had been unoccupied for several years following the 1972 Hurricane Agnes flood, and it became an immediate priority of Ginny’s and mine to make it a source of pride for all Pennsylvanians. Committees were formed to provide advice and financial assistance in upgrading the public space in the building and redesigning the grounds. Many fine works of art were donated, and...

  9. 9 Reshaping Pennsylvania’s Economy
    (pp. 125-146)

    Returning to consideration of the budget, we found there were already Republican holdouts in the House. In view of our 58 percent electoral support from African American voters, Rick Stafford boldly made overtures to the all-Democrat Black Caucus, offering its members an opportunity to become more independent of their party leadership. A show of political muscle on the budget, we urged, would enable them to stake out much stronger positions on their own interests later.

    Unfortunately for us and, I believe, for these members as well as their constituencies, partisan allegiance overcame their strategic sense. The caucus took a hard...

  10. 10 A Governor’s Agenda
    (pp. 147-174)

    In addition to economic development, my administration focused on four other key areas: social services, education, crime and quality of life. On October 2, 1979, I presented my first substantive agenda to the General Assembly, outlining our goals in these areas. This agenda, supplemented and amended from time to time, was our road map throughout my time in Harrisburg. Stating it at the outset also provided benchmarks against which our accomplishments could be measured—a course that was not without risk.

    One of the first problems we chose to address was welfare reform, which combined fiscal and humanitarian concerns. The...

  11. 11 The Politics of the Governorship
    (pp. 175-195)

    Throughout my time in the governor’s office I was active in groups such as the NGA, the Republican Governors Association (RGA), the Coalition of Northeast Governors (CONEG), the Appalachian Regional Commission and, by appointment of President Reagan, the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR). Many of their sessions were rather tedious, but they gave me an opportunity to work on broader issues and to enter some important national networks.

    My principal focus within the NGA was the federal deficit. The states had a major interest in deficit reduction and debt containment. After grappling with the specifics of the federal budget...

  12. 12 Harvard and a Return to Washington
    (pp. 196-207)

    On January 20, 1987, Ginny and I attended the inauguration of Governor Robert P. Casey and thereafter left Harrisburg—somewhat sadly, but with a real sense of accomplishment and excitement about what the future might hold. We were headed, somewhat surprisingly, for Boston.

    I was to have several unexpected opportunities. Secretary of State George Shultz asked if I would be interested in becoming administrator of the Agency for International Development, and Attorney General Edwin Meese asked if I would consider appointment as director of the FBI. I had no strong desire to take on the important AID responsibility toward the...

  13. 13 Battling White-Collar Crime
    (pp. 208-226)

    On October 7, 1988, I addressed the staff of the department to spell out my priorities: a vigorous assault on drug trafficking, a continued focus on organized and white-collar crime and stepped-up activity in the civil rights, antitrust and environmental fields. I also asked that the department “speak with one voice” to the public, the press and Congress so as to avoid giving aid and comfort to our critics, and closed with my familiar request that there be “no surprises . . . whether it’s good news or bad, I want to hear it first from you and not from...

  14. 14 Crime-Fighting in the Department of Justice
    (pp. 227-247)

    “If you want to lose the war on drugs, just leave it to law enforcement.”

    I made this startling observation to audiences across the United States during and long after my service as attorney general. It was meant not to denigrate the dedicated efforts of law enforcement officials, but to remind listeners that no efforts to jail suppliers and dealers would obliterate a fundamentally demand-driven problem. The real answer to the drug dilemma lies in the creation of value systems that will not tolerate drug use and in the treatment and rehabilitation of those already committed to the drug culture....

  15. 15 A Global Effort
    (pp. 248-260)

    The Antitrust Division and the Land and Natural Resources Division (which we renamed in 1990 the Environment and Natural Resources Division) had been heavily criticized during the Reagan years. Consistent with the media perception of the federal government’s probusiness bias during the 1980s, these operations were considered to have been less than vigorous in promoting competition and protecting the environment, respectively. These perceptions were greatly exaggerated, but clearly some new messages were needed. In both cases, I believe, we achieved some limited success.

    Speaking to the department’s environmental lawyers in January 1991, I summarized the reasons for our commitment to...

  16. 16 The ADA and Other Domestic Endeavors
    (pp. 261-276)

    The Department of Justice had unique opportunities to contribute to President Bush’s vision of “a kinder, gentler America.” Nowhere were these opportunities more manifest than in the work to enact the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which secured the civil rights of 54 million Americans with disabilities. I take great pride in having served as the administration’s point man in this effort.

    Speaking for the administration before House and Senate committees in 1989, I stated our commitment to “attacking discrimination in employment, public services, transportation, public accommodations, and telecommunications.” I noted the “anomaly of widely protecting women and minorities...

  17. 17 Criticisms: Fair and Unfair
    (pp. 277-299)

    My substantive work at the department was consistently interesting and challenging. The nonlegal aspects of the job were even more challenging and were ultimately to frustrate me enormously. Tangles with other officials, interest groups and the press demanded sizable amounts of energy that could better have been spent elsewhere.

    One set of battles involved my appointments to key positions within the department. At the beginning of the Bush administration, the most important post I had to fill was that of deputy attorney general, the department’s chief operating officer. Intent on finding the best possible person for this crucial position, I...

  18. 18 Running for the Senate
    (pp. 300-315)

    On April 4, 1991, Sam Skinner called to tell me that Senator John Heinz had been killed in a small-airplane crash.

    The news was devastating to all of Pennsylvania. John Heinz was easily the most popular politician in the state, all the more so because he had forsaken the life of easy wealth to which he had been born to seek a career in public service. He was also a bright, hard-working and principled senator who had earned the respect of many colleagues.

    A special election would be held that fall to fill the vacancy created by Senator Heinz’s death....

  19. 19 A Sojourn at the United Nations
    (pp. 316-333)

    The call from President Bush came about 9:30 on Monday morning, February 3, 1992.

    “Dick,” the familiar voice began, “I’m not sure if this is something you would be interested in, but we need some help at the United Nations.” He went on to explain that he and Secretary of State Jim Baker were concerned about the management problems that the organization faced in meeting its post–Cold War responsibilities. Would I consider a one-year appointment to the UN’s top management position: undersecretary-general for administration and management? As a longtime supporter of the UN, I knew immediately that this was...

  20. 20 Return to the Law and Other Pursuits
    (pp. 334-361)

    At the end of February 1993, I left New York and headed back to Washington, my twenty-five-year career in public office at an end. I looked forward to resuming life under one roof with my beloved Ginny. And after over two decades of the pressure-cooker environment of public responsibility, I was ready for a transition to the role of “useful citizen.”

    Ginny had, of course, already more than achieved that status. Her work as Director of the Religion and Disability Program at NOD had continued to prosper. Her principal effort was the writing and editing of a handsome and useful...

  21. 21 Investigations, Litigation and Other Legal Capers
    (pp. 362-394)

    In august 2002, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York appointed me to serve as the examiner in the case filed by WorldCom, one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies. This sorry tale of corporate wrongdoing involved playing fast and loose with accounting rules and misreporting nearly $11 billion in revenues and expenditures, all in a failed effort to sustain an appearance of profitability during a dramatic downturn in the telecommunications business. The Dow Jones News Service headlined its story about my appointment, “Thornburgh Says WorldCom Probe Will Follow the Evidence Wherever It Leads.” So began...

  22. Afterword
    (pp. 395-398)

    Life has provided me with a wonderful succession of opportunities, for which I will be eternally grateful. Never would I have dreamed during my schooling or the early years of my career that so many exciting challenges would be forthcoming or that they would lead me to so many fascinating people and places. Thanks to these opportunities, I have been able to heed in some measure the admonition of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “It is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of his time, at peril of being judged not to have lived.” I...