New York Daily News



My column about Harold Ickes last week had unintended implications.

Ickes is a one-time civil rights activist who rose to prominence and controversy as a liberal Democrat and politically involved lawyer. He was a key player in the election campaigns of David Dinkins and Bill Clinton. It has been widely reported that Clinton is not likely to appoint his loyal lieutenant to a cabinet post partly because Ickes likely would face bruising confirmation hearings in the Republican-controlled Senate.

To illustrate how those hearings could have gone, I formulated questions that Republicans might well have thrown at Ickes, given their zeal in attacking the Clinton administration.

The questions ranged from the clearly outrageous (Were you ever employed by the Gambino crime family, Mr. Ickes? and, Were you attempting to fix the Whitewater case, Mr. Ickes?) to the fanciful (When did you realize Mr. Morris was charging the Clinton campaign for his prostitute?)

My questions were meant to illustrate what Ickes probably would have faced from Republicans, regardless of the evidence at hand.

For example, they have bombarded Ickes about his handling of Whitewater-related issues, even after a special prosecutor found no evidence of wrongdoing.

And it's doubtful they would have been deterred from asking about the Justice Department's decision to allow labor leader Arthur Coia to remain in control of his union when it was being cleansed of alleged mob influence, even though career Justice Department officials and FBI officials testified before Congress that the White House was not involved.

So my questions were just questions that Republicans might ask, not statements of fact or accusations. I'm sorry if they were taken otherwise.

Two more points in particular need addressing.

Point One: The column referred to the controversy that erupted in the 1989 mayoral race when Dinkins produced the so-called Dear Dad letter to prove he had transferred cable television stock to his son years earlier to avoid a conflict of interest. Suspicions that the letter had been backdated triggered a federal investigation.

In summarizing these events, it should have been noted that a subsequent investigative report on the matter did not suggest that Ickes played any role in the possibly fraudulent letter. A federal prosecutor also stated publicly that Ickes had never been a target of investigation.

Point Two: Ickes served as lawyer for Local 100 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, a union whose leadership had been linked to organized crime. In discussing that, it should not have been written that Ickes claimed he did not know about allegations against the union of possible mob ties. The column should have reported that he said he had not witnessed any wrongdoing. Finally, a trustee appointed by a federal judge to investigate the union filed a sworn affidavit stating that she found no evidence of illegal acts or misconduct by Ickes or his firm.

I hope this clears up the record.

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