After more than a year of anxious waiting, Brian McLaughlin has learned the consequences of taking the low road to achieve the high life. On May 20, McLaughlin, formerly president of a powerful New York City-based labor organization and a seven-term State Assemblyman, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $25,000 following his guilty plea in March 2008 to a multiple federal racketeering suit. Union Corruption Update has covered the story continuously since McLaughlin’s offices were raided in March 2006 and McLaughlin himself was arrested that October.
McLaughlin, now 57, a resident of Queens, N.Y., enjoyed a dual role as politician and labor leader. Skilled and charismatic, he built a power base through establishing extensive connections to both worlds. In 1992 he was elected New York State Assemblyman; he would be re-elected a half-dozen times. A trained electrician and former head of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3, McLaughlin in 1995 assumed the presidency of the New York City Central Labor Council (NYCCLC), an AFL-CIO-affiliated nonprofit group whose roughly 400 member unions now represent some 1.3 million workers. His reported combined annual income was $263,000. For him, at least, that was too low. During 1995-2006, the 186-page, 44-count criminal RICO suit alleged, he engaged in a pattern of embezzlement, fraud and kickbacks from various sources – government, the CLC, union members, contractors, his re-election committee, and even a Little League baseball team in Queens – to pay for personal expenses. His combined take was a reported $2.2 million, though the reported sum of his required asset forfeiture is slightly over $3 million.
McLaughlin admitted to his acts at sentencing. “I make no excuses for it, but I’d like to add that over the last three, three and half years, I’ve had the opportunity to live the way I’d like to live my life,” he said. McLaughlin had cooperated with federal authorities and attended meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. In a plea for leniency, his attorney, Michael Armstrong, told U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan, “This is someone who at core is a good person who went terribly wrong, and who realizes that, and realizes it fully.” Judge Sullivan was not impressed, even with prosecutors calling for leniency in light of his cooperation. “You had every opportunity, and you used those opportunities and squandered them for your own benefit on a monumental scale,” he told McLaughlin. The Central Labor Council, in response, issued a statement indicating it has “moved forward as a stronger, more accountable labor organization,” and had “made the necessary reforms to protect our integrity and increase transparency and reporting measures.” (New York Times, 5/21/09; other sources).