Providence Journal-Bulletin

A 'Friendship' Adrift On Political Currents

By John E. Mulligan, Christopher Rowland, Russell Garland Elliot Krieger, Peter Dujardin and Scott MacKay

Journal-Bulletin staff writers

June 24, 1996

Rhode Island's Arthur Coia is in the national news again. The June 24 issue of Time magazine carries a story on the Laborers Union chief, headlined "Fruits of their Labor. How did a big Clinton supporter manage to dodge racketeering charges and get to clean up his union?"

Time says Coia "is eager to talk down his White House ties. Though he sat at Mr. Clinton's table during a fund-raiser as recently as May and has enjoyed at least one breakfast meeting with the first lady, Coia insists he was never really a friend of the President's and did not actually enjoy "putting on a tuxedo to go to the White House." It is "part of my job," he says blandly, "to win the good will of powerful politicians."

That's an update on Coia's earlier accounts of his relationship with Mr. Clinton. One came in a Journal-Bulletin interview in March 1995, before the controversy arose about how his union - long linked to the Mafia - had staved off a federal takeover.

Coia boasted about his meetings with Mr. Clinton - including a one-on-one session in the Oval Office, during which the President initiated an exchange of golf clubs with the labor leader. Coia also said:

"Am I a friend of President Clinton? Well, I would like to think I am a friend. . . . He would recognize me in a crowd, which he has, and he would refer to me on a first-name basis, trying to get a game of golf, which he said he wanted to do. . . ."

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