By Kevin Galvin
December 27, 1997
-- The labor movement was stunned when Teamsters president Ron
Carey was accused by a federally appointed board of complicity
in a scheme that illegally financed his successful re-election
campaign, then was barred from participating in a restaging of
But the fallout from the Teamsters election
scandal has barely begun.
A federal grand jury probe into the affair is continuing, and charges are
expected to spread beyond the Teamsters
into the AFL-CIO and political organizations allied with labor.
Members of the AFL-CIO executive council
are increasingly concerned about secretary-treasurer Richard Trumka's
alleged role in a scheme to launder money for Carey's re-election.
Labor leaders fear that the charges aimed
at Trumka -- who has invoked his Fifth Amendment right against
self incrimination -- are overshadowing efforts to revitalize
labor and clean up its image.
A handful of influential union presidents
voiced their concerns directly to AFL-CIO president John Sweeney
in recent weeks, urging him to take steps to remove the federation
from the controversy, even if that meant Trumka taking a leave
One labor official said they just want to
The most serious question: Who will federal
prosecutors in New York seek to indict?
Carey's campaign manager and two consultants
already have pleaded guilty to charges that they schemed to exchange
Teamsters contributions to third parties for donations to the
Carey campaign. About $885,000 in union treasury money was used
to facilitate the schemes. Carey, who was known as a champion
of union reform, denied wrongdoing. But a court appointed election
overseer doubted his testimony and barred him from a rerun. Carey
took a leave of absence, and a federal panel with the task of
fighting corruption at the Teamsters filed charges that could
lead to his expulsion from the union.
The next round of criminal charges is expected
Documents filed in federal court repeatedly
have asserted that the union's former political director, William
Hamilton, was a key player in the scheme. Hamilton has denied
Citizen Action, a liberal consumer group
that was used as a conduit for the fund-raising scheme, was forced
to shutter its national office.
A West Coast fund-raiser tied to Citizen
Action and the organization's top officers also have been implicated.
Citizen Action's attorney said the organization was cooperating
and that none of its officials knowingly did anything wrong.
The slowly unfolding Teamsters scandal could
have broad political consequences.
Instead of gearing up early for the 1998
congressional elections, the AFL-CIO and its Teamsters affiliate
may well be distracted by federal court action.
Moreover, the scandal touched Democratic
officials, including fund-raisers for the Democratic National
Committee and President Clinton's re-election campaign, which
sought a $100,000 donor for Carey. Ultimately, the campaign never
produced a donation.
AFL-CIO spokeswoman Denise Mitchell said
the controversy would only cause labor leaders to focus more energy
on organizing new members and fighting for workers. The usually
voluble Trumka has been virtually silent on charges that he helped
pass $150,000 in Teamsters treasury money through the AFL-CIO
to Citizen Action, where it allegedly was used to help Carey.
A memo Trumka wrote to the Teamsters requesting the payment stated
that it would be earmarked for labor's aggressive grassroots voter
mobilization effort during the 1996 elections.
But Martin Davis, a political consultant
who pleaded guilty in connection with the fund-raising scheme,
said Trumka agreed to help pass through the money "to help
Ron, meaning Ron Carey."
AFL-CIO officials said an internal review
turned up no wrongdoing at the federation, and Trumka's attorney
asserted that he would be exonerated.
But court documents filed by federal prosecutors
single out Trumka as a participant in the tainted election.
The pressure on Trumka grew when the New
York Times published an editorial calling on him to step aside.
Adding to labor leaders' concerns is the confession by Gerald
McEntee, president of another large union, the American Federation
of State, County and Municipal Employees. McEntee confessed to
having a printer with whom his union does business give $20,000
to Carey's campaign.