Organized Crime & Government

1 January 2017

Organized Crime & the Political Machine Throughout history there has been a constant struggle, but also a complex web of connection between government and organized crime. Bribery, extortion and embezzlement are among some of the crimes that connect the mafia with important political figures publicly, however the relationship between these two entities seems to go a lot deeper. In fact, according to recent investigation, some elected officials are, themselves, important crime leaders.

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A prime example of this is Illinois politician and former mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley. Daley’s family has great historical significance within the city as his father, Richard J. Daley, was also mayor of Chicago. His brother William M. Daley served under former U. S. president Bill Clinton as U. S. Secretary of Commerce and their older brother John P. Daley is the finance chairman on the Cook County Board of Commissioners. Daley himself was in the Illinois State Senate for eight years.

After that he won the election to become Cook County’s State’s attorney where he remained for nine years from 1980-1989, and won the election for mayor of Chicago in 1989 after Harold Washington’s death. The family is known as “the Daley Machine”, and while the negative social, financial, and economic impact of the machine is well documented, both father and son continued to be re-elected. A scandal in 2005 was Mayor Daley explaining approximately $48 million in overruns for the renovation of a terminal at O’Hare International Airport. Representative Jesse L. Jackson Jr. D) stated, “You can fool some people for 16 years, the question is if they want to be fooled for 20 years” (Chicago Tribune, 1996). A federal investigation in 2006 of “pervasive fraud” led to 30 indictments, including two senior administrators closely tied to the mayor, and a dozen cabinet-level resignations which led to an interrogation of Daley himself. If anyone achieves power in Chicago, they have been supported by mayors Richard Joseph Daley and his son. Nothing got done unless their dictates were followed and Richard M. Daley has “reigned” over the city for about 21 years.

Another hotspot for connections between organized crime and the political machine is New York City, a place where the Mob has immeasurable influence. “The mob has always had some influence in politics, and in the past, they even had their own candidates in one or two key spots,” said Ron Goldstock, head of the state’s Organized Crime Task Force. “But now we are beginning to see evidence of a pervasive presence. It’s practically open. We’ve even begun to see partnerships in which mobsters and city business officials were in business together. (New York Magazine, 1986) Former mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani said that organized-crime groups have become so bold, that mob-connected companies have begun making direct campaign contributions on the books. “There was a day when hoods might have slipped money to people under the table,” Giuliani said, “but we are beginning to find that many of the companies linked to organized crime have openly contributed to political campaigns” (New York Magazine, 1986). Allegations of bribery in the city’s Parking Violations Bureau have revealed at least half a dozen links to the mob.

Some examples are: the secret real-estate partnership between former Department of Transportation commissioner Anthony Ameruso and Angelo Ponte, an alleged mobster; the relationship between indicted Bronx county Democratic leader Stanley Friedman and his top advisor Paul Victor, the son of an organized crime member who received a total of $250,000 from Friedman’s campaign committees; and the relationship between City Planning commissioner Theodore Teah and Robert Hopkins, who has been charged with ordering the murder of a mob rival.

Following the trail of the complex connections between the mob and their political allies is very tough work because rarely do the top mobsters and top politicians get involved. Mobsters work through their lawyers, union leaders, and businessmen and manage to achieve their political goals using very little or no force. These agreements are made possible by middlemen and aides, people who have forged friendships through childhood, in campaigns, and various business deals.

There is nothing improper or unusual about a politically active lawyer having a mobster as a client, so this is an easy way for the criminals to exert their influence. Stanley Friedman, mentioned above, is an associate in a law firm—Roy Cohn’s firm—that is notorious for its defense of organized crime members. Friedman himself has been indicted for bribery and stock fraud after the infamous PVB Scandal. Law enforcement officials have begun to crack down on these illicit connections since municipal scandals caught public attention in the mid to late 1980’s.

Although some authorities argue that these efforts have come a little late. Formal federal prosecutor Raymond Dearie argues that “Today, the hoods are almost indistinguishable from the good guys…their businesses have been assimilated. ” (New York Times, 1991) All we can do now is have faith in our justice system to seek out these connections with organized crime and wash the political sphere of the corruption that has gained such a great influence.

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