Robert G. (Bobby) Baker, the once powerful Capitol Hill aide and protege of Lyndon B. Johnson who was convicted in 1967 of income tax evasion in an influence-peddling scheme, has filed for bankruptcy in Montgomery County to erase $384,955 in debts.
Baker, 53, who once was on familiar terms with virtually every major political figure in Washington, filed a petition without an attorney Feb. 24, stating he was unemployed and listing an array of debts, including $72,000 owed to American Express, $33,072 to the Internal Revenue Service, $4,663 to Saks Fifth Avenue, $19,000 to the law firm of Arent, Fox, Kintner and Plotkin, $20,000 to the North Carolina law firm of Fairly, Hamrick, Monteith and Cobb, $2,400 owed on commercial real estate he owns in Ocean City and $2,200 in real estate taxes due in Montgomery County.
In the petition, scheduled to come before U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Paul Mannes this fall, Baker said he was last employed in 1980 by Data Dynamics Industries, a computer software firm in Tampa, Fla., which paid him $32,769.
Baker stated in the bankruptcy papers that his cash assets at the time the petition was filed consisted of $100 and a yearly federal pension of $9,000.
He listed $95,000 worth of real estate assets, including a commercial building lot in Ocean City, Md., and a 25 percent interest in 40 acres of farmland in Oakton, Md. He also listed $3,800 worth of clothing, jewelry, firearms and other personal property.
Baker, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, said in his court petition he has lived for eight months at an address near Burtonsville in upper Montgomery County.
Doris Myers, who described herself yesterday as a longtime friend of Baker's, told a reporter who inquired that she owns the residence, a new brick town house, and that Baker has stayed there.
Bankruptcy attorney Brian Seeber, who has been appointed as the trustee who will oversee the liquidation and disbursement of Baker's assets to his creditors, said Baker also has an apartment in downtown Washington.
Seeber said Baker had an initial meeting with the creditors earlier this month.
Under Maryland bankruptcy law, a person filing bankruptcy is permitted to keep $500 worth of household goods, $3,000 worth of other kinds of property, and $4,500 worth of equity in real estate, provided it is the principal residence, Seeber said.
During the early 1960s, Baker was widely conceded to be the most influential congressional aide in Washington. He started out as a congressional page and later served as top aide to then-Senate Majority Leader Johnson.
In 1963, Baker came under investigation as allegations surfaced that he had sold his influence. Four years later he was convicted of income tax evasion, grand larceny and conspiracy. Baker eventually served almost 18 months of a one- to three-year prison term at the federal penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pa. He was paroled in 1972.
Baker later paid the federal government $40,000 to settle a civil suit in which the government hoped to recover $108,000 Baker allegedly gleaned from influence peddling.