Estes Kefauver - Kefauver in Congress - in The Senate - Kefauver Committee

Kefauver Committee

In 1950, Kefauver headed a U.S. Senate committee investigating organized crime. The committee, officially known as the Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce, was popularly known as the Kefauver Committee or the Kefauver hearings. The Committee held hearings in fourteen cities and heard testimony from over 600 witnesses. Many of the witnesses were high-profile crime bosses, including such well-known names as Willie Moretti, Joe Adonis, and Frank Costello, the latter making himself famous by refusing to allow his face to be filmed during his questioning and then staging a much-publicized walkout. A number of politicians also appeared before the committee and saw their careers ruined. Among them were former Governor Harold G. Hoffman of New Jersey and Mayor William O'Dwyer of New York City. The committee's hearings, which were televised live just as many Americans were buying televisions, made Kefauver nationally famous and introduced many Americans to the concept of a criminal organization known as the Mafia for the first time ever. In fact, in 1951, Kefauver appeared as a celebrity guest on the new game show What's My Line? discussing the hearings briefly with the panel, showing how popular these hearings were with early television viewers.

Although the hearings boosted Kefauver's political prospects, they helped to end the twelve-year Senate career of Democratic Majority Leader Scott Lucas. In a tight 1950 reelection race against former Illinois Representative Everett Dirksen, Lucas urged Kefauver to keep his investigation away from an emerging Chicago police scandal until after election day, but Kefauver refused. Election-eve publication of stolen secret committee documents hurt the Democratic Party in Cook County, cost Lucas the election, and gave Dirksen national prominence as the man who defeated the Senate majority leader.

Read more about this topic:  Estes Kefauver, Kefauver in Congress, In The Senate

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