President Clinton maintained a social and fund-raising relationship with the head of a union after the FBI told the White House counsel’s office the labor leader had ties to organized crime, documents show.
But a former FBI official testified Wednesday that the Laborers’ International Union, headed by Arthur A. Coia, got no special deal in its anti-corruption agreement with the Justice Department. Under the 1995 agreement, the union began to weed out alleged mob lieutenants from its ranks and hold direct elections of its officers in order to head off criminal prosecution.
Republicans began to raise questions about whether the agreement was too soft after Coia was seated at Clinton’s table at a Democratic fundraising gala last May. Coia is on the executive council of the AFL-CIO, which plans to spend $35 million on politics this election year and opposes much of the GOP agenda.
Coia’s union contributed $1.1 million to Democratic candidates in the 1994 elections. Clinton gave Coia a golf club in a 1994 Oval Office meeting, and Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed a laborers union conference the same year.
At a politically charged hearing Wednesday by the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime, Chairman Bill McCollum, R-Fla., called the Justice Department agreement “unprecedented and historic.”
A “dramatic change in tactics” allowed the laborers union “to rid itself of mob influence and left its president, Arthur Coia, to do it,” McCollum said. He called Coia “a major Democrat figure” with ties to Clinton.