“Never let any of your sons enter politics. It is a lousy game”
Born in South Amboy, New Jersey, on 7 February 1896, Harold Giles Hoffman served in Company H, Third Regiment, New Jersey Infantry from 25 July 1917, rising to the rank of captain of the 114th Regiment Infantry. In 1920 he was appointed his home town’s city treasurer. He represented, as a Republican, New Jersey’s third congressional district in the United States House of Representatives, from 4 March 1927 until 3 March 1931. His daughter, Ada, wrote a campaign poem:
“Lucky, plucky, happy fella,
Once he’s started, he won’t stop.
And he’ll win this darned election,
I should know — cause he’s my Pop!”
Four years later on 15 January 1935, he was the Governor of New Jersey, a position he held until 18 January 1938. He also served simultaneously as the president of the South Amboy Trust Company. During his gubernatorial term, he was involved in at least two punch-ups with reporters including one with lightweight boxer, turned hack, Lou Angelo and falling out with his own party meant that he was not re-nominated for a second term in office. It was not until 16 years after he left office that Hoffman’s crimes came to light. On 18 March 1954 Governor Robert B. Meyner suspended Hoffman from his role as Employment Security Division Director after discovering a substantial amount of money had been embezzled from the state. It had been in the 1926 election that Hoffman first began to steal. He was promised $17,000 in campaign donations by Senator Hamilton Kean and duly spent that amount but when the pledge was made good he had only $2,500. Hoffman spent freely in Washington but left Congress to become Commissioner of Motor Vehicles in 1928. The job gave him access to public money. Every month, he would take up to $50,000, covering his tracks with forgeries, fake ledger statements and fund transfers.
New Jersey, USA
In May 1954 Hoffman wrote a letter to his daughter in an envelope bearing the legend, “Do not open until my death”. In it, he confessed to stealing $300,000 from New Jersey. “It is a sad heritage I leave to Mother… and to you. But I pray it may be somewhat softened by the knowledge that I do love you all so much… Never let any of your sons enter politics. It is a lousy game. In order to be elected, you must necessarily accept favors from alarge number of people. If you attempt to repay them after being elected to office, it becomes wrongdoing. If you don’t, you are an ingrate.” Before he could be tried he died of a heart attack while bending down to tie his shoelaces in a New York City hotel room on 4 June 1954.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
On 16 October 1935 while governor, Hoffman carried out a secret visit to Bruno Hauptmann, the alleged kidnapper of the Lindbergh baby (search the article) and afterwards encouraged the members of the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals to visit the prisoner because he had doubts as to Hauptmann’s guilt. They ignored Hoffman’s appeals.