Saturday, August 14, 2010
Former US Representative Dan Rostenkowski died of lung cancer Wednesday at his vacation home in Genoa City, Wisconsin. Rostenkowski, whose political career ended in the early 1990s after he was convicted on fraud charges, was 82.
Rostenkowski’s death was confirmed by his spokesperson, Jim Jaffe, who said that the former congressman had been receiving treatment for lung cancer for a while. Rostenkowski had previously been treated for prostate cancer in the 1990s.
Rostenkowski was born on January 2, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois. He was an athlete and declined an invitation to try out for the Philadelphia Athletics (now the Oakland Athletics) in order to pursue a career in politics. Rostenkowski attended St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy in Wisconsin, served with the US Army in Korea, and graduated from Loyola University in 1951.
Rostenkowski’s political career was supported by the Cook County political machine, and he became a member of the Illinois state legislature in 1952, one year after graduating from college. In 1958, when he was 30, Rostenkowski was elected to the US House of Representatives. In 1961, he began serving on the United States House Committee on Ways and Means, the chief committee of the House for writing taxes. From 1981–1994, he served as the committee’s chairman. Rostenkowski was involved in the creation of Medicare in 1966 and he helped make amendments to the Social Security system in 1983.
In 1992, a federal jury began an inquiry into the House post office, and Rostenkowski was accused of buying US$22,000 in stamps with government funds and then turning them into cash. The investigation, which lasted two years, led to Republican allegations of corruption within the Democratic party. In 1994, Rostenkowski was charged with 17 felony counts, including the use of federal money to purchase furniture, and obstruction of justice. In order to avoid a trial, Rostenkowski made a deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to two counts of mail fraud in exchange for fifteen months in prison, two months in a halfway house, and a US$100,000 fine.
Rostenkowski, who was not reelected for a nineteenth term in Congress in 1994, continued to maintain his innocence, and was pardoned by US President Bill Clinton in 2000.