By Kevin Galvin
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, July 22, 1998
-- The Justice Department told a federal judge Wednesday it lacks
the money to continue its supervision of the Teamsters election,
a signal it may abandon a cornerstone of the government's efforts
to clean up the union.
The revelation is a setback to what has been
praised as an effective campaign against organized crime, but
Republican lawmakers said they could not justify spending more
taxpayer money on a union election.
``Why should the taxpayers of this country
be asked to pay for the cost of overseeing a union election?''
Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who played a critical role in blocking
the funds, said in a Senate speech last week. ``It is inconceivable.
It is inappropriate. It makes no sense.''
U.S. District Judge David Edelstein had given
federal prosecutors in New York until Wednesday to present a plan
to finance the election. U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White said in a
letter Wednesday that ``we continue to be in discussions with
members of Congress'' but nevertheless would respond Thursday
to a proposal for an unsupervised election.
Under terms of a 1989 consent decree designed
to loosen organized crime's grip on the 1.4-million-member union,
the Teamsters agreed to begin holding rank-and-file elections.
The government elected to supervise the 1996
election, but that contest underwritten with more than $17 million
in federal money was overturned after an illegal fund-raising
scheme was uncovered.
Outraged that the campaign of Ron Carey,
the union's incumbent president, violated the election rules,
Republicans led by Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., blocked any new
money for the rerun last year.
But in New York, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals ruled that under terms of the consent decree, the government
would have to pay the estimated $8.6 million cost of the rerun
if it intended to monitor the election.
Hoekstra, who has chaired a House Education
and Workforce subcommittee probe into the scandal, and other Republicans
approved a plan that would allow Justice to use money seized from
criminals in the financing.
Gregg, who chairs the Senate Appropriations
panel with jurisdiction over the Justice budget, objected.
``To allow this one to go forward without
any supervision is really chancing it, and the Republicans will
have to bear responsibility if anything goes wrong,'' said Rep.
Patsy Mink of Hawaii, the ranking Democrat on Hoekstra's committee.
Regardless of the content of Thursday's government
filing, the election is likely to be delayed again past its fall
The deal Gregg blocked, but which Justice
is still pursuing, would generate only about $4.1 million. Emboldened
by the appeals court decision, the union has refused to pay the
``If government supervision is to go forward,
and the union would prefer that it did, it's going to have to
be funded by the government,'' said union spokesman Matt Witt.
Justice officials note that strides have
been made against racketeering since the consent decree took effect.
Investigations by the Independent Review
Board, which operates independently of the election office, have
led to the expulsion or removal of more than 200 union officers
and members over allegations of corruption or ties to the mob.
Michael Cherkasky, a former prosecutor who
took over the election office in 1997, told Congress this year
that the consent decree ``is the most significant organized-crime
measure in the history of the United States. ... The most successful
Jeff O'Mara, spokesman for Cherkasky, said
``we are hopeful that the parties will reach a solution.''
``This is law enforcement that works and
is extremely cost effective,'' O'Mara said. ``It is critical that
independent supervision, for which there is universal support,
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press