Bureau Of National Affairs

Thursday July 25, 1996

 

No. 143

 

TEXT

SELECTED STATEMENTS FROM HOUSE JUDICIARY'S CRIME SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING JULY 24, 1996

 

OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN McCOLLUM

 

 

The subcommittee on Crime will come to order. This morning we begin a two-day examination of organized crime and the Administration's efforts to eliminate its stranglehold on the Laborers' International Union of North America.

 

It's been a long time since Congress held hearings on the menacing criminal activities of La Cosa Nostra, better known as the mafia or the mob.

 

To many, the mafia seems unreal, just something they see in movies. But as millions of victims know, the mob is very real. The mafia is murder, prostitution, drug dealing, extortion, fraud, loan-sharking, embezzlement, bribery, highjacking, auto theft, kickbacks, smuggling, illegal gambling, theft, labor racketeering, money laundering, bombing, kidnaping, arson, and burglary. Clearly, it has an effect on every American.

 

Organized crime is global; it brings illegal drugs from far away places to our streets and to our children. It's also an enemy of working men and women because it steals from their pension funds; it raises prices; and it interferes with job opportunities and fair competition.

 

Over the next two days, we will be discussing La Cosa Nostra, the LCN -- which is the formal name for the Italian mafia -- and not just the harm it does, but the nature of its long range strategic goals. We will speak of LCN as an organization that has systematically targeted and infiltrated labor unions at every level. We will hear from expert witnesses who will tell us why the mob targets unions, what they do when they establish strongholds, how they steal from dues-paying members.

 

In particular, we will focus on LCN control of the Laborers' International Union of North America. LIUNA is one of the largest labor unions, representing in excess of 700,000 workers, with more than 5000 local district offices and $169 Million in total assets. It's also a union with a long and inglorious history of mob influence and control.

 

We will hear from an individual who was an insider at one of the most infamous LCN-controlled locals. We will tell us of back office deals, the use of hiring hall favoritism to benefit mafia cronies, and how these business practices have hurt the rank and file members. At his request and for his safety, this witness will appear in a manner to assure that his face is not photographed. He has been an FBI informant and he believes his life is a at risk. In this morning's Washington Post, a half-page ad appeared, paid for by LIUNA, which accuses the Committee of theatrics and implies this hearing is nothing but a show. I can assure you this morning is far from theatrics. It is a serious exercise of our oversight responsibilities with respect to how the Justice Department is dealing with organized crime in American Labor Unions. It is the first thorough examination of the mob and unions in years and years. 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. 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, much to the detriment of thousands of honest, law abiding, working men and women who are victims of mob activity. There is no better example than LIUNA and its president, Arthur Coia.

 

We will also hear a lot about LIUNA's president, Arthur Coia. Mr. Coia has been a member of LIUNA for practically his entire life. He rose quickly through the ranks of LIUNA . First he took the place of his father as the Secretary Treasurer of the International and later, in March 1993, he because its General President. Allegations about his own connections to the mob have been the subject of considerable attention.

 

But these hearings are not just about the problem; they are also about the solution.

 

Ten years ago, the President's Commission on Organized Crime identified organized crime as a plague on society that had to be surgically and meticulously excised from legitimate institutions. It also identified what came to be known as the “Bad Four”--the four most corrupt unions in America -- the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Longshoremen, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Workers and the Laborers' International Union of North America.

 

Since then, federal law enforcement has spent tens of millions of tax dollars to rid these and other unions of mob control. Federal prosecutors chose the federal civil RICO statute as the legal mechanism to accomplish this mission because it was written for the specific purpose of excising organized crime from legitimate institutions.

 

And the Justice Department has had considerable success. In 19 civil RICO cases, the Department has won 19 times.

 

And then came LIUNA and Arthur Coia. Witnesses from the Justice Department and the FBI, who have devoted their entire careers to destroying the mob, will discuss the years of work and the multi-million pages of documents that were compiled and reviewed to produce a 212-page Civil Rico case against LIUNA. They will explain that in a historic change in tactics, these career prosecutors reached a settlement with LIUNA that put the union itself in charge of cleaning out the mob.

 

Has it worked? Well, the jury is still out -- as those career prosecutors will tell us. But clearly many mobsters and mob associates have been kicked out of the union. Nevertheless, LIUNA's president, who was once described as a “mob puppet” by a senior career official at DOJ, is still in charge of the union.

 

But here's the key point: If the Department's settlement with LIUNA is going to be the model for future anti-racketeering efforts, it is imperative that those of us who are privileged to serve in this body and who are charged with overseeing federal law enforcement, assure the American people that this is the best return on the tax payers' enormous financial investment.

 

Let me conclude with one final thought. We might as well deal right now with the charge that I'm sure we will hear today. That is, of course, that Republicans are anti-union, the Republican leadership is obsessed with oversight, and that these hearings are nothing more than politics.

 

Well, my response is this: Of course there are political overtones to this issue. Mr. Coia is a major Democrat figure and enjoys a close relationship with the President. And we will appropriately discuss important and long-standing questions about access to the presidency in general, and in particular, the appearances and appropriateness of this relationship in light of DOJ's actions involving Mr. Coia.

 

But we have a duty to fulfill. Pure and simple. I make no apologies about moving forward. These hearings are long overdue. The mob is far too dangerous; its effects on law-abiding union members, who may not vote Republican, are far too severe, for us to ignore this matter because its an election year.

 

The LIUNA case is unprecedented and historic. That's an indisputable fact. It must be examined responsibly and fairly. And I pledge, as chairman of this Subcommittee, that it will be. By the close of tomorrow's hearing, I am confident that this Subcommittee will understand much better the threat of organized crime, and the strengths and weaknesses of the LIUNA settlement.

 

I yield now to my friend of many years and ranking minority member, Mr. Schumer.

 

(c) 2002 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. Washington, D.C. 20037


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