New Portrait in Oversight looks at Congress' investigation into mafia


The Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy, in collaboration with the U.S. Capitol Historical Society and The Mob Museum, the National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement, recently released “Portraits in Oversight: Congress Investigates the Mafia” describing how 1963 congressional hearings featuring a member of the American mafia, Joseph Valachi, led to enactment of tough new anti-racketeering laws, stronger U.S. drug addiction recovery efforts, and anew witness protection program.

“The Valachi hearings opened the public’s eyes to the inner workings of the American Mafia, detailing the five crime families operating in New York, their recruitment of gangsters, brutal crimes, and code of silence,” said Jim Townsend, director of the Levin Center. “The hearings also inspired “The Godfather” and a new genre of films and novels on organized crime in America.  The new Portrait in Oversight commemorates the bipartisan congressional work that exposed the criminal cartels and sparked the reforms that followed, reminding Congress and the public of what is possible.”

“Much like the Hollywood films now ubiquitous in American culture, the Valachi Hearings captured the public's imagination as they exposed the dark underworld of Cosa Nostra,” said U.S. Capitol Historical Society President and CEO Jane L. Campbell. “But unlike Hollywood, the real Mafia isn't a cast of A-listers with one-liners, but a gang of criminals who corrupt, steal, and kill. Because of Joseph Valachi's testimony, Congress finally understood how the syndicate operated, which helped lay the groundwork for future legislation—like the RICO Statute—that law enforcement used to take down leaders of the Chicago Outfit and Bonanno, Gambino, & Lucchese families. In that regard, the Valachi Hearings played a role in giving the future of the Mob the kiss of death.”

“The Valachi hearings were a key turning point in the fight against organized crime, and that story is told in The Mob Museum. It was great to work with the Levin Center to help develop excellent content on this important subject,” said Mob Museum Vice President of Exhibits and Programs Geoff Schumacher.

To read “Portraits in Oversight: Congress Investigates the Mafia,” visit https:// traits/valachi-hearings.

Portraits in Oversight is series of profiles developed by the Levin Center of past congressional investigations and key figures in the history of legislative oversight. Together, the portraits explore congressional oversight from 1792 to the modern era.  To access previous Portraits, visit scholars/portraits.

The Carl Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy was established in 2015 to carry on the legislative oversight legacy and vision of Senator Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest serving Senator.  For additional information, visit

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