Rosty is dead at 82. Rostenkowski’s tremendous fall from grace is probably what he’s best known for, but locally he developed a powerful political machine that continued to spin until the election of rookie alderman and potential mayoral candidate Scott Waugespack, which Ben Joravsky contends represents the true end of Rostenkowski’s impressive organization:
Rostenkowski and Gabinski controlled their villagers with the stick of brute force and fearmongering and the carrot of services like garbage collection and snow removal. On election day they sent out thick-necked patronage workers to lurk outside polling places, passing out palm cards and intimidating the locals so they wouldn’t stray from the fold. If intimidation didn’t work, there was always the race card. During the 1983 mayoral race, Rostenkowski and Gabinski put their support behind every white candidate who ran against Harold Washington—even a Republican, Bernie Epton. It was their way of letting the little people know they weren’t going to let the blacks take over.
Chicago wasn’t the only place Rostenkowski wielded his power; in some respects it was a training ground. In the late 80s and early 90s, shortly before federal charges led to his defeat, Philadelphia Inquirer reporters Donald Bartlett (a Daily News vet) and James Steele pounded away at Rosty, whose position as the chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee gave him tremendous influence on taxes, or the lack thereof: