Washington Post






Frank Swoboda Washington Post Staff Writer

July 26, 1996


Republican members of the House subcommittee on crime yesterday questioned the political and social ties between the president and first lady Hillary Clinton and the president of a labor union that had been identified by the FBI as an organization that was being influenced by organized crime. At a hearing yesterday, the acting head of the Justice Department's criminal division, John C. Keeney, denied that the Clinton White House exerted any influence over the government's 1995 decision to try to clean up the 400,000 member Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) without placing the union into federal trusteeship as it had the Teamsters in 1989.


"I state flatly that neither the White House nor anyone associated with the White House has exerted any influence whatsoever over our decisions and actions in this case," Keeney testified.


Keeney led a parade of Justice Department officials before the subcommittee, which is looking into the settlement agreement the department reached with the Laborers in February 1995.


LIUNA was one of four unions targeted by the FBI as being influenced by organized crime. The others were the Teamsters, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) and the International Longshoremen's Association. Both the Teamsters and HERE have since entered into agreements with the Justice Department to clean up corruption.


Subcommittee Chairman Bill McCollum (R-Fla.), in his opening remarks, acknowledged there were "political overtones" to the hearings. LIUNA President Arthur Coia, McCollum said, "is a major Democrat figure and enjoys a close relationship with the president." McCollum said the hearings would discuss the appropriateness of Coia's relationship with the White House in light of the Justice Department's actions involving the union president."


Coia was not invited to testify before the subcommittee, union officials said.


The subcommittee produced documents showing that LIUNA contributed $1.1 million to Democratic candidates in the 1994 elections and that Coia gave Clinton a golf club as a present during a 1994 meeting in the Oval Office, the same year that Hillary Clinton addressed the union's convention.


The subcommittee released a Justice Department memo, written in January 1994, in which Paul Coffey, chief of the organized crime and racketeering section, noted to Keeney that Hillary Clinton was planning a satellite address to a Laborers union conference in Florida in February 1994. That was the same month the Justice Department planned to file a civil racketeering suit against the union, alleging that it "has been dominated by {the mob} for at least two decades." In the memo Coffey saidMrs. Clinton's staff had been alerted that some of the conference participants "will be defendants in the upcoming suit."


Democrats have accused the Republicans of using these hearings in an orchestrated effort to embarrass Clinton and discredit organized labor. They contended that the subcommittee didn't show any interest in the hearings until after the AFL-CIO announced it had raised $35 million to try to win back Democratic control of Congress by launching an advertising and "issues education" blitz.


The AFL-CIO points to an April 23, 1996, memorandum sent to the heads of all House committees and subcommittees by the House Republican leadership asking for any evidence or anecdotes that would show the influence or corruption of "Washington Union Labor Bosses" and examples of "dishonesty or ethical lapses in the Clinton administration." The memo was written on behalf of the House Republican leadership by Reps. Robert S. Walker (R-Pa.) and Jim Nussle (R-Iowa).


Democratic committee members have produced a 1987 letter to then-attorney general Edwin Meese, signed by 245 members of the House, including Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), protesting the use of federal racketeering laws to prosecute the same four unions targeted by the FBI. The letter also warned against appointing a trustee to administer any of the unions.

Return to Laborers.org

(c) All orginal work Copyright Laborers.org 1998. All rights reserved..