What's a racketeer?

What's a racketeer?

Webster's New World Dictionary uses 13 words to define racketeer: "A person who obtains money illegally, as by bootlegging, fraud, or, especially, extortion." The International Longshoremen's Association's new ethics code goes into considerably more detail. The 20-page code includes a three-page appendix of prohibited racketeering activities. The list ranges from arson to witness tampering.

The ILA code of ethics prohibits union officers, representatives, employees and members from knowingly associating with "(1) any member or associate of any La Cosa Nostra crime family or any other criminal group, or (2) any person who has been prohibited from participating in union affairs."

A second three-page appendix elaborates on what that means.

"A person 'knowingly associates' with a racketeer if the person makes a calculated choice to associate with the racketeer despite knowing the racketeer's involvement with organized criminal activities," the code says. "Knowledge need not be absolute certainty. Public media sources may be an adequate source . . . ."

The code of ethics offers illustrations of prohibited dealings with mobsters: "For example, installing a new floor and cabinets for racketeers or preparing their income tax returns is prohibited," as is hiring racketeers to perform work unrelated to the union.

The code includes two exceptions: "The first exception may apply when a racketeer owns, represents or is employed by a company whose employees are represented by the union," and union officials must conduct legitimate business with the firm. "The second exception, the one for family relationships, is very limited. Maintaining a relationship with a racketeer who is a member of one's immediate family is permissible if it is limited to lawful, social interactions that do not relate to union affairs."