Democratic congressional challenger Dan Williams called an attempt by the Idaho Republican Party to link his campaign to organized crime “a McCarthyite smear of the working people in Idaho.”
Idaho GOP Chairman Ron McMurray issued a statement Monday calling on Williams to return a $2,000 contribution his campaign received last December from the Laborers International Union of North America’s political action committee.
McMurray raised alleged connections between the union and organized crime cited by the state of New York’s Organized Crime Task Force and the President’s Commission on Organized Crime, as well as a 1994 Justice Department report.
“Is this the kind of organization that will influence Dan Williams if he is elected? Is this the kind of representation Idaho’s First Congressional District deserves? I don’t think so,” McMurray said. “I would like to call on Williams to do the right thing and reject this $2,000 contribution.”
But Williams, a Boise lawyer challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth, said he received the contribution from the Laborers’ Political League “only because Idaho workers endorsed me.
“The Laborers I know are here in Idaho and are hard-working, decent and fine people who make contributions to our economy,” he said.
National Republican leaders, frustrated about organized labor’s campaign spending for Democrats, began raising questions in June about alleged mob connections to unions.
But Justice Department spokesman Carl Stern said at the time that under a 1995 agreement, the Laborers union began weeding alleged mob lieutenants from its ranks and holding direct elections of its officers in order to head off criminal prosecution. A group of former Justice Department and FBI officials were working with the union to investigate allegations.
Stern said the deal was developed by two career Justice employees and that it already had led to the removal of, or charges against, 46 union officials and members.
In any case, Idaho AFL-CIO President Randy Ambuehl said on Monday that the contribution to Williams was not tainted.
“These are voluntary contributions from rank-and-file Laborers union members,” he said. “This isn’t organized crime money.”
Williams said the Republican attack was “far-fetched” and “nothing but an admission that Rep. Helen Chenoweth is in desperate trouble.”