Notre Dame law professor Robert Blakey didn’t write the book on organized crime, but he wrote the law that let judges throw the book at the mob. As the brains behind the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization, or RICO, Act, Blakey is partially responsible for racketeering laws that put countless gangsters behind bars in state and federal prisons across the nation. Blakey speaks at the Mob Museum on Nov. 13 as part of its Inside Stories series.
It’s been 62 years since the Kefauver hearings exposed organized crime to America. How do you think the public would react to such hearings today?
The world is a changed place since Kefauver. He was as much about a first-time national TV show as a serious investigation of the mob. He was a wakeup call for the country, but nobody picked up the phone. That came later, much later. [In the meantime], the country saw the Vietnam War on TV. [As news spectacle], mobsters taking the fifth pale in comparison. Besides, the antics of the senators would be much more subdued in light of public opinion today. Different times; different reactions.
Some longtime Las Vegans speak fondly of the “good old days” when the mob ran this town. If you were having drinks with them, what would you say?
You have an entirely too romantic view of the mob. It is not a question of Broadway Guys and Dolls. They heedlessly blow up cars and sadistically put heads in vices. Fear of violence was the glue that held the mob together, and it made possible its outlaw domination of Las Vegas. Nobody in his or her right mind should look back nostalgically about that sort of place.
Do you believe there’s still a mob presence here? If so, in what capacity does it operate?
The mob of the 1960s is gone. You don’t see them blatantly feasting in the restaurants or exploiting hotel shows. It does not run illegal skims in the major casinos, control the hotel workers by force or threats or use under-the-table financing for major new construction. Its day is done in Las Vegas and elsewhere. The sun has not completely set on the mob anywhere, but it is well past twilight.