The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act by which federal authorities target organized crime was enacted by Congress in 1970, and its principal architect was Robert Blakey who was a mob buster for Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. However, the FBI Special Agent in Charge ("SAC") of the New York office was calling for such a law in a memo dated January 15, 1960 to Director J. Edgar Hoover. The SAC noted that existing state law should have been adequate to take down the Mafia but local officials refused to act due to pervasive corruption, and accordingly, a federal statute was necessary which would provide the FBI and U.S. Attorneys with the jurisdictional authority to step in. Although some folks criticize Hoover's FBI for failing to take aggressive action against the Mafia in its early days much crime such as gambling and loansharking were only violations of local law, and federal officials were precluded from taking enforcement action. This recently-released 1960 memo may represent one of the FBI's earliest calls for federalizing crime in order to provide it with a greater role in targeting the Mafia.
The January 15, 1960 memo provides that state laws theoretically were sufficient to cover mob crimes but local authorities were not enforcing them, and the FBI aptly concluded that organized crime cannot exist without public corruption:
In reviewing the general pattern of operations by hoodlum groups which constitute organized crime, it can be seen that the successful operation of groups which have been referred to as syndicates, mobs, combinations, etc., depends to a great degree on the ability of the criminal group to obtain police and political protection. In paying for police protection organized crime acknowledges that it is within the power of local law enforcement to control and eliminate such crime if local officers are so disposed. In New York informants who are conversant with organized criminal activity have often commented to the effect that key activities such as gambling and shylocking, which contribute a major percentage of mob income, could not continue "ten minutes" without protection from local law enforcement. Therefore, it would appear that in most instances local laws and ordinances are adequate to control or eliminate organized crime if all such laws and ordinances were properly enforced.
Accordingly, in order to obtain jurisdictional authority for the FBI take over the Special Agent in Charge from the New York office recommended "new Federal legislation in the form of a master conspiracy statute . . . which would in effect make it a Federal violation to conspire to violate local laws controlling those pertinent violations":
It is believed that an examination of known mob or syndicate operations would reveal the categories of crime which provides organized crime its income. Once these violations were determined, consideration could then be given to new Federal legislation in the form of a master conspiracy statute, necessitated for the public's interest, which would in effect make it a Federal violation to conspire to violate local laws controlling these pertinent violations, where such violations are not adequately provided for by other Federal legislation. This could allow for legislative attention where a need exists and avoid duplication where a violation is already provided for.
An example of the above would be narcotics violations. Such a statute would not include narcotics violations even though experience has shown that significant mob income is derived therefrom, since such violations are already provided for by other Federal statutes enforced by the United States Customs and Narcotics Bureaus. However, such violations as gambling and usury would be included, and the statute would be of an "open end" type to enable new violations to be included as amendments, as organized crime shifts its concentration from one violation to another.
The FBI concluded that state laws had been rendered worthless by the corrupt refusal of local authorities to meaningfully act, and federal legislation would remedy the problem:
The real problem of course is the ability of organized crime to buy protection or immunity from local law enforcement, since no law can be effective no matter how well prepared, if it is not enforced by honest law enforcement officers. Such a statute would overcome this problem by giving this Bureau jurisdiction in these pertinent violations.
A decade later the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was passed which essentially made local crimes -- so-called predicate acts underlying RICO -- a federal violation when committed by the Mafia. Hoover and his boys were more on the ball than they are given credit.