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September 30, 1998

William Kristol
Editor and Publisher
The Weekly Standard
1150 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036

Dear Mr. Kristol:

I am writing in response to Eugene Methvin's article, "A Corrupt Union and the Mob," published in the Weekly Standard on August 31, 1998. I have read worse articles and more unfair ones, but not many, and not much worse.

Mr. Methvin's central thesis is that the agreement between LIUNA and the United States,in which the Justice Department agreed to forego court supervision over LIUNA so long as the union took the initiative to purge itself of mafia influence, was "an illicit alliance in which the Mafia-dominated union provided multimillion-dollar campaign contributions and Justice Department racket-busters were shackled."

The problem with this allegation is not merely that it is false, but that it was thoroughly investigated and publicly discredited following six months of investigation, weeks of inflammatory allegations, and two days of public testimony before the Crime Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee in 1996. Following the hearings, one of the few points of agreement between the Subcommittee majority and the minority was the complete absence of any evidence of any political influence in the Justice Department's decision to settle its draft RICO complaint against LIUNA on terms that imposed on LIUNA the primary responsibility for a cleanup.

Methvin's suggestion that there was "confidential information that federal prosecutors had been thwarted in their investigation" and that "subcommittee Democrats blocked subpoenas to compel testimony from witnesses who might have revealed the "fix" is Methvin's own malicious fantasy. The majority report of the Subcommittee's investigation harshly criticizes the White House for its contacts with LIUNA General President Arthur Coia, but makes no mention of a "fix," or "confidential information" or "blocked subpoenas," precisely because there were none. What is left is only Methvin's wishful thinking.

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Equally false, and far more personally repugnant,is Methvin's accusation that "from the start" I have "seemed to drag [my] feet" as GEB Attorney, responsible for prosecuting organized crime corruption uncovered by the union's Inspector General. The implication - as false as it is defamatory - is that I have deliberately acquiesced in continued mafia influence over LIUNA and its affiliates.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Through the reform process, and with constant scrutiny by the Justice Department, the union has made extraordinary strides to rid itself of organized crime corruption. By any objective measure, the LIUNA reform process has worked at least as well and just as quickly as more costly and intrusive forms of government intervention. Of the scores of individuals identified by the government in its draft RICO complaint as members or associates of organized crime, only Arthur Coia, who is currently facing charges before the LIUNA Independent Hearing Officer, holds a position of responsibility or trust at any level of the union or any fund affiliated with LIUNA. Every other individual named by the government in 1994 has left under the threat of charges, agreed in writing to leave the union permanently, or been forcibly removed through the disciplinary process. Dozens of other individuals were removed from office, expelled from the union, or forced to resign under pressure. More than two dozen LIUNA affiliates, representing more than 68,000 members - including mob-dominated locals and district councils in New York City, Buffalo, and Chicago - were placed under supervision or trusteeship, their affairs conducted by officials selected with the approval of the Department of Justice.

Ron Fino, whose testimony before the Crime Subcommittee forms the dramatic center of Methvin's piece, himself rejected any suggestion of an "illicit alliance" to perpetuate mafia influence in LIUNA. Far from supporting such a preposterous allegation, as Methvin falsely states, Mr. Fino testified before the Crime Subcommittee that the Inspector General and I were persons of "integrity" and "ability" who could be trusted to pursue any accusations of wrongdoing and to remove any official guilty of criminal activity. Transcript of Proceedings, July 24, 1996, at 67-68, 78-79. For reasons fully supported by the results that we have secured, Fino declared himself a supporter of the reform process and made clear that he had personally cooperated with our efforts. Ibid.

It would, unfortunately, require a response fully as long as Methvin's article to address each of the lies, distortions, and misstatements of the public record that he relies upon to prove his half-baked thesis. Fortunately, it only takes a few to lend the full flavor of Methvin's work:

First, Methvin complains that the reform process is inherently flawed because the GEB Attorney lacks "power to subpoena witnesses," "reports to Coia instead of to a federal judge," and "has kept rank-and-file Laborers largely in the dark." In fact, the Inspector General and the

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GEB Attorney have full power to subpoena any member or employee of any LIUNA affiliate and any union service provider; we have used that authority aggressively to uncover wrongdoing, and the Independent Hearing Officer has expelled numerous union members for failing to honor subpoenas. While a court-supervised monitor would also have authority to apply to a court for a subpoena to third parties with no union affiliation, that power is essentially an empty one: third parties can (and, in real life, do) assert their Fifth Amendment privilege not to testify without any risk of sanction by a court monitor or a court.

Contrary to Methvin's assertion, the GEB Attorney does not report to Coia or to any other individual within the union. As Methvin well knows, the LIUNA Constitution was amended in January 1995 to delegate complete authority and full autonomy to the GEB Attorney and the Inspector General. While the Inspector General and the GEB Attorney do report regularly and directly to the Justice Department officials responsible for oversight of LIUNA, the elected officials of LIUNA, including President Coia, learn of their actions at the same time as every other union member: when they are publicly announced. Under the agreement, Justice Department officials have the power at any time and for any reason to remove any or all of the independent officers; by contrast, no union official, including President Coia, has the power to reverse or even appeal their decisions.

Union members have been fully and painstakingly informed about the progress of reform. The record of every completed disciplinary and trusteeship action - including all evidence and transcripts - is available for review by every union member. It is a right with which Methvin is personally well-acquainted, since he was permitted to review all of these records himself - even though he is not a union member - before preparing an earlier hatchet job for the Readers' Digest. The opinions of the Appellate Officer are bound, printed, and widely distributed. Detailed accounts of every pending charge, complaint for trusteeship, settlement agreement, and all decisions by the Independent Hearing Officer and the Appellate Officer are published in each issue of the Laborer magazine, which is mailed to every union member.

Second, the suggestion that I deliberately delayed actions against mob-dominated affiliates in Buffalo and Chicago is disgracefully false. It is not true that "[[m]ore than a year elapsed before [Luskin] prosecuted Fino's Local 210 in Buffalo . . . " In fact, the Complaint for Trusteeship was filed ten months after my appointment as GEB Attorney. During that period - and from a standing start - the Inspector General developed proof of mob control, financial malpractice, and abuse of the democratic process over a 25-year period, and he corroborated many of the allegations by Ron Fino on which Methvin relies. The evidence we developed over those ten months, while simultaneously defeating well-financed court challenges to the reform process brought by Local 210 and other targets of the cleanup, produced a quick capitulation by

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the leadership of Local 210 and laid the groundwork for the permanent expulsion of more than 20 former local union leaders.

Similarly, the Inspector General's two-year investigation in Chicago produced a vastly more detailed and comprehensive portrait of mob influence over the District Council than was available to Justice Department investigators in 1994 or set out in the draft RICO complaint. We brought the Complaint for Trusteeship in June 1997, and concluded more than 19 days of hearings, involving 45 witnesses and more than 200 exhibits in the fall. The timing of the Independent Hearing Officer's decision to impose the trusteeship bore absolutely no relationship to the conclusion of the three-year agreement between LIUNA and the United States. Indeed, Methvin's suggestion that the decision to place the Chicago District Council under trusteeship coincided with "a belated one-year extension" of the agreement is simply baffling. In fact, LIUNA and the Justice Department publicly announced the extension on January 22, 1998, three weeks before the agreement was set to expire.

The bottom line is that in less than three years, the LIUNA reform effort has defeated the mafia in Buffalo and Chicago (as well as in New York City and elsewhere). Although Methvin contends that we have "dragged [our] feet," perhaps the best benchmark for how well and how quickly we moved is that in the preceding 15 years, the best and most persistent efforts of federal prosecutors in Buffalo and Chicago had produced a total of one successful misdemeanor conviction and one guilty plea of two union shop stewards in Buffalo.

The difference is this: unlike Methvin, who feels free to rely on his imagination to fill in troublesome gaps in the facts, federal law imposes on us and on prosecutors the obligation to prove our charges with admissible evidence in adversary proceedings comporting with due process. The bad news is that due process takes time. The good news is that, unlike Methvin, we act responsibly and support the charges we bring.

Finally, Methvin asserts falsely that I delayed bringing charges against General President Coia until "the Justice Department threatened to take over the union." In fact, the Justice Department was fully apprised of the investigation of President Coia from its inception; agreed on the scope and subjects of the inquiry; and cooperated wholeheartedly with our efforts. No one from the Justice Department ever threatened "to take over the union" or to take any other action on account of the timing or outcome of the Coia investigation. As with much of the article, Methvin's claims are a figment of his imagination that equally and unfairly impugn my personal integrity and that of the LIUNA reform process, as well as the professionalism of the career federal prosecutors who oversee the LIUNA-government agreement.

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In the end, Methvin's shoddy tactics equally ill-serve Ron Fino, the central figure of his article. Methvin's inflammatory account of Arthur Coia "settl[ing]] into the high life of a Laborers' president . . .[while] Fino continued his undercover work for the FBI" is a preposterous fiction. Fino resigned as Business Manager of Local 210 and cut all ties with LIUNA in February 1988, and "came out" as a government witness early in 1989. Arthur Coia did not become General President of LIUNA until February 1993.

Methvin's account of Fino's unmasking as a government witness is likewise fanciful. Fino was indeed confronted by Sam Cardinale (not Sam Cardinelli, as Methvin describes), who asked to frisk him. But the supposed dialogue that follows in the article is straight out of Methvin's B-Movie imagination. Displaying considerably better judgment than Methvin, Fino was well-aware that threatening to break someone's "f-hands" on a tape recording that might be used as a evidence in a criminal prosecution would needlessly undermine his own credibility. He never said the words quoted in the article or uttered any threats at all.

We know that because the GEB Attorney carefully reviewed and transcribed the tape and used it to help secure Cardinale's permanent expulsion from LIUNA. The unfortunate fact is that fictitious accounts like this of Ron Fino's activity only provide ammunition for diligent defense attorneys who have unsuccessfully sought for years to undermine his credibility by accusing him of furnishing inconsistent accounts of his actions.

Methvin has long portrayed himself as staunch supporter of the fight against organized crime. With friends like this, one wonders, who needs enemies.

Methvin's article was a succession of lies, low blows, and cheap shots. I take most seriously the defamatory references to me and expect the Weekly Standard promptly to correct its errors, admonish Methvin, and apologize for the damaging and defamatory statements.

Yours sincerely,
Robert D. Luskin

cc: Eugene Methvin
W. Douglas Gow

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