Accuracy in Media

The New York Times reported that former nominee for Homeland Security secretary Bernard B. Kerik would have faced questioning over a web of relationships he had developed with Interstate Industrial Corporation, a firm long suspected by New York law enforcement of being linked to the mob. Before questions could be asked by members of the Senate, who would have voted on his confirmation, Kerik had withdrawn his name over his hiring of an illegal alien.

Four years ago, the Times reported that the city suspended more than $80 million in contracts with the firm, so that it could investigate allegations of mob ties. Times reporter William K. Rashbaum reported that the mob had a monopoly on the construction business in the New York area, and had remained entrenched in the business, feeding off public works projects and private developments.

The story of entrenched mob control is an old one. “There are many industries?that suffer from its insidious influence,” Manhattan district attorney Robert M. Morgenthau has said. Affected industries have included construction in New York, the New Jersey sanitation business, and the DeCavalcante crime family’s later infiltration of Wall Street, where they netted tens of millions of dollars in dirty profits.

With so much corruption, why is it that we get so little enterprise reporting on the subject? Current mob stories, like terrorism stories, are largely reactive, not proactive. In other words, the press reports on Mafia activity after it has been alleged or disclosed by legal action and/or government investigations. It seems gone are the daring heydays of the Miami Herald when they would discover mafia activity and publish the names and photos of mobsters, along with their home addresses.

So are Big Media afraid of the mafia or is there just an overall decline in enterprise reporting?

Both of those issues may come into play, but a third phenomenon needs to be taken into account as well: the mafia has infiltrated not only construction, Wall Street, gambling and other industries, but media as well. The mafia likes to “make” reporters. What does that mean? Read on.

A few years ago an individual I later learned was a major figure in the mafia offered me a well-paying job. At the time, I didn’t know the full identity of the well-heeled man who made the employment offer. What I learned through this and subsequent conversations with mob-linked players though, opened my eyes to a world I had never seen before: a world where the mafia “makes” journalists. It means the mob feeds journalists inside “corruption” scoops they know will hurt the mob’s enemies. The targets may be rival mob enterprises or investments. Before you know it, that reporter’s lackluster portfolio is positively gleaming, and he or she becomes a “star” reporter. 

So what does the mafia get in return? Immunity from the press, revenge, and profits from manipulating the stock market. It may sound crazy, but for some journalists it’s an offer they can’t refuse.

My experience with the mafia began on a warm South Florida evening at a Boca Raton country club, where I had been invited to meet a man who had been described to me as a very successful professional stock trader. It turns out that he was a notorious pioneer of what’s been called “the mob on Wall Street.” This was a famous move of the DeCavalcante crime family into highly sophisticated securities fraud schemes. The intellectual sophistication of the schemes netted them tens of millions of dollars. Their smooth demeanors were offset by their infamous brutality, which included pistol-whipping brokers into submission and murder threats.

I was told that my host had “made” a well-known senior writer for a financial news magazine by feeding him these scoops. That writer had won several awards for investigative journalism. It wasn’t surprising that the writer never investigated or reported negatively on the DeCavalcante crime family.

My host later told me he’d like to see me writing a weekly business column for a certain South Florida newspaper. Clearly, he wanted me to use the column to punish his enemies and advance his business interests.

When I declined the offer and went on to expose some of their activities, two of my employers were threatened. One was “invited” to “get rid” of me. Because of the nature of the threats and the continued prospect of intimidation of others, I can’t reveal the names of those involved.

Mainstream media have the resources to expose mob activity and to protect the journalists involved. But some may remain silent because they’ve been “made.”

Ready to fight back against media bias?
Join us by donating to AIM today.


Comments are turned off for this article.