Big Cash In IBT - Where's it From?
In a bizarre turnabout, all the actors, factors,
and forces- -except the Teamsters for a Democratic union--- seem
to have combined to rescue the Teamster reform movement from the
jaws of victory and smoothed the path of those who had permitted
the union to be heavily infiltrated by racketeers.
Yesterday: After winning two remarkable election
victories, the new president, reform leader Ron Carey, led the
union in an equally remarkable strike victory over the United
Parcel Service and seemed poised to continue the drive to eradicate
the racketeers. Revolution in the Teamster union shifted the balance
of power in the AFL-CIO and led to the triumph of John Sweeney
Today: Within a few months, one court-appointed
election officer voided Carey's election and ordered a rerun,
charging that Carey election fund-raising had violated the rules
and affected the election outcome. She ordered a rerun. Then,
a special investigator, concluding that Carey knew that his campaign
officials had laundered union moneys into his campaign funds,
disqualified Carey and barred him from the ballot in the rerun.
And, finally, a new election officer, looking into the 1996 campaign
financing of Carey's enemy rival, James Hoffa, validated Hoffa's
candidacy in the coming election.
Even though he found substantial fund violations
committed by the Hoffa campaign, he decided they were not serious
enough to disqualify Hoffa. Besides, he expressed concern that
if Hoffa was eliminated, the members' democratic right to choose
would be curtailed--- a consideration that failed to save Carey.
With the election scheduled to begin on September
4, just a few months away, the field has been tilted sharply toward
the Hoffa old guard forces. His campaign structure seems intact;
their candidate remains at the helm, continuing a campaign that
began de facto in 1992 shortly after Carey first took office.
The reform forces, having lost their chief, have not, at this
writing, united around a substitute candidate. Ken Hall, their
first choice, citing ill health, has withdrawn from the race.
The last Teamster election campaign, in l996,
was awash in Big Money. With each side spending a reported amount
of about $4,000,000 each, it must have been the most expensive
union race in American history, probably world history. With that
kind of money, you could try for the U. S. Senate. The clumsy
manipulators who ran the Carey campaign left a paper trail of
illicit transactions that any amateur detective could trace. Hoffa
had that kind of help. But where did all that Hoffa money come
Michael Cherkasky, the election officer,
was able to find about $250,000 in improper Hoffa money which
he considered violations but not serious enough to endanger Hoffa.
Just as he estimated that these violations were de minimis, the
penalties he inflicted were even more minimally de minimis. For
example: the Hoffa campaign was fined $16,767 for receiving $167,675
worth of donated services from a PR company. (The Carey campaign
would surely be happy to get away with returning 10% of their
Cherkasky explains how he dealt with one
complaint against the Hoffa campaign. Follow this one: The Local
710 pension fund sold bonds through an advisory service which,
for reasons unexplained, turned over $1,000,000 of its profits
to a Christopher Roach who had also unexplained "collective
bargaining" connections with Local 337, one of Hoffa's chief
supporters. That million dollars, plus an additional $500,000,
was transferred out of the country to a Cayman Island company.
There the trail, and the money vanish. Finding no evidence of
any connection with the Hoffa campaign Cherkasky dismisses the
whole thing without even suggesting that further investigation
into these strange transactions might be appropriate.
The Hoffa campaign listed over $2,000,000
in small donations which did not have to be reported in detail,
presumably from sales of shirts, buttons, and other trinkets.
Where did the money come from? Cherkasky reports that his investigators
inspected piles of paper: receipts, deposit slips, and whatnot;
he found nothing wrong. And so,in boldface type he reports "Small
contributions to the Hoffa slate campaign came from lawful sources."
No hesitation, no qualification. But confidence in that positive
assertion is undermined by a not so-unqualified footnote: "...the
Election Officer could find evidence that would support a definitive
answer of 'no' to the questions that ask whether an identifiable
contribution is from a lawful source. A definitive answer of 'yes'
however is not possible. The Election Officer cannot definitively
negate the possibility of some unitemized cash as having come
from an improper contributor."
You may not be able to figure it out, but
what he actually says is that, despite his boldface pronouncement,
he can't tell for sure. Cash transactions are suspect because
they are almost impossible to trace. How much came in as cash?
In passing, without attributing any significance to it, Cherkasky
notes that there were "hundreds of thousands of dollars in
cash deposited to state campaign accounts." Hundreds of thousands?
But how much exactly That's a lot of money. In a report otherwise
bulging with statistics, this one is missing.
Cherkasky concluded that he and his investigators
did not find sufficient hard evidence to bar Hoffa from the election
rerun. But even that finding or lack of one, right or wrong, hardly
justifies the overall tone of his report and the impression it
leaves. At most, the precise facts as presented by Cherkasky might
conceivably have sustained a finding of "unproved."
But he goes further and provides the Hoffa forces with a clean
bill of health, not a total whitewash or complete vindication,
but enough to supply them with campaign ammunition.
A few years ago, the Department of Justice
moved in court to strengthen democracy in the Teamsters union
as the best weapon for ousting organized crime. The man who helped
lead the fight against organized crime and helped begin the process
of ousting racketeers, is now disqualified from running for office.
In the name of integrity. The man supported by those who tolerated
organized crime when the union's top officialdom was installed
by a tiny clique gets the green light to run, and on a nice soft
track. In the name of democracy. What twisted talents composed
Association for Union Democracy