At the annual Pennsylvania Society Weekend in New York City in December, former union leader and suspected mob associate Victor Gotbaum and wife Betsy, both powerful Democrats, hosted their first Republican fundraiser for Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Huntingdon).
Victor, now 92 years old, was the executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employee (AFSCME) District Council 37 (DC 37) — America’s largest and wealthiest public employee union — for over 20 years. Betsy was the New York public advocate from 2001 to 2009.
The Sunday brunch honoring Fleck was $100 a person and was held at the Gotbaums’ personal residence. Most of the people in attendance were Republican lobbyists, Fleck’s colleagues, or friends and family.
“There’s really nothing that the Gotbaums did other than provide their home,” Fleck said.
Fleck came out as gay in Dec. 2012, and his partner, Warren Licht, is a close friend of the Gotbaums, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Licht is the director of strategic initiatives at the North Shore-Long Island Hospital in Manhattan. Fleck told Media Trackers he and Licht even spent some time with Betsy one Christmas in London.
“It was mainly just Betsy doing a favor for us and hosting a fundraiser,” Fleck told Media Trackers. “It wasn’t a policy position. We probably disagree on more than we agree on.”
DC 37 has historically been a leading advocate of equal rights for the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) community, with Victor himself a very outspoken leader in the movement. Gotbaum testified at a New York City Council meeting in 1986 in favor of a gay rights bill.
In addition to its record of championing gay rights, however, DC 37 also holds a record for the most indictments — the local union has had 27 indictments, including larceny and embezzlement. Many news outlets have traced DC 37’s criminal history back to Victor, who allegedly had several mob ties.
Below are two alleged mobster connections of Victor’s:
William “Wild Bill” Cutolo: The New York Daily News reported in 1998 that Victor met with Cutolo twice in 1996. Cutolo had been expelled from a local Teamsters union for alleged mob ties to the Colombo family, according to the article. And in 1994, Cutolo was acquitted of federal murder and conspiracy charges.
Anthony “Young Tony” Scotto: Victor also reached out to Scotto, leader of the Longshoreman’s Local 1814, for help in his struggle with the local Teamsters union over jurisdiction over New York City’s hospital employees. Scotto had previously served five years in prison as a convicted extortionist and had married into the Gambino crime family.
But Fleck denied Victor had much, if anything, to do with the fundraiser.
“Victor is 92 and is not in the best of health,” he said. “It was Betsy who did the fundraiser.”