By Peter Szekely
Mar 11, 1998 Eastern
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Teamsters union president Ron Carey's chief accuser of fund raising improprieties said
Wednesday that he alluded to an illegal contribution
swap scheme only once with Carey in a brief, sketchy conversation.
Jere Nash, who managed Carey's reelection
campaign, said he told Carey in October 1996 that making a particular
contribution to a liberal group that Carey had earlier rejected
would help fund raising efforts for Carey's personal campaign.
With that, he told a special hearing, Carey reversed himself and
approved the contribution to the group, Citizen Action, telling
Nash, ``Well, hell, no one ever told me about it.''
Carey narrowly defeated James Hoffa, the
leading candidate for the Teamsters presidency, in 1996.
After the election, Hoffa allies filed charges
against Carey and an investigation turned up an illegal fund raising
scheme in his campaign.
The hearing before a court-created Independent
Review Board (IRB) provided the first public forum at which Nash
has explained his involvement in the illegal scheme and has been
subject to cross-examination by Carey's attorneys.
The IRB is considering whether to expel Carey
and the union's former political director, William Hamilton, from
the 1.4 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters
(IBT), of which Carey has been a member for 40 years and a paid
officer for 30 years.
Carey's reelection over Hoffa was nullified
last fall after the fund-raising scandal in his campaign came
to light. Despite his denials that he knew of the scheme, Carey
has been barred by another court-appointed official from running
in a new election this summer.
Under cross-examination by Carey attorney Mark Hulkower, Nash said the telephone conversation in which he told Carey
that the Citizen Action contribution could
help his campaign fund raising may have lasted only 15 seconds
and that he never referred to it as an illegal swap scheme.
``You didn't tell him that there was anything
improper about this?'' asked Hulkower.
``No, sir,'' replied Nash.
``You didn't say, 'this is something you've
got to keep under your hat, Ron?''' Hulkower asked.
``No,'' answered Nash.
Much of the case against Carey is based on his approval of union donations of more than $700,000 to certain liberal
groups. While the payments were legitimate
when taken in isolation, they were later found to be illegal because
some of the money later went to the Carey campaign.
Hulkower tried to get Nash to acknowledge
that, given the lack of detail in his brief explanation to Carey
of the importance of contributing to Citizen Action, Carey conceivably
could have assumed that the contribution could have legally benefited
him by enhancing his standing with liberal donors.
``That's fair,'' said Nash.
``Given the reputation of these organizations,
there would be nothing sinister about the IBT giving money to
them?'' Hulkower asked.
``That's right,'' replied Nash.
Nash and former Carey campaign fund-raiser
Martin Davis have pleaded guilty to criminal charges stemming
from the illegal fund raising scheme in which union funds went
to the Carey campaign. They are awaiting sentencing.
The case is still under investigation by
U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White in New York. But Carey's lawyers have
said they have been told he is not a target of the probe.
Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.