Bureau Of National Affairs
PROBE OF LABORERS' UNION BY HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE SET FOR JULY 24-25
By Court Gifford
Monday July 22, 1996
After months of build-up by the House Republican Conference, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime said July 19 that it will hold two days of hearings July 24-25 on allegations by the Justice Department in 1992 that Arthur A. Coia, president of the 750,000-member Laborers' International Union of North America, is involved with organized crime.
In a brief statement, the subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla), said the hearings will include testimony by a “confidential organized crime informant [who] will detail the connection” between organized crime, LIUNA, and Coia. The announcement said the identity of the informant will be concealed during his appearance July 24.
According to the announcement, the subcommittee is holding the hearings to examine the Justice Department's “unique handling of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) charges against” the union.
Coia was named in a draft of a 1992 Justice Department complaint as being one of “four consecutive presidents” of the union who “have associated with, and been controlled and influenced by, organized crime figures.” However, the complaint was never filed with the court, and Coia has not been formally charged with criminal misconduct.
In the draft complaint, the union is described as being “infiltrated at all levels by corrupt individuals and organized crime figures who have exploited their control and influence over the union for personal gain and to the detriment of the union.”
Under an unusual “oversight agreement” between the Justice Department and the union, the LIUNA leadership has agreed to clean up the union on its own. It has hired an independent inspector general who is charged with investigating charges of racketeering and seeking the removal of individuals from office. The clean-up effort is being monitored by the government.
Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Republican Conference, and other House Republican leaders, contend that Coia has both a personal and political relationship with the president and Hillary Clinton. One reason for the hearings, GOP sources say, is to try and determine whether the union got a sweetheart deal because of Coia's connections with the Clintons.
Union and Justice Department officials have denied the union received special treatment, and point out that the government is free to take over the union at any time if it feels the union is not living up to the oversight agreement.
Coia is not being asked to testify at the hearing. In a July 18 statement, LIUNA spokeswoman Linda L. Fisher said Coia had not refused to appear at the hearing.
Fisher said the union had been assured by McCollum that the purpose of the hearings would not be to “rehash charges against Mr. Coia, but simply to ensure the integrity of the U.S. justice system.”
The announcement from McCollum's office did not include the names of any witnesses. But the statement said witnesses will include two former FBI agents who will provide “expert testimony on the infiltration of organized crime within LIUNA,” former White House representatives, Justice Department witnesses “who will discuss the LIUNA settlement agreement, and other “minority witnesses.”
(c) 2002 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. Washington, D.C. 20037