Providence Journal-Bulletin

Coia Pops Up As Hot Topic In N.Y. Senate Race

By Scott MacKay, Katherine Gregg and Russell Garland

State House Bureau

Jan. 12,1998

Arthur A. Coia, the Rhode Islander who is the embattled president of the Laborers' International Union of North America, has become a lighting rod in the unusually nasty early campaign sparring in New York between Republican U.S. Sen. Alphonse D'Amato and Geraldine A. Ferraro, a candidate for the Democratic Senate nomination.

Last Monday, the day Ferraro announced her candidacy, D'Amato aides told reporters that she was linked to the Laborers, a union federal investigators have described as mob-influenced. Ferraro's campaign fired back, saying that D'Amato has received campaign contributions from the same union.

D'Amato's aides also accused Ferraro of having a "social relationship" with Coia. The D'Amato camp cited a 1996 birthday bash Coia threw for Ferraro at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

In a brief interview at the elegant birthday party, which was held at Chicago's Field Museum, Ferraro said: "I'm delighted to see Arthur." And she dismissed the allegations that Coia was influenced by organized crime figures, saying: "It seems any time there is an Italian-American in a position of prominence there are these allegations."

The Mafia attack line is nothing new for Ferraro, the only woman who has been a major party vice-presidential nominee (dust off your old 1984 Mondale-Ferrao buttons). During both her vice-presidential candidacy and a 1992 Senate campaign, Ferraro was dogged by allegations that her husband, John A. Zaccaro, had organized-crime ties.

For his part, Coia last week suggested that D'Amato, who is of Italo- American descent, was using Ferraro's Italo-Americn descent to unfairly tar her. D'Amato, Coia wrote, owes "all Italian-Americans" an apology.

Coia faces federal charges that he associated with mobsters and allowed mob-influenced union officers to hold key union positions. If the charges are proved, Coia would be ousted from the presidency of the 750,000-member union.

Last July, D'Amato returned $5,000 in Laborers' Union contributions.

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