As mayor of Boston, Kevin White oversaw what many have called its transformation into a world-class city. During his four terms in office, from 1968 through 1984, he oversaw revived development in the city’s downtown and led the way through a bitter struggle with school integration.
White’s tenure was also marked by corruption allegations. But even as many of his associates were convicted on corruption charges, several FBI investigations into White’s activities as mayor came up dry. In an era when it was legal to destroy campaign finance records shortly after the election, connecting the dots relied largely on interviews.
Following White’s death in January, MuckRock requested his FBI file. The 500 pages returned show his activities faced scrutiny from the Bureau for nearly a decade.
The file is dominated by instances of alleged corruption, including:
- Waste disposal companies giving money to White’s campaign in exchange for contracts
- White strong-arming Insurance company John Hancock into donating $4.5 million to Boston University
- A battle with the City Council over Boston’s finances
‘Ten big ones’
Of particular interest to the Bureau was an allegation that White offered lucrative city contracts to waste disposal contractors who contributed to his 1971 re-election campaign. According the file, White wasn’t shy about meeting with would-be donors and making his needs known. An agent reported that one sitdown involved White asking for “ten big ones.”
The lead didn’t develop into an investigation until 1975, after White’s office had destroyed his last campaign’s finance records. More than 100 pages of notes and background on various waste disposal companies conclude with a determination that there wasn’t enough evidence of corruption without those records.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Boston was “extremely reluctant to conduct (an) open investigation,” the report adds, out of fear for “the possibility of harming White’s chances in the forthcoming mayorality campaign and a possibility of White’s obtaining a slot on the National Democratic ticket as Vice President.”
John Hancock’s “gift” to Boston University?
The most high profile case of alleged corruption involved a gift from insurance company John Hancock to Boston University. The FBI was tipped off that the $4.5 million gift might have actually been tied to allowing John Hancock to avoid tearing down an old office building. White became a professor at BU shortly after leaving office.
The U.S. attorney’s office reportedly conducted a grand jury investigation that included testimony from BU President John Silber, but ultimately declined to pursue charges.
Recording authorized, never carried out
The FBI also looked into at least one of White’s battles with the Boston City Council. In 1981, as the council grappled with the city’s financial trouble, a tip to the FBI stated White was curtailing any attempt to rein in spending because he was using money illegally.
While an agent was granted authorization for a “body recorder” to investigate this allegation of fraud, the file indicates the recorder was never used.
View the entire file below. Find anything else interesting? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This piece is part of Subjects Matter: The FBI Files Project