Evansville Courier



Hostettler Calls Union Gift To Foe 'Corrupt'



By JIM O'CONNELL, Courier Washington bureau


- Rep. John Hostettler accused Democratic challenger Jonathan Weinzapfel of accepting "corrupt" campaign contributions from a labor union with alleged ties to organized crime.

Hostettler, a freshman Republican, said Weinzapfel should return $2,000 he received from the Laborers' Political League, the Washington-based political arm of the Laborers International Union of North America.

Weinzapfel replied that the congressman's charges are "politically motivated slander" from a "desperate" campaign that is "pushing the panic button."

"It is now clear that John Hostettler will say absolutely anything to get re-elected," Weinzapfel said. "He should be ashamed of himself. The local laborers we all know here in Southwest Indiana are hard-working, honest, decent people and I'm proud to accept their contribution."

The charges surround a $2,000 donation Weinzapfel accepted May 23 from the Laborer's Political League in Washington. Weinzapfel has accepted about $30,000 in contributions from various political action committees, according to his June 30 financial disclosure form. Hostettler does not accept PAC donations.

The Laborers International Union of North America has been under investigation for organized crime ties for at least a decade.

Dozens of union officials have been charged with crimes. Last year, federal prosecutors agreed not to try to force out union President Arthur Coia if he would implement internal reforms to clean up the union.

The Republican-controlled Congress held hearings into the union's alleged organized crime ties last year. Coia called the hearing politically motivated by GOP officials concerned about the newfound political muscle of labor unions.

Coia held a large reception at the Field Museum in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention, and was rumored to be angling for a speaking role at the convention. He did not give a speech there, and no top-level Clinton administration officials attended his reception.

The AFL-CIO has mounted a $35 million "voter education" television and radio campaign that has generally targeted Republicans for criticism.

Republicans in Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa and Pennsylvania have leveled similar "corrupt contribution" charges against Democrats.

Hostettler campaign chairman Chris Crabtree said he got the idea from a charge leveled at Rep. Tim Roemer, D-Ind., by his Republican opponent.

"That triggered us and we thought, 'maybe Mr. Weinzapfel takes some of this money,' " Crabtree said.

Hostettler said in a statement that "this kind of corrupt money is another example of why I do not accept special-interest PAC money."

Hostettler said Weinzapfel should explain whether he knew of the union's background before he accepted the contribution, and should return the money.

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