The Democrats and LIUNA's Coffers

Article excerpt

Arthur A. Coia, general president of the 700,000-member Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), had a big problem. It was October 1994, and for the previous three years the Justice Department, the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago had been investigating the infiltration of his union by organized crime. LIUNA learned of the scrutiny through a leak given to the Chicago Tribune, which revealed the massive investigation in October 1993. It also happened that earlier in October 1994 the White House received an FBI background report that described Mr. Coia as "a criminal associate of the New England Patriarca organized crime family."

The mob-busters at the Justice Department and the FBI weren't exactly on a fishing expedition. In 1986 the President's Commission on Organized Crime identified LIUNA as "a union with clear ties to organized crime." A year later, the State of New York Organized Crime Task Force concluded that numerous New York City locals of LIUNA were "dominated" by the Genovese, Gambino, Luchese and Colombo crime families. When the current investigation concluded, as Mr. Coia knew from a previous case involving the Teamsters Union, the prospect was all too real that the government would seek to take over his union and depose him from the position to which he had spent decades aspiring.

While it may all be merely coincidental and unrelated, the fact remains that ever since the investigation of LIUNA became public, Mr. Coia's union rapidly accelerated its unregulated soft-money contributions to the Democratic Party. These funds are used for so-called "party-building" purposes. After donating a mere $50,600 in soft-money contributions to the Democratic National Committee during the first 10 months of the 1993-94 political cycle, preceding the Chicago Tribune's story, the union substantially increased its largess by plunking down another $267,550 during the following 10 months. Then on Oct. 21, 1994, according to Common Cause, Mr. Coia himself donated $50,000 to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), bringing to $368,150 the total of LIUNA-related soft-money donations to the DNC during 1993-94.

What perfect timing for a personal donation. Two weeks earlier, the White House received the highly unflattering FBI background report on Mr. Coia. And two weeks later, the Justice Department would unveil its 212-page draft complaint, which, if it had been filed, sought to obtain a preliminary injunction that would enjoin and restrain Mr. …