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Cousin Fights to Win Reinstatement for Iacocca

March 5, 1986

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A cousin of Lee Iacocca has enlisted the help of 10,000 Pennsylvanians, the mayor of his hometown and a 3-year-old in fighting the Chrysler chairman’s dismissal from the Statue of Liberty centennial committee.

″I think our ‘lady in the harbor’ deserves an unblemished celebration,″ said Michael G. Iacocca, who grew up in Allentown with his cousin.

He said Tuesday that his feeling for the statue and the belief that his cousin was treated unfairly by Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel led him to begin a petition drive that has accumulated 10,000 signatures in just two weeks.

Hodel fired the Chrysler Corp. chief last month from his position as chairman of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Centennial Commission, the group deciding how voluntary contributions of more than $233 million will be spent.

Hodel said a conflict of interest existed because Iacocca already headed the project’s fund-raising organization.

Michael Iacocca, 74, said the petition seeking his cousin’s reinstatement has taken off ″like a brush fire,″ and that he and Allentown officials are preparing a major lobbying effort in Washington, D.C.

Allentown Mayor Joseph S. Daddona said he has discussed the issue with Pennsylvania’s congressional legislators and plans to hand out petitions to colleagues at the National League of Cities Conference next week in Washington.

He also plans to present a resolution at the conference that would seek the support of at least 100 cities for the idea of reinstating Iacocca.

″The whole idea is to just bring recognition to the fact that the job has to be done and we feel he is the best man to do it,″ said Daddona.

″I haven’t run into a person yet who doesn’t want to sign this petition. I’m sure we’d have no problems getting millions of signatures if (the petitions) were distributed nationally,″ said Daddona, 52, who, like the Iacoccas, is the son of Italian immigrants.

Michael Iacocca said he is especially upset that the controversy arose just a few months before the centennial ceremonies at which the refurbished Statue of Liberty is to be unveiled.

″Why wasn’t it done before? Lee had been heading both commissions for a while. Why is it now suddenly a conflict of interest?″ he said.

Iacocca began the petition drive in Allentown. He dressed his granddaughter in a Lady Liberty costume and took her to the historic Zions Church, where he began soliciting signatures with his family.

Three-year-old Nicole Iacocca’s costume was modified to allow her to carry a copy of the auto executive’s best-selling biography instead of the tablet symbolizing the Declaration of Independence.

Iacocca said he is surprised no one brought up the issue sooner in Allentown - a small eastern Pennsylvania steel city that has Iacocca scholarships, Iacocca streets and Iacocca hot dogs.

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