Sunday, June 25, 2017

Does Anyone Remember Ray Donovan?

Raymond Donovan is a business man and former Secretary of Labor from 1981 to 1985 under President Ronald Reagan.  Through Donovan’s leadership, the department’s staff and budget was reduced, regulatory relief was given to businesses via changes made to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) enforcement practices, new industrial home work rules were created, and the Davis-Bacon rules revised, as well as revision of the federal compliance regulations.  However, it was his comment after the verdict in his 1987 trial that made him famous.

As chronicled in, Donovan was in the construction business.  He was executive vice president and 40% owner of Schiavone Construction of New Jersey. No sooner than Donovan was confirmed as Labor Secretary in 1981, when Time Magazine reported that he was mentioned in an FBI wiretap of an alleged mobster who did subcontract work for Schiavone.  Shortly after, the FBI said that a labor union official, in 1977, witnessed a $2,000 payoff by Schiavone to another union official.  Then Attorney General William Smith, asked for an investigation of Donovan and attorney Leon Silverman was named as special prosecutor under the Ethics in Government Act.

In May, 1982 Donovan was in front of a New York grand jury.  In June, 1982 the Washington Post reported Schiavone Construction was linked to the Genovese crime family.  However, that month, the Silverman commission cited 'insufficient credible evidence' and cleared Donovan.  At this point, a reasonable man might think the controversy was over…but, in politics, the facts can be irrelevant.

A year later the Bronx District Attorney investigated Schiavone Construction.  Donovan with seven executives were indicted on charges of grand larceny.  The legal wrangling and trial took years, but in 1987, Donovan and his seven co-defendants were acquitted of all charges.  Following the trial, Donovan famously remarks "Which [government] office do I go to to get my reputation back?”

These sort of accusations facilitated by a media with partisan interest make for good political theater and media profits.  Scandals can be created with innuendo and investigation conjured without proof.  However, the story is not that Mr. Donovan was found innocent or accusations investigated were not credible.  It was how political enemies with media allies can colluded to use insinuation for fact in a witch hunt against Mr. Donovan.  Sound familiar?

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