Charles Forbes served as chairman of the Bureau of Veterans' Affairs during President Warren G. Harding's administration.
In 1920, Harding, an Ohioan, won election as president of the United States of America. As president, for the most part, Harding proved to be a poor manager of the federal government. He delegated authority to his cabinet officials. These men became known as the "Ohio Gang," because they supposedly were a gang of thieves from Ohio. In reality, most of the men linked to the Ohio Gang were not from Harding's home state.
Forbes was one of the members of the Ohio Gang, although he was not from Ohio. Forbes served as the director of the newly created Bureau of Veterans' Affairs. Harding created this office to assist veterans from World War I and other conflicts involving the United States. Forbes, himself, served in the United States Marine Corps during World War I. He had served in the military before World War I, and at one point, his superiors designated him as a deserter. According to most accounts, Forbes was a casual acquaintance of Harding, but the President still appointed Forbes to this important position. Once he became the director of the Bureau of Veterans' Affairs, the predecessor to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Forbes gave himself the rank of colonel in the United States Army. As director, Forbes purportedly embezzled nearly 250 million dollars from the Bureau of Veterans' Affairs.
Once Forbes' actions were revealed, he was convicted of embezzlement. He received a 100,000 dollar fine and a two-year prison sentence. Forbes' actions, along with those of several other of Harding's cabinet officials, caused a great deal of distrust of government officials among the American people and also solidified Harding's reputation as a poor president.
- Murray, Robert K. The Harding Era: Warren G. Harding and His Administration. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1969.
- Mee, Charles L., Jr. The Ohio Gang: The World of Warren G. Harding. New York, NY: M. Evans, 1981.
- Trani, Eugene P, and David L. Wilson. The Presidency of Warren G. Harding. Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1977.
- Murray, Robert K. The Politics of Normalcy: Governmental Theory and Practice in the Harding-Coolidge Era. New York, NY: Norton, 1973.