Private Enterprise and Public Service
B y the fall of 1939, Leo Crowley had established himself as a force to be reckoned with in Washington. Since "Jefty" O'Connor left the year before, Morgenthau was his only enemy of note. The Treasury secretary could not forget his department's findings against Crowley four years earlier. He still told his staff that Crowley was a crook and a liar, but he had to be careful outside his office. Crowley was one of the president's fair-haired boys, even "Dear Leo."1
Crowley reveled in his job and in the president's favor. He was managing the FDIC and handling the political interests of the White House there and in the upper Midwest with the quiet effectiveness the president demanded; and he received tangible evidence of the president's great respect for his skills in September when he was named to a new six-year term as chairman of the FDIC. But much as he appreciated the recognition, Crowley found his $10,000 salary limiting; even supplemented by a second salary he received from the family paper company in Madison he could not reduce his still-huge debts. Fortunately, for him, that and more were about to change dramatically. He had the many bureaucratic skills and savvy, as well as the financial expertise and political influence the president and others required in a world that had just gone to war.
Crowley's second career began to emerge on December 1, 1939, when he told reporters he had "tentatively accepted" -- subject to speaking with the president -- the chairmanship of Standard Gas and Electric, a giant public utility holding company. The New York Times discussed Crowley's appointment at some length, but wrongly tied it to his experience in Wisconsin, perhaps because Standard Gas had a subsidiary there. The Times ignored the financial and legal problems of