Robert Gene Baker is a name most modern Washingtonians probably don’t remember. But if you were paying attention to the gossip on Capitol Hill in the 1960’s, Baker was a household name. The man who came to D.C. in as a page during World War II rose through the ranks to become secretary for the Democratic majority, before meeting his demise and serving 18-months in prison on tax evasion charges, after a lengthy federal investigation. In 1973 he published his memoir, Wheeling and Dealing, and since then has remained out of the public eye. Until now.
In a POLITICO Magazine exclusive, the 85-year old Baker once again opened up to the press, to tell the frequent stories of sex and alcoholism that seemed to plague the world of Washington politics. Here are the seven juiciest stories he had to tell from an age gone by, from an anything goes period on Capitol Hill.
1. “Senator Hoey used to wear a swallowtail coat. The secretaries used to call me in the cloakroom because back then we always got paid in cash, twice a month. They’d say, ‘Is that old son of a bitch out there by the water fountain?’ Because what he would do, when a pretty girl would come by, he’d call her over and then he would try to play with her breasts.”
Clyde Hoey was a Democrat from North Carolina who was first elected to the Senate in 1944. He died in office 10 years later.
2. “Senator Kefauver had a drinking problem. He smelled like booze all the time, but he was not a mean man. His staff loved him … a tragic figure, but he was way ahead of all his Southern colleagues because when he first was elected to the Senate, he proposed a bill [to outlaw employment discrimination], which, oh, the Southerners, they hated. He was despised among all the Southern Democrats. Not a one of them liked him. But he had a bad alcohol problem and he also had a very bad record of wanting to go to bed with every woman he ever met. He got some of these young kids testifying, you know, before his Juvenile Committee or something and then he couldn’t wait to go to bed with them.”
Estes Kefauver was a Democrat from Tennessee. He was the running mate for Adlai Stevenson in 1956.
3. “Senator Javits was a publicity hound. He was a very, very bright man, but he was another one—like Senator Jack Kennedy—he was a sex maniac. One of the postmen went in and caught him on his couch having a sexual affair with a Negro lady. He couldn’t wait to come and tell me.”
Jacob Javits was a Republican from New York who was in the Senate from 1957 to 1981.
4. “I was always very fond of Senator Tommy Kuchel. He was a fun guy. … The difference between he and Senator Richard Nixon was that Senator Nixon could get 20 votes and Senator Tommy Kuchel could get 51. … Kuchel was having a relationship with his secretary, so he’d come over to me and ask me if I could send a page boy to buy him some rubbers—true story!”
Tom Kuchel was a Republican from California who was in the Senate for a little more than a decade and served as minority whip.
5. “Senator Talmadge was an extremely conservative Democrat from Georgia who had a monumental alcohol problem. He liked Senator Lyndon Johnson. He would hold his nose and vote for some things that Senator Johnson was proposing, but it turned out he was basically for hire. He was a crook, a bad crook. … He had a bitter divorce. I think she leaked the story that he had $100 bills in his top coat or something like that. He died with a broken heart… When I was in charge of Senator Lyndon Johnson’s vice presidential trip through the South, he was too drunk to show up.”
Herman Talmadge was a Democrat from Georgia who served in the Senate until 1981, as well as serving two stints as governor of Georgia.
6. “Oh, sure, all of the administrative assistants, every one of them had a girlfriend just like I did… Ellen Rometsch was … as pretty as Elizabeth Taylor. … She was sort of like me. She’d come from Germany broke. She really loved oral sex. So any time – 90 percent of the people who give you money want to know if you can get them a date. I don’t give a damn who they are. They’re away from mama and their wives and they have a tremendous desire to party. … Bill Thompson … said, ‘Baker, where did you get that good-looking woman? … You think if I invited her to my apartment she’ll go to the White House and see President Kennedy?’ I said, ‘She would jump at the chance.’ So she went to the White House several times. And President Kennedy called me and said it’s the best head-job he’d ever had, and he thanked me….
Ellen Rometsch was the wife of an East German Army Officer stationed at the German Embassy who was a frequent fixture at popular Capitol Hill bars. She was also a known spy, and was deported in the early 1960’s. Bill Thompson was a prominent lobbyist.
7. “Any time I had a rich guy in town, my secretary called her to see if [Rometsch] could go out. She told me that of all the people she had met … the nicest one was Congressman Jerry Ford. J. Edgar Hoover could not find out the happenings when the Warren Commission was investigating the killer of President Kennedy… So, he had this tape where Jerry Ford was having oral sex with Ellen Rometsch. You know, his wife had a serious drug problem back then. … Hoover blackmailed … Ford to tell him what they were doing. That’s the reason I don’t like him. It’s just a misuse of authority.”
Gerald Ford went on to become president of the United States in 1974.
[Image via CNN]