Читать онлайн "Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City" автора Johnson Nelson - RuLit - Страница 46

 
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There were the obligatory denials of the charges made by Perskie and Carmack, but there was no counteroffensive or debate on the campaign issues raised by the Fusion slate. Instead, Farley’s strategy was to go to his strength. He appealed to the ward leaders and precinct captains in terms they understood: If the Fusion slate won, the ward workers would lose their access to political patronage.

Farley also brought Nucky Johnson out of retirement and turned him loose in the Northside. Hap had no choice but to rely on Nucky. Despite his imprisonment and the passing of time, Nucky remained popular in Atlantic City’s Black community. “Farley could never cultivate the Blacks the way Johnson had. When Nucky went to jail everyone in the Black community assumed he’d eventually come back as the Boss. They never really accepted Farley.” Nucky stumped for the slate in every Black precinct, being introduced as “the champion of ’em all.” The strategy worked. The machine slate carried 49 of the 64 voting precincts. Carmack, the “high man” for the Fusion Ticket, trailed Tom Wooten, the machine’s “low man,” by nearly 3,000 votes. The revolt had been quelled. The political ward system constructed by Nucky Johnson more than 30 years earlier was still able to crank out the votes when it had to.

Without the political ward system, Farley’s slate would have gone down to defeat. Ward politics was the mortar that held things together; its influence was woven into the fabric of the community. The players in the ward system had a devotion bordering on religious fervor. Atlantic City’s ward politicians were streetwise foot soldiers, as disciplined and loyal a group as could be found in a well-trained army. And everyone was a soldier. A move up in the Republican machine meant not only more power but responsibility. From the lowliest ward heeler on up to Farley, every member of the organization had a job to do. The ward system was not a monolith headed by a dictator but rather a network of savvy politicians who worked at their craft daily. Farley was boss because he was the one at the top of the pyramid, and remained there only because he delivered to those under him. The pressure to deliver was constant. Hap Farley either performed as expected or he would have been replaced.

Farley was boss, but he wasn’t the day-to-day ruler of the political ward system. Just as he had insulated himself from the rackets by delegating authority to Stumpy Orman, he did the same with political matters. Farley enjoyed his role as a legislator, manipulating the state senate, more than anything. He couldn’t immerse himself into local politics to the extent Nucky had and still have time for his duties in Trenton. Orman’s counterpart was James Boyd, Clerk of the County Board of Freeholders.

Jimmy Boyd or “Boydie” had been a protégé of Nucky Johnson. He and Johnson met in the 1920s when Nucky was becoming involved with Luciano and the Seven Group. Johnson needed someone to whom he could assign a portion of his political chores. Boyd was a bellhop at the Ritz Carlton where Nucky lived, and they took to one another almost immediately. Boyd had a knack for politics and manipulating people, whether by charm or intimidation. Johnson recognized his talent and groomed Boyd to take care of political details for him. Starting out as an assistant to Nucky’s personal secretary, Mae Paxson, and then, with the boss’s help, moving quickly through the ranks to become freeholder clerk and Fourth Ward leader, Boyd was one of Johnson’s most trusted lieutenants. Hap Farley inherited Jimmy Boyd. He couldn’t have replaced him if he wanted to.

Jimmy Boyd was “the guy where you ran into the NO.” Every political leader who relies on the voters for his power needs someone to be the heavy. Letting a supporter know his request can’t be granted is dangerous business for a candidate. There has to be a thick-skinned S.O.B. to take the heat when there is bad news to be delivered. “Hap, and Nucky before him, couldn’t come right out and tell you NO. He needed someone to do it for him and Boyd was the one.” Farley never told anyone no, and rarely gave someone an unconditional yes. More often than not, no matter what the request, Farley would say, “It’s okay with me, but you’d better go over and see Boydie. He’ll work out the details.”

Working out the details could be an unsettling experience. When he wanted to, Boyd had a “personality like a piece of ice.” He knew most people were intimidated by the power Farley let him exercise and exploited their relationship for all it was worth. He usually started out by telling the favor-seeker that what he wanted couldn’t be done, or to list all the problems granting the request would create. He did this as a matter of routine even when the answer was clearly yes. Boyd knew how to capitalize for political gain on every opportunity. The more difficult it was to grant a favor, the more indebted the constituent would be to the organization.

As the day-to-day leader of Atlantic City’s four political wards, Jimmy Boyd was the enforcer, the one who imposed discipline and kept things running smoothly. Boyd arranged all the meetings and scheduled candidates’ appearances. He made the ward workers jump to their assignments. If anyone complained that their task couldn’t be done, Boyd would say sarcastically, “Sure, that’s okay, we’ll just postpone the election.” But the sarcasm was the only warning. If the job didn’t get done, the worker was replaced and quickly found himself an observer with no access to the organization or its patronage. Jimmy Boyd “had the ability to pull things together with an iron hand.” Boyd learned well from Nucky and understood that to remain in control, the Republican machine had to be run like a business.

The organization survived on “services provided.” Boyd had a disciplined network of political workers who were in daily contact with the community. Every lost job, arrest, illness, death, request for financial assistance, or new resident in the neighborhood was reported to the precinct captain. If the matter was important enough, it would be brought to the ward leader and possibly Boyd or Farley. No matter what the problem, the ward workers had orders to make an effort to solve it. Nothing could be left to chance. Every voter had to be accounted for, especially someone new to the neighborhood, “You had better not let anybody move into your precinct without registering them to vote or you would hear about it.” Under Jimmy Boyd, “politics was a business, an absolute business.”

The business of politics produced more than votes. It could generate money, and not all of it was from the obvious sources of graft and extortion. A classic example was Jimmy Boyd’s ice cream monopoly. During the summer seasons of the ’50s and ’60s a combine consisting of Boyd, Edward Nappen, and Reuben Perr had a corner on the sale of ice cream on the Atlantic City beach. There wasn’t a popsicle or ice cream cone sold from which Boyd and company didn’t profit.

The ice cream combine was a natural. Each of the principals brought a special talent to the project. After World War II the state adopted legislation giving veterans priority for the right to peddle goods in public; however, it was a right subject to local licensing and Boyd had absolute control over who received a license. Despite the fact that as clerk to the freeholder board Boyd had no official tie with city hall, his relationship with Farley gave him the undisputed jurisdiction over such matters. During his reign as Fourth Ward leader there wasn’t a business license for anything that didn’t require Boyd’s approval. Ever the conniver, it took Jimmy Boyd no time to see the potential in the situation.

     

 

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