The Commission (mafia)
The Commission is the governing body of the American Mafia. Formed in 1931, the Commission replaced the "Boss of all Bosses" title with a ruling committee consisting of the New York Five Families bosses and the boss of the Chicago Outfit. The last known Commission meeting held with all the bosses was in November 1985.
Before the Commission was formed the American Mafia crime families were under control of one man known as the capo di tutti capi ("boss of all bosses," literally "head of all heads"). This man held great power over all their bosses, leading to disputes and wars.
In 1929, two New York Mafia bosses Joe "The Boss" Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano fought over the title in the Castellammarese War. On April 15, 1931, Masseria was murdered allowing Maranzano to assume the title of capo di tutti capi. Maranzano began to divide all the national criminal gangs into several crime families. It was decided between Charles "Lucky" Luciano and his allies that Maranzano would be removed. On September 10, 1931, he was murdered.
The Commission's formation
After Maranzano's murder in 1931, the Mafia families called a meeting in Chicago. The purpose of the meeting was to replace the old Sicilian Mafia regime of "boss of all bosses" and establish a rule of consensus among the crime families. Charlie Luciano established a Mafia board of directors to be known as "The Commission" to oversee all Mafia activities in the United States and serve to mediate conflicts between families. The Commission consisting of seven family bosses: the leaders of New York's Five Families: Charlie "Lucky" Luciano, Vincent Mangano, Tommy Gagliano, Joseph Bonanno and Joe Profaci, the Chicago Outfit boss Al Capone and Buffalo family boss Stefano Magaddino. Charlie Luciano was appointed chairman of the Commission. The Commission agreed to hold meetings every five years or when they needed to discuss family problems.
The power of the Commission
The Commission held the power of approving a new boss before he could take over officially. The New York Five Families also decided that the names of all new proposed members must be approved by the other families. After the new proposed member is approved by the other families he could become a made man.
The Commission allowed Jewish mobsters Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, Dutch Schultz and Abner "Longie" Zwillman to work alongside them and participate in some meetings. In 1935, Dutch Schultz questioned the Commission's authority when he wanted to have prosecutor Thomas Dewey murdered. Instead the Commission had Schultz killed on October 23, 1935. The Commission used Louis Buchalter's Murder Inc, to dispose of any rivals to their authority.
In 1936, Charles "Lucky" Luciano was imprisoned, which allowed five bosses Vincent Mangano, Joseph Profaci, Joseph Bonanno, Tommy Gagliano, and Stefano Magaddino to take control of the Commission. The five bosses were all from the "conservative faction" of the commission and believed in Sicilian traditions for the American Mafia. The conservative faction selected Vincent Mangano as the new chairman and Joseph Profaci became the secretary of the Commission. In 1946, the Havana Conference was arranged by Charles Luciano to discuss with the Commission the American Mafia's future. The Commission decided in the meeting that Luciano would become the new "Boss of Bosses", the American Mafia would become active in the narcotics trade and Bugsy Siegel would be killed for skimming money from the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.
In 1951, the conservative faction leader Vincent Mangano went missing and Albert Anastasia sided with the "liberal-American faction" members Frank Costello and Tommy Lucchese. The power of the Commission shifted from the "conservative-Sicilian faction" to the "liberal-American faction."
In 1957, at the Apalachin Meeting the Commission decided that two more bosses Angelo "Gentle Don" Bruno of the Philadelphia crime family and Joseph "Joe Z." Zerilli of the Detroit Partnership, would receive a seat on the Commission. Jack Dragna, boss of the Los Angeles crime family for 25 years, also held a seat on the National Commission. Since Dragna's death in 1956, the Los Angeles crime family has been represented by the Chicago Outfit.
The Commission today
The Commission is still reported to exist today, though its current membership is composed of only the bosses of the Five Families and the Chicago Outfit. Its activities, like much of the Mafia in general, have receded from public view as a matter of necessity. Because of law enforcement scrutiny, the five New York City bosses have not met since Paul Castellano was killed in 1985. However, while the Commission no longer meets in person, they still must approve major actions. Mini meetings between two (or more) bosses still take place. In 2000, representatives of the Five Families (three bosses, one consigliere and a member of the Genovese ruling panel) did meet. Instead of a meeting of bosses, underlings such as underbosses or captains meet secretly to discuss the business and govern.
Chairman of the Commission
There was no "ruler" of the Commission, but there was a nominated Chairman or Head of the National Commission. This was used as a substitute to the role of capo di tutti capi, as that had the connotations of the old Mustache Pete system of one-man rule.
- 1931–1936 — Charles "Lucky" Luciano — arrested in 1936 and then deported in 1946.
- 1936–1951 — Vincent "The Executioner" Mangano — was the "Speaker" of the Conservative faction, disappeared in April 1951
- 1951–1957 — Ruling panel — Frank "the Prime Minister" Costello (Liberal faction), Joseph "Joe Bananas" Bonanno (Conservative faction)
- 1957–1959 — Vito "Don Vitone" Genovese — led the Liberal faction along with Tommy Lucchese and Carlo Gambino. He was imprisoned in 1959 and died on February 14, 1969.
- 1959–1976 — Carlo "The Godfather" Gambino — allied with Tommy Lucchese and retired Frank Costello. He died on October 15, 1976.
- 1976–1985 — Paul "Big Paul" Castellano — murdered on December 16, 1985.
- 1985 — After the Commission Case, it was decided that the Commission would no longer meet as a group. Instead Commission members vote and send messengers to other family bosses relating to Commission topics.
- Unofficial 1986–1992 — John "Dapper Don" Gotti — imprisoned in 1992 and died on June 10, 2002
- Unofficial 1992–1997 — Vincent "Chin" Gigante — imprisoned in 1997 and died on December 19, 2005.
- Unofficial 2000–2003 — Joseph "Big Joey" Massino — imprisoned in 2003, then in 2004 he became a government witness
Families with Commission seats
- Genovese (1931–present)
- Gambino (1931–present)
- Lucchese (1931–present)
- Chicago Outfit (1931–present), often represented by the Genovese family
- Bonanno (1931–1970s; 1990s–present)
- Colombo (1931–1990s; 2000s–present)
Families represented by the Genovese family
- Buffalo crime family – held a seat from 1931 to 1974
- Philadelphia crime family – held a seat from 1961 to 1980
- Detroit Partnership – held a seat from 1961 to 1977
- DeCavalcante crime family (New Jersey)
- Patriarca crime family (New England)
- Pittsburgh crime family
- Cleveland crime family
- New Orleans crime family
Families represented by the Chicago Outfit
- Milwaukee crime family
- Kansas City crime family
- St. Louis crime family
- Trafficante crime family (Tampa)
- Los Angeles crime family
- San Francisco crime family
- San Jose crime family
In popular culture
- In The Godfather film, the Five Families call a Commission meeting to discuss peace between the Corleone and Tattaglia families.
- In The Godfather Part III, Commission members are killed in Atlantic City, New Jersey by a helicopter raid.
- In the film Mobsters, starring Christian Slater as Luciano, the Commission is created and Luciano becomes the "chairman of the board".
- In the video game Grand Theft Auto IV set in Liberty City (New York City) boss Jimmy Pegorino tries to get a seat on the Commission.
- In the film Hoodlum, the Commission meets to discuss Mafia business.
- In the film Bugsy, starring Warren Beatty as Bugsy Siegel; the Commission meets in Havana, Cuba to discuss Bugsy's life or death.
- In the film Analyze This the Commission calls a new meeting, but ends up with a shootout.
- In the video game Mafia II, the main character learns that the Commission wants him dead, after having caused war between two of the three families in Empire Bay, and for slaughtering more than half of the members of the Empire Bay Triads - and that he only gets one chance to fix things.
- Capcei, Jerry. The complete idiot's guide to the Mafia "The Mafia's Commission" (pg. 31-46)
- Marzulli, John (2011-04-16). "Boss rat Joseph Massino admits to court that Mafia Commission hasn't met in 25 years". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2013-07-17.
- Humbert S. Nelli The business of crime: Italians and syndicate crime in the United States (pg. 206-208)
- The Commission's Origins (November 20, 1986) New York Times
- Russo, Gus. The Outfit: The Role of Chicago's Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America pg.32-33, 41 221
- Raab, Selwyn. Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires pg.49
- Killer Ring Broken; 21 Murders Solved laborers.org (1998)
- Bonanno A Man of Honor (pg. 159-169)
- Havana Conference (Dec. 1946) lacndb.com
- Bonanno A Man of Honor pg.170-185
- After Gotti, Mafia ordered to clean house NY Daily News. July 7, 2002
- Gambino Is Called Heir to Genovese As 'Boss of Bosses'; Gambino Called 'Boss of Bosses' Of 6 Mafia Families in the Area by Charles Grutzner (March 15, 1970) New York Times
- Books of The Times; A Don Pays the Price of Carelessness by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt (May 23, 1991) New York Times
- With Gotti Away, the Genoveses Succeed the Leaderless Gambinos by Selwyn Raab (09-03-1995) New York Times
- "Laborers-LIUNA 212". Laborers.org. Retrieved 2011-04-13.
- Bonanno, Joseph. A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2003. ISBN 0-312-97923-1
- Bernstein, Lee. The Greatest Menace: Organized Crime in Cold War America. Boston: UMass Press, 2002. ISBN 1-55849-345-X
- Bonanno, Bill. Bound by Honor: A Mafioso's Story. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999. ISBN 0-312-97147-8