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Laborers chief may face ouster

A former federal prosecutor, in charge of weeding mob influence out of the Laborers' union, is planning to seek the ouster of the union chief, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Robert Luskin will file charges by the end of the month against Arthur A. Coia, president of the 700,000-member Laborers International Union of North America, the newspaper quoted federal officials as saying.The charges include receiving favors from companies that have contracts with the unions, associating with organized crime figures and allowing mobsters to run parts of the union, the federal officials told the paper.

Luskin is a former Justice Department official who was hired by the union to root out corruption in an unusual 1995 agreement with the department. The union agreed to the consent decree in 1995 to avoid racketeering charges.

Republicans have charged that the racketeering complaint was dropped because of Coia's close ties with President Clinton and the Laborers' large contributions to the Democratic Party, including $2.6 million in the last campaign cycle. The union also bought $157,000 in tickets to Clinton's 1997 inauguration, one of the top purchases.

Coia and Clinton have even exchanged expensive golf clubs as gifts, the Time reported.

Luskin declined to comment on the Times report when reached at his home Wednesday night by The Associated Press.

"We have said for three years that a central part of the reform process is pursuing aggressively every credible allegation against Coia, and he has said as much himself," he said. "But I have never in three years ever commented on any investigation before it has led to a charge or a declamation."

Coia could not be reached at his home Wednesday night. But in an interview last year, he said: "I am not controlled, never were, not influenced by, and never were," by organized crime.