I have known Tony Coehlo most of my life. I grew up in central California in a small farming community that is in the Congressional District served by Coehlo and Condit. I went to school with Tony Coehlo's nieces, one of whom was recently implicated in the Portuguese Scandal along with her infamous uncle.
In 1989, when Democratic Speaker of the House, Jim Wright, was forced to resign in a ethics scandal, Coehlo was second in power in the position of Majority Whip. Coehlo was caught up in a personal financial scandal and was also forced out.
I was living in Washington D.C. and New York City at the time this was going on. Shortly after Coehlo and Wright were forced out, I moved back to California and bought a house with my mother in my home town, which was right in the heart of Coehlo's Congressional District.
After two more trips to Washington D.C., I was approached by the Condit Campaign and asked to join. I declined due to illness. One of my nieces took the job. As a result of her involvement, I was asked to host a small party for the Condit family. During that party, Condit himself asked me to join his campaign. He had heard from my niece that I was thinking about accepting a job on Capitol Hill and he put in a pitch to get me to go to work for him instead of Senator Claiborne Pell.
Two days after Gunther and I married, he was arrested, by the FBI, in front of my entire family. We were all told that he was a con man on a crime spree, marrying and defrauding wealthy widows. Gunther was taken to the Stanislaus County Jail in Modesto, California. Gary Condit's brother is a sheriff in this County.
I was not allowed to talk to him or see him until I had hand delivered a letter to the Sheriff's Office stating that I wanted to see and hear from him. Shortly after I delivered the letter, Gunther called. One of the first things he said was, "Tony Coehlo and Gary Condit are behind this."
I was incredulous. How could Tony Coehlo and Gary Condit be behind his arrest? Over the next few weeks and months, the entire story came out. Gunther said Coehlo worked closely with the CIA in many of the Savings and Loan Scandals. He also worked closely with Michael Milken in the junk bond scandal of the 80's. Gunther said Coehlo skimmed a lot more money out of these scandals than has ever been revealed.
Evidently the fact that I had recently been living in Washington, D.C., and had JUST moved back to Coehlo's district, made Coehlo believe that Gunther and I had come into the area to expose ALL of Coehlo's scandals and thereby derail any hope the Democrats had of hanging on to the Congressional seat.
Tony Coehlo has a LONG history of unscrupulous activity. The following comments are not my own, they are taken from the various articles that follow:
Coehlo was closely connected to policies that led to the Democratic Party's collapse in the late '80s, from subsidies for agribusiness moguls to all-out defense of entitlements. Together, Gore and Coehlo helped lead the Dukakis-Bentsen campaign down the tubes against Bush-Quayle in 1988.
Tony Coehlo is a well connected insider with access to the Intelligence Community. If Gary Condit knew he was in trouble, who would he go to? Whose advice would he ask? Birds of a feather flock together. If Condit needed help covering up an affair, an illigitimate child, a murder, who better to turn to than a man who has had his fingers in all sorts of scandals?
My question to the media is:
When are you going to start investigating Tony Coehlo?
TWO PEAS IN A POD: AL GORE & TONY COELHO
Al Gore recently named former-Rep. Tony Coelho (D-CA) to head his presidential campaign. Coelho was notorious for his ability to shake down any lobbyist with business before Congress. Author Brooks Jackson wrote a whole book, called "Honest Graft", about Coelho's ability to rake in campaign cash, especially from shady S&L execs. It was an association with some of these characters that ultimately led to his resignation in disgrace from Congress. We all know that Al Gore is no boy scout when it comes to raising money. What does the appointment of Coelho say about the direction the Gore campaign is taking? What does it say about campaign finance reform advocates who have suddenly fallen silent? Here is some background on Coelho:
"Power, privilege and cutthroat politics-for Coelho, they're not a problem but a way of life." (Los Angeles Times, 8-16-94)
"As the House Democrats' campaign chief, Coelho subordinated ideas to attacks: `My job is to be the hit man.'" (Los Angeles Times, 8-16-94)
"Coelho had burnished his lifestyle considerably upon being elected to Congress, accepting approximately $80,000 per year in honoraria and speaking fees. Coelho used the money to make extensive renovations to his Alexandria home, which he proudly referred to as "the house honoraria built." "I'm earning more money than I ever dreamed of making," he gloated..." (New Republic, 12-25-94)
"Influence peddling, it's recalled, was the Coelho political specialty as he rose in Congress from a back-bencher to party whip..." (Scripps Howard News Service, 8-24-94)
"[Coelho] went so far as to sell access to the Democratic leadership of the House. He invented the Speaker's Club, which granted lobbyists and their clients the ability to meet socially with the speaker of the House and other top Democrats for $5,000 per year for individuals and $15,000 for PACS." (New Republic, 12-25-94)
"[Coelho] made a name for himself by perfecting a shake-down racket that enriched Democratic campaigns by threatening businesses. The Democrats are going to be in the majority for a long time, Mr. Coelho was fond of telling businesses and their political action committees. Get on board with the Democrats or suffer the consequences." (Washington Times, 12-22-94)
"As the House Democratic campaign chief in the 1980s, [Coelho] pioneered the political-donor shakedown. Businesses were told in effect that giving cash to House Democrats was an offer they couldn't refuse. In return they might get legislative protection, such as the costly free pass he gave to failing S&Ls." (Gigot, Wall Street Journal, 5-14-99)
In 1989, Coelho ardently defended a congressional aide who had brutally assaulted a woman with a hammer and knife, but served only 27 months in prison. "Rightly or wrongly," Coelho said, the aide "owed his debt to society, not to this young woman." (Los Angeles Times, 8-16-94)
Coelho at the 1988 Democratic convention: "When the titans of Wall Street were looting the small investors on Main Street, where was George Bush?" Coelho pledged that his party would fight "the corporate cannibals on Wall Street." After resigning from Congress, Coehlo became a New York investment banker. (Los Angeles Times, 8-16-94)
READ THE BOOK...
"The book [Honest Graft, by Brooks Jackson] documented how Coelho curried favor with and solicited large donations from shady savings and loan association owners, some of whom were ultimately convicted of fraud that cost the government millions of dollars."(New York Times, 5-15-99)
"The book also showed how Coelho had threatened political action committees with retaliation if they did not donate money to Democrats, how he arranged lucrative speaking engagements for himself and his Democratic colleagues, how he fought against campaign-finance and tax-reform legislation that might have limited fund raising or worked to the disadvantage of Democratic donors and how, after soliciting money from the Teamsters Union, he tried to intervene with the Justice Department on behalf of the union's president, Jackie Presser." (New York Times, 5-15-99)
Please send a letter to the Atlanta Journal Constitution-- here is a sample:
May 29, 1999
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
72 Marietta Street, NW
Atlanta, GA 30303-2804
To the Editor
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's editorial staff has made campaign finance reform its life-long passion -- breathlessly calling for taxpayer-financing of campaigns in editorial after editorial. That's why I was surprised to hear not a peep on Al Gore's recent selection of former Rep. Tony Coehlo to run his presidential campaign.
Readers might recall that Coehlo resigned from Congress in disgrace as he was investigated for receiving financing "help" from S&L executives. Throughout the 1980s, Mr. Coehlo was the Democrats top fundraiser, shamelessly shaking down any lobbyist with business before Congress. Coehlo invented such rackets as the "Speakers Club" in which fatcat lobbyists ponied up $5,000 ($15,000 for PACS) to hob nob with the Speaker of the House. Author Brooks Jackson wrote a whole book, called "Honest Graft", about Coehlo's ability to rake in campaign cash, especially from shady S&L execs.
As everyone now knows, Al Gore has been no boy scout when it comes to campaign finance. Coehlo's appointment seems to suggest we are in for more, not less, questionable fundraising from the Gore campaign. I would hope that, for the sake of consistency, your paper would find this troubling and call on Gore to clean up his act once and for all. Bill Bradley keeps looking better all the time.
Joe Q. Citizen
When not hoeing tobacco, whipping his mule team up steep hillsides and inventing the Internet, our indefatigable veep conceived the brilliant idea of hiring former Rep. Tony Coehlo as his campaign chairman. This is like Mike Tyson hiring Marv Albert to buff his image.
Coehlo, famous for strong-arming big Democratic donors while serving as majority whip, resigned from Congress under a cloud in 1989, after failing to disclose a shady loan. Mr. No-Controlling-Legal-Authority might have thought of that. As for Coehlo's political instincts, well, when Coehlo was serving as a campaign adviser to the House Democrats in October 1994, he was asked, "How does it look out there?"
Gore in Freefall
Al Gore's presidential bid, newly headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, seemed to be in meltdown by the end of last week, with campaign manager Tony Coehlo, the sleazeball congressman forced out of the House at the start of the early-'80s S&L scandal, at the center of yet another ethical firestorm.
On Friday, the Center for Public Integrity excerpted findings from a report by the state department's inspector general alleging that while Coehlo had run the U.S. pavilion at a 1998 expo in Portugal, he lived in a luxury apartment that cost the government $18,000 a month, misused airline tickets, gave his niece a federal job, and received a $300,000 personal loan that may end up being repaid by the federal government.
On Sunday, Gore, seeming confused, continued to embrace Coehlo. Appearing on Face the Nation, the vice president said that although he hadn't seen the report, "I know him, and he is going to continue doing the terrific job he's been doing as my campaign chair." Regarding the report's implications, Gore said that "people I talked to are not interested," adding that it was "inside baseball." That is essentially the same way Gore tossed off questions earlier this year about his appointment of Carter Eskew— one of the tobacco industry's leading flacks— as his media adviser.
On Monday came Jane Mayer's report in The New Yorker (site of a previous Clinton-Gore "friction" leak), quoting the president as telling "a confidant" recently that "but for his father," Gore "would have been a professor, or something more solitary." According to Mayer, "Clinton's friend concurs. 'Gore is the most introverted person I've ever seen in public life,' he says. 'When I watch what he does, it's heroic. He works like a dog— but it's excruciating.' "
Well, at least he didn't characterize him as "wooden" and "boring."
Early in his campaign for the Presidency, Gore tapped former
Congressman and known crook Tony Coehlo as campaign
chairman. Coehlo left Congress just as investigators were
closing in over questionable stock trades and for lying on
his financial disclosure reports.
Later, in the private sector, Coehlo narrowly avoided
prosecution for insider trader violations, then was allowed
to defraud taxpayers and skip out on unpaid bills while
heading a U.S. Trade Delegation in Spain.
When Coehlo left the Gore campaign, the veep replaced him
with former Commerce Secretary William J. Daley, son of
legendary Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, the corrupt
politician who engineered John F. Kennedy's theft of the
1960 Presidential election.
While head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Coehlo told a group of business people that they'd better take a major interest in contributing to Democrats "or we can take a very big interest in your business," a threat to use tax and regulatory power to extort money. Also in Gore's high command is Donna Brazile, who was fired by Michael Dukakis during his presidential campaign for spreading false stories that President George Bush was an adulterer. Gore has gone out of his way to hire gutter people, so the logical expectation is that he plans to run a gutter campaign.
Coehlo, a six-term congressman from California's Central Valley, resigned suddenly in 1989 after reports about his investments in a Beverly Hills S&L linked to junk bond king Michael Milken. Coehlo's resignation came shortly after Speaker Jim Wright resigned in disgrace over ethics problems. When Wright stepped down, Coehlo had been in the running to be majority leader.
In 1989, the L.A. Times reported that the Justice Department had initiated an investigation of favors Coehlo and some associates had given to Milken. The department never confirmed or denied the story.
In his 1988 book Honest Graft: Big Money and the American Political Process, Brooks Jackson tells how Coehlo solicited money from the Teamsters, and then sought to intervene with the Justice Department on behalf of union president Jackie Presser.
Coehlo is seen as valuable to Gore because he can raise big bucks in California— a state he knows extremely well— where Gore draws much of his $8.8 million war chest. It is here, in an early primary next March, that the campaign may well be decided.
Footnote: Coehlo was closely connected to policies that led to the Democratic Party's collapse in the late '80s, from subsidies for agribusiness moguls to all-out defense of entitlements. Together, Gore and Coehlo helped lead the Dukakis-Bentsen campaign down the tubes against Bush-Quayle in 1988.
Copyright © 2000 VV Publishing Corporation, 36 Cooper Square, New York, NY 10003 The Village Voice and Voice are registered trademarks. All rights reserved.
Since joining the U.S. House of Representatives after a 1989 special election, Gary Condit has been an ardent supporter of reducing federal debt and a leader on several issues now in vogue in Congress - curbing unfunded federal mandates on states and local governments, requiring Congress to balance the budget, and restoring common sense to federal regulations. Condit received his Bachelor of Arts in 1972 from California State University, Stanislaus, while working for the private sector to pay for his education. After graduation, he ran successfully for the office of Ceres City Councilmember in 1972. He's a founding member of The Coalition, a Congressional group dedicated to non-partisan debate. Condit is used to such associations from his days in the California legislature. In 1988, he and four other moderate-to-conservative Democratic legislators - dubbed the "Gang of Five" - tried to topple liberal Speaker Willie Brown. Their effort failed but Condit continued to win support in his home district, setting up his run for Congress when former Rep. Tony Coehlo resigned in 1989. Condit has won strong support - upwards of 85 percent of the voters - in each election since. Coming from one of the most agricultural districts in the country, Condit sits on the House's Agriculture Committee, serving as the ranking minority member on the Department Operations, Nutrition, and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee. Condit also sits on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.