Rowan Scarborough; THE WASHINGTON TIMES
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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.