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UIC Professor Debunks Chicago JFK Theory

By Matt Wood in News on Mar 21, 2006 5:34PM

Sam GiancanaA favorite theory of many JFK assassination buffs is that the mob, led by Chicago boss Sam Giancana (pictured right), ordered a hit on the president as payback for double-crossing them after they helped him win the 1960 presidential election. When Kennedy won Illinois, many Richard Nixon supporters claimed that then-Mayor Richard J. Daley's political machine in Chicago had fixed the city election, thus helping Kennedy carry the state. But others, most notably investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in his 1997 book, The Dark Side of Camelot, have claimed that instead of mere dirty politics, JFK, or more likely his father Joseph, a former bootlegger, made a deal with Giancana to swing crucial wards in the city. Giancana's son and grandson make a similar claim in their book, Double Cross, and of course, Oliver Stone could never make enough connections between the mob and the assassination in his film, JFK. After he was elected, JFK's brother and attorney general Bobby started a campaign against organized crime, enraging mob leaders like Giancana who thus wanted to see him dead.

Why the history lesson? Well, Chicagoist loves a good JFK assassination theory, so we perked up when we saw the Sun-Times reporting that UIC finance professor John Binder recently analyzed vote totals from in the 1960 general election in city wards where Giancana supposedly had clout to see if the mob really did swing the election. And he found that the mob-controlled areas in the city, as well as Cicero and Chicago Heights, voted no differently than others. In fact, Democratic vote totals remained about the same in those wards for Kennedy in 1960 as they were for Adlai Stevenson in 1956. Binder also disputes the notion that Giancana helped Kennedy win the state of West Virginia, and that the mob influenced citywide votes via union support.

So if JFK didn't owe Giancana any favors for helping him win Illinois, would Bobby's crusade against the mob still have angered them enough to order a hit on the President? Maybe. But if not, conspiracy nuts always have a host of other favorite suspects, including anti-Castro Cubans, some guy named Lee Harvey Oswald, the Soviets, Texas oilmen, and Lyndon Johnson himself. The parlor game never ends no matter how bizarre the idea. But if Professor Binder is right, you can take some of the major Chicago ties out of the equation.