Dorfman wasn't the only one living large at La Costa while his old mentor Hoffa languished in prison. Frank Fitzsimmons, Hoffa's designated successor, was even more partial to the resort. Hoffa intended Fitzsimmons to be only a caretaker president, but Fitzsimmons soon had other ideas. After taking over the union from Hoffa in 1967, Fitzsimmons had begun to build his own power base. As early as 1971, he and Dorfman were working on ways of keeping Hoffa behind bars, so they could continue to plunder the union and its fat pension fund.
"From 1971 to 1974," Neff writes, "two IRS agents met secretly with Fitzsimmons...in Washington, Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and at the La Costa resort hotel and spa near San Diego. Fitzsimmons pretended to be candid with the two IRS agents why [he] was informing, claiming to want to rid the Teamsters union of mobsters and racketeers. But the only names [Fitzsimmons] coughed up were allies of Jimmy Hoffa."
As he sat in the pen, the stir-crazy Hoffa heard of the betrayal and plotted to kill the pair.
Fitzsimmons's chief strategy for holding on to power ran directly through President Richard M. Nixon. "The condominium salesman who conducts tours of La Costa tells you that on a clear day you can see Richard Nixon's estate in San Clemente from Frank Fitzsimmons's home that overlooks the La Costa fairways 30 miles south," Steve Brill wrote in 1979, when Fitzsimmons was at the height of his power.
On July 17, 1972, Fitzsimmons called a press conference at the La Costa clubhouse to announce that the Teamsters had endorsed Nixon for a second term. It was the only major union to support the Republican president. "La Costa room records show that members of the International executive board, as well as other top teamsters personages including Jimmy Hoffa, Jr., and Tony Provenzano (then still barred from officially holding office because of his labor-law violation conviction), gathered there on July 14," writes Brill. "Most took two-bedroom suites at the hotel, although physical fitness buff Provenzano took a double at the spa."
Later it was alleged that Fitzsimmons and the Teamsters had illegally funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into Nixon's reelection campaign fund, and Nixon's justice department had in turn pulled its punches in when it came to Teamsters' involvement with the mob. Following the press conference, according to Brill, the 20 board members got into a caravan of five limousines and motored up the coast to Nixon's estate to personally give him the good news. "A beaming Richard Nixon gave each of the visitors a barbecue lunch, drinks, a personalized presidential golf ball, and a crack at his private three-hole course."
Nixon had given Fitzsimmons another reward. A year before the endorsement, in July 1971, Nixon had met with Fitzsimmons in the White House. Fitzsimmons made it clear he was not pushing for an early Hoffa parole, certainly not before the Teamsters convention that summer during which he was to be officially elected president of the union. Then, in December 1971, Nixon finally commuted Hoffa's sentence, but with a key proviso: Hoffa could not participate in Teamsters' political affairs until 1980, when he would be 67 years old.
Fitzsimmons's favorite event of the year was the annual golf tournament in his honor at La Costa. Players included some of the biggest mobsters in America. "Teeing up just behind Fitzsimmons was Salvatore Provenzano, known as Sammy Pro, the sixth vice president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters," writes Brill. "Older brother Anthony, known as Tony Pro, was a captain in the old Vito Genovese family." Tony Provenzano, Brill continues, "ran the New Jersey Teamsters union as an arm of organized crime. Loan-sharking, numbers running, cargo pilfering, sweetheart contracts. He used nice, respectable Sammy as the front man." After Hoffa disappeared from the parking lot of a Detroit-area restaurant on July 30, 1975, Provenzano, along with Fitzsimmons, was fingered for the murder, but nothing was ever proved.
The charity golf tournament, with 150 participants, benefited Chicago's Little City Home for blind retarded children, which had been founded by Red Dorfman, the mobbed-up stepfather of Teamsters financial fixer Allen Dorfman. Some cynics, Brill notes, joked that the home was occupied by retarded children "who had been blinded by Teamsters goons for the extra publicity value of having them be blind."
Other regular participants included Fitzsimmons's son Frank. "Just upstairs from the locker room at La Costa is the Tournament of Champions lounge, where a live band plays at night," Brill wrote in 1979. "Frank Fitzsimmons's older son Richard spends many of his evenings there when he comes to La Costa for Teamsters functions or to use his father's condominium. On more than one occasion he has made a fool of himself. According to the bartenders, after a few drinks Richard remembers that he has always wanted to be an entertainer. At about one in the morning, he may grab the microphone and croon away. It usually elicits some embarrassed half-smiles, but the management never complains." In 1979, Richard was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for accepting bribes from a trucking firm.
On October 9, 1975, Richard Nixon motored down from San Clemente to play in the Fitzsimmons tournament. It was his first public appearance since he was forced to abandon office following Watergate. When Fitzsimmons presented the ex-president with a trophy, Nixon inspected it and said, "That's nice. Where's the union bug?" It turned out that there wasn't one.
By the mid-'70s, the secrets of La Costa were coming to public light, and the resort's owners were not happy about it. By then partners Merv Adelson and Irwin Molasky were no longer just two-bit real estate promoters from Vegas. They were big shots in show business, owners of Lorimar Productions, which created The Waltons, a ratings blockbuster praised for its family values. And Adelson would soon marry superstar anchorwoman Barbara Walters. Under the circumstances, any publicity about the unsettling links between La Costa and the mob was most untimely.