Washington Times


Soft Deal For Union Termed A Success; Laborers Evict Over 20 Mobsters


July 25, 1996

A unique agreement in which the Justice Department allowed a corrupt labor union to rid itself of organized-crime figures is "a lot more successful than anticipated," a former FBI mob fighter testified yesterday.

Former agent Jim E. Moody told the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime that he initially opposed the 1995 government deal with the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA).

But after union investigators ousted more than 20 suspected crime figures from its Buffalo, N.Y., local (based on evidence supplied by the FBI), Mr. Moody said he began to believe the self-policing may work.

"I would say it has been a lot more successful than anticipated," he told Rep. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the panel's top Democrat.

The testimony came on the first of two days of hearings called by Republicans to explore the extent of mob ties to the 700,000-member laborers union and its president, Arthur Coia.

GOP subcommittee members also are questioning the appropriateness of President Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton maintaining political and social ties to Mr. Coia at the same time the FBI identified him as being influenced by organized crime.

The Clinton contacts, which the GOP estimates occurred 121 times, also came as the Justice Department was deciding whether to move in court to assume control of LIUNA and oust Mr. Coia, or let it police itself.

Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, noted that on the same day in 1994 that the Justice Department drafted a 212-page civil complaint against LIUNA, Mr. Clinton was jotting a note to Mr. Coia thanking him for the gift of an expensive golf driver.

The draft complaint paints a picture of a union overrun by violence-prone mob associates, top to bottom.

The House hearings are tinged in election-year politics. LIUNA is part of a massive, $30-million effort by the AFL-CIO to defeat Republicans and return control of Congress to Democrats.

Mindful of the alliance, Democratic committee members were quick to denounce the hearings as politically motivated, while also quick to condemn the La Cosa Nostra's influence on big labor.

"The Republican leadership is out to get big labor," Mr. Schumer said.

LIUNA took out an ad in yesterday's editions of The Washington Times likening the hearings to a circus. And labor officials were on hand to spin their side to reporters and denounce Republicans.

"This hearing ought to be about the laborers' self-reform and anti-corruption operation and the union's unprecedented 17 month record of success at cleaning house," said Carl Booker, a union vice president. "But that would be inconvenient for House Republican leaders who sought vengeance on a revitalized labor movement only to find `there's no there there.' "

But subcommittee Chairman Bill McCollum, Florida Republican, said the counterattack does not change the fact that LIUNA is riddled by mob influences and that the Justice Department signed an unprecedented deal.

"I suspect that LIUNA and others want to dismiss these hearings as theatrics out of fear that the hearings will expose this deep-rooted corruption," Mr. McCollum said. "They would like nothing more than for the media and the public to ignore the fact that the Mafia is apparently as involved as ever in many of our unions. . . ."

The U.S. government has waged a long-running battle to excise members of the La Cosa Nostra from top posts in the Teamsters, Laborer's and other international unions.

Typically, the Justice Department files suit under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, takes over the union and conducts democratic elections.

But the department is trying a first-time experiment with LIUNA, which, if successful, will prove less costly and less time-consuming, it says. The government has retained the right to move in if Mr. Coia reneges.

Mr. Moody, who retired from the FBI last month, managed the agency's organized-crime program at the time Justice struck the agreement with LIUNA.

He said the agreement was endorsed by career anti-mob lawyers at Justice who would not succumb to political pressure. "In no way do I believe he could be influenced," he said of one official.


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