July 27, 2010

(Buron Fitts - the sort of DA Mickey Spillane would write about)

I guess every large metropolitan area has its fair share of historic corruption and Los Angeles is no different. If you live in Los Angeles you may hear the name Clifford Clinton from time to time and be reminded of Clifton's Cafeteria, something of a legendary landmark and famous for it's credo of "pay what you can" during the depression years.

But Clinton was also something of a firebrand muckraker in the 1930's which seems to have gone unnoticed over time. Clinton was adamantly opposed to the corrupt political machine that ran Los Angeles in the 1920's and had woven itself into the fabric of L.A. - Clinton hosted a daily radio show, heard on KFAC from the late 1930's to 1940's and spent his fifteen allotted minutes digging up dirt and exposing corruption within the city four times a day.

Clifford Clinton: “ In one of our visits to persons whose help we thought would assist in the exposure of vice and the racket payoff system in Los Angeles, we stepped into a well laid trap. A Dictatophone that was set out to find our exact intentions. When those intentions were discovered, Los Angeles was soon to learn once more, that those who profited by the millions annually as a result of protected law violations in Los Angeles would not stop at murder to protect those illicit profits”.

It certainly didn't endear him to the power structure that was Los Angeles at the time. In fact, he was the intended victim of a house bombing in 1937, carried out by the LAPD who were in the pocket of the Mayor, Frank Shaw who would later be thrown out of office on his own set of corruption charges.

This broadcast, from August 13, 1940 takes aim at District Attorney Buron Fitts, who was part of the Shaw machine. Since it was an election year, Clinton was supporting Reform candidate John Dockweiler (yes Angelenos, the namesake of that beach near El Segundo), who Fitts was actively smearing as a draft dodger during World War 1 (remember, when they say "The World War" they mean the first one as the second one hadn't started yet). Dockweiler's brother takes part in an interview with Clinton to answer the smears and take his own shots at the DA.

Buron Fitts would lose the election and Frank Shaw had already been thrown out in 1938. But Los Angeles was by no means done with corruption.

Just in case you were wondering . . .

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