Chelsea Clinton’s Father-in-Law An Ex Iowa Congressman Who Went To Jail
Historic Tidbit: The day before Richard Nixon resigned, one of his staunchest defenders in Congress, Indiana Republican Earl Landgrebe, made his views known. “Don’t confuse me with the facts,’ he said. “I’ve got a closed mind. I will not vote for impeachment. I’m going to stick with my President even if he and I have to be taken out of this building and shot.” Voters respectfully passed on the firing squad but did opt for death by the ballot. Landgrebe lost his 1974 re-election bid to Democrat Floyd Fithian.”
Everyone knows Chelsea Clinton’s mother-in-law is former – and if she has her way, future Pennsylvanaia Congressman Marjorie Margolies Mezvinsky. But did you know that her father-in-law was also a member of Congress? He certainly was, and he was from the state of Iowa if you can believe that. And now, he’s an ex jailbird (for everything, there is a story).
Ed Mezvinsky’s Congressional tenure dates back to the 1970’s when he overcame the Nixon landslide to win a Congressional seat. Actually, he had been a staffer long before that, to Congressman Neal Smith, on ethic bills no less. But 1972 was not a bad year to be a Democrat in Iowa. McGovern, while losing the state, didn’t do any worse than Humphrey, and Dick Clark was shocking everyone by sending Senator Jack Miller packing.
Mezvinsky’s win was not a shock. What was a shock was that he had come within 765 votes of longtime Republican Fred Schwengel two years earlier. Schwengel’s party label had helped him hold the seat (though he had lost it once before), but he was not particularly attentive to his district, which was borne out in a primary that saw him lose 40%.
Mezvinsky was a lawyer and consumer affairs activist who ran ads of voters mispronouncing his name, and by attacking the Nixon administration. He ran a true grass roots campaign that centered on modern techniques such as voter id’s, etc.
For 1972, Mezvinsky was back. This time, he beat Schwengel 54-46% as Nixon was taking 56%. Mezvinsky did well in Iowa City, where many of the UI students were likely coming out to back McGovern. But the numbers suggest Mezvinsky would have won anyway. What was his name among the Congressional press corps? “Fast Talking Ed.”
Mezvinsky immediately snagged a seat on the House Judiciary Committee, just in time for the big Watergate show. Mezvinsky actually proposed that among the things Nixon should be impeached for is his misuse of funds but that motion failed.
Mezvinsky’s first re-election challenge had come from Jim Leach, a foreign service officer who resigned his post amid the Saturday Night massacre. So the election was in a sense about who could out-Watergate who. He attacked Mezvinsky for accepting money from outside Iowa and vowed not to (it was a practice that he’d adhere to throughout his 30 years in Congress).
With ’74 being such a Democratic year, Mezvinsky kept his seat, but not by a super-imposing margin, 54-46%.
By 1976, Mezvinsky’s fortunes had changed dramatically. Mezvinsky, who had separated from his wife early in his first term, had remarried to, as The Almanac of American Politics noted “a woman who is a reporter on one of Washington’s local newscasts.” That would be MMM. Mezvinsky was not returning to the district as much as he used to, and in a swing seat, doing so was a must. Leach was able to reverse the margin, 54-46%.
Soon after his loss, Mezvinsky moved to Pennsylvania where his ambitions of returning to public life was obvious. For a time, he was the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. But he yearned for elective office and sought the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in 1980 but lost, though he did score enough chits to Chair the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.
In 1988, Mezvinsky won the nomination to challenge Ed Preate for Attorney General and centered a large part of his campaign on ethics. “I’m sick and tired,” he said, “of public officials abusing the public trust. We’re going to have to restore the integrity of our government that was envisioned when they decided to make this office independent.” Ironically, Preate himself would be imprisoned for embezzlement.
In 1992, Marjorie shocked many when she won a Montgomery County Congressional seat. The margin was fewer than 2,000 votes and it was the first sign that the rock-ribbed Republican county was changing. But Mezvinsky was famously booted out when she cast the deciding vote for Clinton’s tax package after having promised voters during the campaign that she wouldn’t (House Republicans broke into a chant of “Goodbye Marjie.” Mezvinsky sought a comeback in 2000, but her bid for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination ended amid her husband’s legal troubles.
Meanwhile, Chelsea and Marc had dated throughout the 90’s, but had several on and off periods.
Mezvinsky was sentenced to 80 months in prison for a massive investment scheme, dubbed the “Nigerian advanced payment ponzi scheme that ultimately robbed victims of $10 million. He was convicted of 31 of 69 charges, including mail and bank fraud and would serve seven years in federal prison near Elgin Air Force Base in Florida, which would be followed later by probation. That’s where he was by the time of the wedding.
Ed Mezvinsky was supposedly permitted to attend Marc and Chelsea’s wedding ceremony, but not the reception. Around the time of the wedding, he said he was “remorseful for what happened, it was a terrible time, and I was punished for that. And I respect that and accept responsibility for what happened, and now I’m trying to move on and am grateful I have the opportunity for that.”
Ed and Marjorie divorced in 2007. Ed, 76, has finished probation.