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The Election Case of Einar Hoidale v. Thomas D. Schall of Minnesota (1933)

Campaign irregularities.

Petition presented: Apr. 14, 1932
Referred to committee: Apr. 14, 1932
Committee report: Jan. 17, 1933
Senate vote: Feb. 7, 1933

Result: Schall retained seat

Minnesota Republican Thomas D. Schall, whose election to the Senate in 1926 had been contested by his defeated opponent faced a second challenge after his reelection in 1930. In the latter campaign, Schall bested his Democratic opponent, Einar Hoidale, by more than 11,000 votes in a multi-candidate race.

Statement of the Case
On December 7, 1931, Thomas Schall appeared in the Senate and took his seat for a second term without protest. On April 14, 1932, Einar Hoidale filed a petition charging that the Republican senator secured his election through illegal methods and fraud. Hoidale alleged that Schall violated state and federal corrupt practices laws by filing false financial reports, illegally promising patronage positions in return for political support, failing to itemize names of campaign contributors and those receiving disbursements, accepting large contributions from bootleggers, and misusing franking privileges to distribute campaign literature. The Senate referred the petition to the Committee on Privileges and Elections.

The next day, Thomas Schall responded, insisting that the charges, "a mass of generalities, insinuations, and falsehoods. . . are groundless and they will fall of their own weight." 

Response of the Senate
On July 16, 1932, the committee notified Hoidale that, unless he submitted an amended petition that included more detailed information, his case would be dismissed. On August 30, shortly before the committee's deadline, Hoidale submitted an amended petition. In it, he detailed large unreported expenditures made by Schall's campaign and named individuals he said had been promised patronage positions in return for campaign support, as well as postmasters who had allegedly been pressured to contribute money to retire Schall's campaign debt. In response, Schall presented several affidavits from Minnesota citizens, all of whom swore the senator had not engaged in any illegal activities during the primary or general elections. Postmasters insisted they had received their commissions without paying the senator a penny and that all their campaign contributions had been voluntary and not connected to the distribution of patronage.

The committee reported on January 17, 1933, recommending that the contest be dismissed. It argued that Hoidale had failed to contest the election in Minnesota or to initiate legal action in the Minnesota courts regarding Schall's alleged state offenses within the deadline set by law. The allegations regarding contributions from postmasters had all been contradicted by sworn affidavits from the individuals involved and were therefore dismissed by the committee. The panel determined that, even if Hoidale had accurate information concerning the misuse of franking privileges, the sum involved could not have exceeded $100, an amount the committee deemed insignificant. In general, the committee concluded that Hoidale's charges were too vague and indefinite to warrant further investigation.

The Senate appeared willing to accept the committee's view that Schall had responded satisfactorily to the more serious charges and that the others were too minor to require attention. Without debate, the Senate on February 7, 1933, agreed by voice vote that Schall had been duly elected and should retain his seat.

Thomas Schall, who was permanently blinded at the age of twenty-nine, was a self-made man whose zeal and determined spirit won the admiration of even his political opponents. He served in the Senate until his death in 1935 from injuries sustained when he was struck by an automobile outside the Senate office building.

Einar Hoidale served in the U.S. House of Representative from 1933 to 1935 and was again an unsuccessful candidate for the Senate in 1934. He died in 1952.

Source: Adapted from Anne M. Butler and Wendy Wolff. United States Senate Election, Expulsion, and Censure Cases, 1793-1990. S. Doc. 103-33. Washington, GPO, 1995.

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