SEPTEMBER 24, 1952
HYDE PARK, Tuesday—I must say something today about the subject that has certainly caused a great deal of excitement in these past few days—the discovery that Senator Richard Nixon, the Vice Presidentialcandidate of the Republican ticket, has been using an $18,000 expense fund raised by his California supporters.
Listing his personal resources and expenditures in order to clear himself of any possible personal accusation of the misuse of these funds seemed to me to be a mistake. It is not proper to require men in public office to list their private assets and account in detail for all their expenditures.
What is required is that where a man is a public servant he should not receive money from sources which, no matter how respectable, may bring some undue influence to bear. These friends might expect some return for their gifts at a given point where their own interests are concerned and a public official who had received money, no matter for how good a purpose, would perhaps find it difficult to vote according to his conscience against the wishes of people who had been upholding some special interests of his.
This whole question points up, I think, the need that we must pay higher salaries to Senators, Representatives, judges and executive officers in both state and Federal positions. In many cases salaries are such that a man cannot live on his salary, so he must engage in business or receive some outside assistance.
For a nation like ours this does not seem right. Allowances should be given to public servants for entertaining where it is necessary and to cover such expenses as are considered legitimate to their position and for travel. Their salaries should compare favorably with the salaries in other occupations of importance. Merely stating that serving the government brings a man opportunities in the future and some renown in the present is not the proper way to safeguard our public interest.
It would not be right, it seems to me, to think that Senator Nixon had in any way felt that this fund was something he should not accept. He probably reasoned that these were men with whom he saw eye to eye and anything they desired he would desire and there would be no conflict at any point.
That reasoning, however, will no longer satisfy the public, I am sure. The people know the weakness of human nature and the pressures which personal interests make some people bring to bear on public officials. Therefore, the standard of what should or should not be done by men in public office is getting higher and higher in an effort to eliminate the possibility that improper pressures will become effective.
The suggestion I have made is the only one, it seems to me, that would make it more possible for a man in public life to carry on his work efficiently and feel utterly free to any outside pressures.