The president of the 750,000-member Laborers
International Union of North America is expected to resign this
month and plead guilty to fraud charges. That's what The New York
Times reported late last week (though a union spokesman denied
it all). But what has been woefully under -reported is the intimate
tie that Arthur A. Coia has had to President and Mrs. Clinton.
Federal investigators long had alleged that
Mr. Coia, 56, was associated with and controlled by organized
crime, "a front man for labor racketeers who were looting
pensions and welfare funds," reporter Eugene H. Methvin documented
three years ago.
Additional documents showed that the Clintons
maintained a fund-raising and social relationship even after the
FBI told the White House counsel's office that Coia had links
to organized crime. The information was enough to warrant Clinton
to back off from his plan to appoint Coia to a presidential commission,
but not much else. Among other Clinton-Coia tidbits, compiled
by Methvin and others:
- Coia was a frequent dinner and traveling
companion of the Clintons, even participating in official state
functions, Mr. Methvin found.
- He worked "furiously" to gain
access to the Clinton inner circle even before the president took
office in 1993, Methvin added.
- Coia went on campaign trips with the Clintons
and traded expensive golf clubs with the president.
- On Nov. 4, 1994, Bill Clinton penned Coia
a congratulatory note for becoming a grandfather. It was the same
day that the Justice Department hand-delivered to the union a
draft of a civil racketeering suit it intended to file if Coia
did not resign. It was less than one month after the White House
was told by the FBI that Coia "is a criminal associate of
the New England Patriarca organized crime family" and the
subject of past criminal investigations and an ongoing civil racketeering
- At the height of the Justice Department's
attempt to oust Coia (in February 1995), Hillary Clinton addressed
the union's top officials in Miami Beach.
- And not long after, the Justice Department
capitulated, giving the union a chance to "clean its own
house," Methvin reported. It was an investigation that was
effectively conducted by the union but overseen by the federal
government. Coia was cleared on the organized crime allegations
But the probe did raise questions about a
deal that allowed Coia to avoid paying $40,000 in taxes on a luxury
sports car purchased with the help of a union supplier. If Coia
follows through with a plea bargain agreement with federal prosecutors,
he would be spared jail. But he would be barred from any future
contact with Laborers International, one of the largest trade
unions in the country.
Over the past seven years, if not most of
his professional political career, Bill Clinton has shown a dedicated
predilection for associations that have raised eyebrows for their
impropriety in nearly every quarter. Call it the "yuk"-factor,
call it what you will, but it will not be missed come Jan. 20,