New York Daily News

Ickes' Shadows Avoid the Light

Mike McAlary
Nov. 13, 1996

About the same time Bill Clinton was exchanging notes and golf clubs with Arthur Coia two years ago, the Justice Department was preparing to take over his corrupt union. After he raised millions for Clinton's campaign, the feds agreed to give the notorious labor leader a chance to clean up the Laborers International Union of North America.

How was that possible? Did Clinton allow a presidential supporter to dodge racketeering charges?

These are the kinds of tough questions that would have to be answered by Harold Ickes if the former labor lawyer turned White House deputy chief of staff were ever nominated for a cabinet post and faced a Senate confirmation hearing. And this is why, among other reasons, the crude, foulmouthed attorney is coming home to New York City.

Before landing a White House job, Ickes knew a measure of infamy as the unofficial Deputy Mayor for Coverups under former Mayor David Dinkins. He is perhaps even the hand behind the "Dear Dad" letter, a phony memo that transferred Inner City Broadcasting stock between mayor and son at a time when owning shares in the cable-TV company would be inconvenient for Dinkins, to say the least.

Ickes later testified before a federal grand jury investigating the matter, and former Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Andrew Maloney said he considered indicting Ickes for perjury.

After being passed over as Clinton's chief of staff, Ickes said he would like to get another job in the administration, but it is unlikely that he would take a job that required confirmation hearings. Clinton is trying to avoid these kind of collisions.

In a way, that is too bad. The questions that have dogged Ickes for years go unanswered. We will miss seeing him challenged by the Republicans. "Was the Dinkins stock letter a forgery?"

The stock transfer was easy work compared with the labor business. Ickes, 56, a Manhattan lawyer and career Democratic infighter, worked for a firm that represented Local 100 of the Hotel Employes and 1983 to 1991. In 1992, the feds filed a civil racketeering suit against the union charging that the Colombo and Gambino crime families controlled it.

Ickes later claimed he never knew it was mob connected, but he had sat in court next to union official Anthony (Chick) Amodeo in

1985. At the time, Amodeo was being questioned about the union's relationship with Gambino boss Paul Castellano. "Were you ever employed by the Gambino crime family, Mr. Ickes?"

Ickes was kept away from the White House in 1992 while Mary Shannon Little, a former federal prosecutor, was named by the Justice Department to conduct a special investigation into Ickes and his Mineola, L.I., law firm.

She wrote a 57-page report, which was never released to the public. "How do you know you have been cleared, Mr. Ickes, if you never read the report clearing you?"

The New York Times wrote a story vindicating Ickes in 1993, without seeing Little's report. This cleared the way for Ickes to work in the White House. Later we learned that Ickes had worked as the lawyer for then-Times editor Max Frankel. Imagine how Sen. Trent Lott would handle this one.

New York Newsday sued to get a look at Little's report on Ickes, but the newspaper folded before the Court of Appeals made a final ruling.

It is difficult to know who should get the credit for Clinton's reelection. Ickes helped keep certain Democrats at peace. Mostly he talked to former client the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Ickes detests Dick Morris, who made Clinton a Republican. Ickes was said to have signed Morris' expense accounts. "When did you realize Mr. Morris was charging the Clinton campaign for his prostitute?"

No one knows more secrets then Ickes, who was brought to the White House to work the heath care overhaul and worked Whitewater instead. He contacted a Treasury official to get an update on the investigation. "Were you attempting to fix the Whitewater case, Mr. Ickes?"

The idea of Ickes before a microphone is frightening. He could get labor leaders, even scary ones, in to see Clinton. One of the most devious was Arthur Coia, a regular White House visitor. We have seen copies of signed letters to him from Hillary and Bill. The Justice Department allowed Coia to keep control of the 750,000-member laborers union after he admitted letting mobsters run it.

"Did you know you were allowing the President of the United States to meet with an alleged mobster?"

If they ever get around to asking any of these questions at a confirmation hearing for Ickes, you can turn off the lights on Clinton's presidency.

Original Story Date: 11/13/96

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