Associated Press

Ex-Teamsters Official Indicted

By Kevin Galvin
Associated Press Writer

Monday, April 27, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) -- James P. Hoffa won a second chance to run for the Teamsters presidency Monday, while the union's former political director was indicted on charges stemming from the tainted 1996 election.

After a five-month investigation, a court-appointed monitor cleared the son of labor legend Jimmy Hoffa to participate in a rerun despite finding that he was occasionally ``vague and not credible'' in his sworn statements about the conduct of a top aide. The monitor barred that aide from participating in the new campaign.

Though often critical of Hoffa and others on his election slate, the report by election officer Michael Cherkasky gave Hoffa the go-ahead to seek control of the union that his father built into a national force.

``The election officer did not find evidence of large-scale cheating or other improprieties to warrant disqualification of Mr. Hoffa or any member of his slate,'' Cherkasky wrote.

Incumbent union president Ron Carey's slim 1996 re-election victory was overturned in November by another monitor, who found that Carey took part in a scheme to use some $885,000 in union funds to boost his re-election coffers.

Carey has denied wrongdoing, but he was barred from running again and three consultants to his campaign pleaded guilty in federal court.

Hours after Cherkasky's announcement, William Hamilton, who resigned from the union last year rather than continue cooperating with investigators, was charged in a six-count indictment by a federal grand jury in New York.

Hamilton was charged with wire fraud, mail fraud, embezzlement, conspiracy, lying to the grand jury and lying to the election officer. He was ordered to appear in court May 7 and faces up to 30 years in prison.

Hamilton's attorney, Robert Gage, said, ``Bill is innocent of all charges and we look forward to our day in court.''

The 39-page indictment outlined various schemes whereby Hamilton and others allegedly swapped contributions to political groups in exchange for contributions to Carey, funneled money through the AFL-CIO and attempted to coordinated a contribution swap with the finance director of Clinton-Gore '96, Terrence McAuliffe.

The deal with the Democrats never paid off, and McAuliffe has denied wrongdoing.

Hoffa said Cherkasky's ruling should ``reassure the government, the press and the public that a Hoffa administration will finally bring to the Teamsters the integrity and stability we assume everyone wants.''

But Cherkasky held Hoffa responsible for misreporting nearly $44,000 in donations, including a $1,000 check from former Teamsters president William McCarthy, which he failed to itemize.

``Mr. Hoffa's testimony on the preparation of the (finance reports) and the omission of the McCarthy contribution was not complete or accurate,'' Cherkasky wrote.

In another instance, Cherkasky found that the Hoffa campaign paid the salary of a New York Teamster working on its behalf to the activist's wife rather than admit it had a convicted felon on its payroll.

The investigation found several violations of the rules involving disclosure of financial supporters and expenditures, and fined several Hoffa slate members a total of $26,416.

Still, Cherkasky said ``the substantial majority of contributions to the Hoffa Slate Campaigns came from lawful sources.''

Cherkasky imposed a $16,767 fine on the Hoffa campaign for accepting nearly $168,000 in in-kind services from Richard Leebove and his public relations firm, RL Communications of Detroit.

Union candidates are barred from receiving anything of value from employers. Cherkasky's analysis found that Leebove, one of Hoffa's top aides for three years, billed the campaign just $17,650.

During the same period, Leebove received more than $240,000 from Detroit Local 337, which is led by Larry Brennan, one of Hoffa's staunchest supporters. Cheraksky also found that union funds were skimmed for political contributions to Brennan's local campaign, but didn't tie it to Hoffa.

Despite telephone records and citations from newspapers that suggested Leebove was a tireless campaigner, and statements by some Hoffa partisans that he was their ``dirty trickster'' and ``the brains'' of the campaign, Hoffa and his closest advisers ``denied that Mr. Leebove played any substantial role,'' Cherkasky wrote. He added that Hoffa and others ``were vague, and not credible on the subject of Mr. Leebove's activities.''

Leebove, a former operative for political extremist Lyndon LaRouche, vowed to appeal. He alleged some election office staffers were embarrassed by his work to ferret out the details of the Carey campaign's wrongdoing.

``Many of Cherkasky's assistants involved in the cover-up of the Carey corruptions undoubtedly pressed for revenge against the source of their embarrassment,'' Leebove alleged.

Election office records show the inquiry into Carey's finances began before Hoffa protested, but Leebove has maintained that without his prodding, the Carey campaign finance abuses never would have been exposed.

At a news conference Monday, Hoffa began sparring with Ken Hall, a leader of last year's United Parcel Service strike who has announced his intention to replace Carey at the top of the ticket opposing Hoffa.

Hall said Hoffa should quit the race because he had not been completely forthcoming with Cherkasky and because Cherkasky, in a separate ruling, banned a regional candidate running on Hoffa's side for coercing contributions from her staff.

``The election officer has issued a long list of Hoffa campaign violations that cannot be brushed away,'' Hall said. ``Teamsters members deserve much better than a candidate who was found eligible by the skin of his teeth.''

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

Return to

All original work Copyright 1998. All rights reserved.