- Harold Ickes’ law firm
- Influential defender of Big Labor, notorious for representing violent, mob-run unions
The law firm of Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein (a.k.a. Meyer Suozzi) was founded in 1960 by the late John Francis English. It was originally called English & Haber — the second name in the title referring to co-founder Ferdinand Haber. The firm acquired its present name in 1987.
Founder Jack English was a lifelong Democrat operative, prominent both in national and Long Island politics, serving as national Democratic committeeman and chairman of the Nassau County Democratic Committee. He was a close advisor to John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
Meyer Suozzi is a full-service law firm with headquarters in Mineola, New York. It employs more than 55 attorneys and maintains branches in New York City, Albany, and Washington, DC. Meyer Suozzi’s labor practice — which Harold Ickes ran from 1983 to 1993 — has brought controversy to the firm, through its long history of representing corrupt unions under Mob control.
Meyer Suozzi’s longstanding habit of hiring former judges, politicians, and other powerbrokers testifies to the firm’s well-known appetite for political power. The firm parlays its close relationship with the Democratic Party, labor unions and organized crime into a law practice that enriches its partners not only through legal fees but through political influence.
Meyer Suozzi founder Jack English met Harold Ickes in 1968 and reportedly admired Ickes’ work on Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign. In 1977 English invited Ickes to join Meyer Suozzi. Ickes started as an associate, became a partner in 1980, and headed the firm’s labor practice from 1982 to December 1993, overseeing a staff of nine lawyers serving nearly 200 union clients.
Many unions at that time were controlled in whole or in part by New York’s “five families” — the Gambino, Colombo, Lucchese, Genovese and Bonanno crime syndicates. Union bosses were often hand-picked by the Mob. These Mafia-selected bosses embezzled union dues; robbed pension funds; planted friends and associates in lucrative “ghost jobs” on union payrolls; rigged bids on work contracts; and extorted payoffs from businesses by threatening strikes.
The biggest losers in the labor racket were the rank-and-file union members. Mob-run union bosses grew wealthy on kickbacks and payoffs. But the deals they cut with employers left workers poorly represented. Union members who protested mob corruption were threatened, beaten and sometimes killed.
One of Ickes’ clients as a Meyer Suozzi partner was Arthur Armand Coia, who would become president of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) in February 1993. In a 1994 civil racketeering complaint, Justice Department investigators accused Coia of having “associated with, and been controlled and influenced by, organized crime figures.” In fact, the Patriarca crime family of Providence, Rhode Island had long controlled LIUNA.
Coia ruled LIUNA with an iron fist. The racketeering complaint charges that he “employed actual and threatened force, violence and fear of physical and economic injury” to keep his troops in line. At Coia’s command, LIUNA locals throughout upstate New York were ordered to pay tribute to Mob bosses in Buffalo.”
Ickes also represented Local 100 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, identified by federal investigators as a Mob fiefdom under joint control of the Colombo and Gambino crime families.
Ickes represented a number of Teamsters locals that federal prosecutors knew to be hotbeds of Mob racketeering. One was Teamsters Local 560 in Union City, New Jersey, long dominated by the Genovese crime family.
Other Ickes clients included Teamsters Locals 295 and 851, which represent air freight workers at New York City airports. Both have been under Mob control for decades, according to federal investigators. After Local 295 boss Anthony Calagna — an associate of the Lucchese crime family — was convicted of extortion in 1992, a federal judge placed Local 295 under the supervision of trustees Thomas P. Puccio (a former federal prosecutor) and Michael J. Moroney (a former Labor Department investigator).
Puccio and Moroney quickly identified Harold Ickes and his law firm, Meyer Suozzi, as obstacles in their efforts to clean up Local 295. They told the court that Meyer Suozzi had shown “hostility to the trusteeship” and demanded that the firm cease representing Locals 295 and 851, citing Meyer Suozzi’s “past practices” and the firm’s “lack of independence” from the Mob.
Following Bill Clinton‘s election as U.S. President in 1992, Harold Ickes was widely expected to get the job of deputy White House chief of staff. He had managed Clinton’s New York campaign, run the Democratic National Convention, and overseen the Clinton transition team. However, shortly before Clinton announced his White House appointments, unknown sources began leaking reports of Ickes’s Mob connections to the press — sources widely believed to be connected with Ickes’ enemies within the Democratic Party. Clinton declined to name him to any White House post, pending the results of further investigation.
Court officer Mary Shannon Little was assigned to investigate. “Based on the evidence available to date, there is no evidence of criminal misconduct on the part of Harold Ickes or Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein,” she wrote in a November 1993 memorandum. However, the 57-page Little report was sealed. When the Long Island newspaper Newsday sued to unseal it, a federal appeals court ruled against Newsday. While acknowledging that the report contained “various accusations” against Ickes, the court pointed out that much of the text had been redacted or blacked out and that it “would circulate accusations that cannot be tested by the interested public because the sources and much of the subject matter are shrouded by the redactions …”
Meyer Suozzi managing partner William Cunningham III — who would later serve as treasurer for Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign — announced on November 18, 1993 that Ickes had been cleared of all charges.
On January 4, 1994, Harold M. Ickes began his first day of work at the White House, as deputy chief of staff. He held that post until January 20, 1997, at which time he stepped down amid growing controversy over his suspicious fundraising tactics. Despite pressure from within her own Justice Department, Attorney General Janet Reno refused to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Ickes.
Ickes went back to work for Meyer Suozzi and today runs the firm’s Washington office.
Over the years, Meyer Suozzi has given financial support to the political campaigns of many Democrats, including such notables as Barbara Boxer, Sherrod Brown, Hillary Clinton, James Clyburn, Dick Durbin, John Edwards, Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Carl Levin, Jerrold Nadler, Barack Obama, Major Owens, Charles Rangel, Charles Schumer, Jose Serrano, Nydia Velazquez, Elizabeth Warren, and Maxine Waters.