Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dennett Testifies in "Dick to Dick" Scandal

The House Committee on the Interior Department Expenditures heard testimony from Land Office Commissioner Fred Dennett today in what has been called the "Dick-to-Dick" scandal in Washington.  The scandal began several days ago when it came to light that Charles Taft may have asked his brother, the President, to remove Controller Bay in Alaska from the Chugach National Forest at the request of Richard Ryan, likely promoter of the Guggenheim interests in the territory, though Ryan has denied the allegation.

The story came to light in the July 7 Washington Times when the paper reported the discovery of the "Dick-to-Dick" letter by newspaper writer, Miss M. F. Abbott.  The letter sent last July from Ryan to then-Interior Secretary Richard Ballinger, a known Guggenheim collaborator, purported that Ryan would approach Charles Taft in order to change the president's opinion of Ryan:
Dear Dick: I went to see the President the other day about this Controller Bay affair. The President asked me whom I represented. I told him, according to our agreement, that I represented myself. But that didn't seem to satisfy him. So I sent for Charlie Taft, and asked him to tell his brother who it was I really represented. The President made no further objection to my claim. Yours, DICK.
Several months afterward, the President did remove Controller Bay from the National Forest through a secret Executive Order.  The order was sent to the General Land Office six days after it was issued.  That delay, between October 28 and November 3, 1910 allowed Ryan to get his paperwork together to establish a claim to enough property in Controller Bay to establish supremacy in the area.

Ryan has denied that he part of the Guggenheim Syndicate, a group led by Daniel Guggenheim, who are trying to establish control to coal fields in the Chugach National Forest.  After another scandal which led to Secretary Ballinger's resignation, their claims to the coal fields were rejected.  Controller Bay would be the natural harbor from which to ship material to and from the coal fields.  Ryan instead claims that he represents a competitor to the Guggenheim's in Alaska.

Commissioner Dennett's testimony focused on the legality of surveys conducted by the Ryan group shortly before the Executive Order was issued.  Unsurveyed lands are not subject to entry, and Dennett would comment on whether surveys conducted illegally could be submitted to the Interior Department.  The surveys had been approved, and were the basis on which Ryan submitted his claims.

In a related story, both the President and the current Interior Secretary, Walter Fischer, are back in Washington to deal with this growing scandal.  Both the Taft and Fischer deny knowledge of any "Dick-to-Dick" letter.  Secretary Fischer further stated that he and his staff searched all the files in the Interior Department and could find no such letter.  In fact, he believes that no such letter exists.

Miss Abbott's article on the Controller Bay scandal can be found in the May 21 issue of Collier's.

Link: House Committee Starts Hunt for "Dick-Dick" Letter [The Washington Times]
Link: The Latest in Alaska: Controller Bay and Its Control of the Alaskan Situation [Collier's]

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