Friday, August 7, 2009

Tainted Carpenters Union Boss Michael Forde still fave with Pols

Six weeks ago, carpenters union head Michael Forde gave Mayor Bloomberg a warm embrace - and his powerful group's support for mayor's reelection bid.

Michael Forde, the indicted boss of the city's carpenters, is a tough-talking union chief with Teflon skin and friends in high places - and low.

The beefy, $273,000-a-year union chief, born in the Bronx and raised in Queens, was elected head of the 25,000-member District Council of Carpenters in 1999 on the promise he'd clean house after his predecessor was convicted of stealing union money.

He's been in prosecutors' sights ever since.

All the while, politicians have gripped and grinned and kissed Forde's ring in pursuit of his endorsement - and his council's campaign cash.

Six weeks ago, a smiling Mayor Bloomberg embraced Forde, 54, at a rally where he received the group's endorsement.

"I don't know whether any of the charges...are true or not," Bloomberg stammered Wednesday after learning the Manhattan U.S. Attorney indicted Forde on 29 counts of racketeering and bribery.

"I'll leave that to the courts," Bloomberg said.

Among Forde's co-defendants are two mob associates, a mob-linked contractor, and seven union officials.

Nevertheless, the mayor said he was "thrilled" to have the endorsement of the council, which the feds have monitored since 1994 under a decree in another racketeering case.

Hillary Clinton happily accepted the carpenters' endorsement of her Senate run in 2000, four months before the Manhattan DA indicted Forde for taking bribes from mobsters. His conviction was tossed after some jurors admitted reading news accounts of the case. He was acquitted last year in a retrial.

When Clinton left the Senate, the carpenters pushed Caroline Kennedy as her replacement. Kennedy later dropped out.

As probes of Forde rolled forward, politicians continued to hold out their hands - and not just for handshakes.

The group has given out $3 million to politicians since Forde took over. It swelled Gov. Paterson's campaign chest by $40,000. His potential rival, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, has taken $61,500, including $10,000 in June. Neither has received a formal endorsement.

The council's largesse is bipartisan. The group endorsed Republican Gov. George Pataki for reelection in 2002 and Democrat Eliot Spitzer in 2006.

In the last 10 years, it has lavished $232,250 on the state Senate Republican campaign committee and $216,000 on the Assembly Democratic committee.

Councilman Bill de Blasio, running for public advocate, has taken $11,200 from the carpenters and Councilwoman Melinda Katz received $4,950.

Former Assemblyman and union leader Brian McLaughlin, got $10,600 in carpenter loot before he was sentenced to 10 years for stealing millions from Little Leaguers, contractors and union members.

And why not? Forde's philosophy is basic: "We are going to work with the people who will work with us," he often said.

The $273,000-a-year union boss, released on $75,000 bond, reported for work yesterday as usual, his lawyer said.

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