Providence Journal



11.30.2000 00:05

Coia The Paymaster

Lawyer Arthur A. Coia has given a good lesson on the need for campaign-finance reform. He is the former president of the Laborers International union, infamous for its corruption, who has evaded disbarment despite having defrauded taxpayers of nearly $100,000 through a scam involving three expensive sports cars. How could he afford the sports cars?

Well, he and his father have made a fortune over the years off the union, which they ran as a private business that the government has alleged has included heavy Mafia influence. Even after the Feds forced his resignation as president, he has continued as "president emeritus" at $250,000 a year. Nice work!

But Democratic Party bigwigs are thankful for the huge contributions that the union has made to the party -- more than $2 million in the last two years alone. These folks rallied to Mr. Coia and, with glowing encomia, persuaded the Rhode Island Supreme Court not to disbar him.

Instead, he will be suspended for a couple of years, while continuing his "consulting" work for unions.

Leading the way was U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, chief fundraiser for the U.S. House Democratic leadership, joined by such notables as former Rhode Island Gov. Bruce Sundlun.

These grateful folks averted their eyes from Mr. Coia's behavior, and the squalid history of the Laborers.

Such stuff will continue until true campaign-finance reform is implemented, starting with banning "soft money" -- the = unregulated donations of influence-seeking organizations to parties.

Happily, U.S. Senators Russell Feingold, John McCain and Chuck Hagel will make this issue a priority in the next session.

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