By Jeff Glasser
He was once portrayed as a
white knight helping to sweep clean mobbed-up labor locals. Now
former Teamsters political director William Hamilton faces up
to 30 years in jail. His crime: conspiring to "loot"
$885,000 from the Teamsters treasury in an all-out bid to re-elect
Ron Carey, the former president banned from the union for life.
The impending downfall of Hamilton, who is set to be sentenced
in federal court this week, is part of a messy and ongoing saga
that has already caused political damage to the Democratic Party.
It also portends another black eye for the "reform"
labor movement, just at the moment when Big Labor is wielding
the kind of political clout it hasn't seen in 30 years.
Smack in the middle of the
fed's inquiry is the No. 2 official of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka,
the former head of the United Mine Workers union. He's already
violated internal union rules by taking the Fifth Amendment to
avoid answering questions about funneling money to the Carey campaign.
John Sweeney, the AFL-CIO boss, has refused to suspend Trumka.
Then there's Arthur Coia, who was supposed to clean up the Laborers'
International Union and has been called a "mob puppet"
by a federal prosecutor. "These guys are just as bad as the
last scoundrels," says Mike Moroney, a labor investigator
who has fought corruption since the 1970s.
The political donnybrook already
erupting between the Teamster "reformers" and the reascendant
old guard promises to get bloodier. In an ironic twist, Teamsters
President James Hoffa, the alleged racketeer's son, is threatening
to file a civil racketeering lawsuit against his discredited predecessors.
Sources tell U.S. News that
Hoffa has endorsed a draft of the lawsuit, which would seek $9
million in damages from Carey, Hamilton, and other conspirators,
including political consultant Martin Davis and telemarketer Michael
The Teamsters had originally
planned to file the lawsuit this week, but sources say Hoffa is
considering delaying it until after a March 28 appearance before
a congressional oversight panel. "He doesn't want to have
to answer tough questions from the Republicans about why the DNC
National Committee] isn't named" in the suit, says a labor
Noticeably absent from the
draft are any mentions of Trumka or Terry McAuliffe, President
Clinton's master fundraiser, whose name also came up in the Hamilton
trial. Critics carp that Trumka is being spared because the AFL-CIO
recently gave the Teamsters $500,000 to support a strike against
Overnite Transportation. "There are rumblings that it is
a quid pro quo," says Ken Boehm of the National Legal and
Policy Center, a union corruption watchdog group that has called
for Trumka's resignation. Hoffa's camp denies the charge.
The facts. Federal prosecutors
asserted during Hamilton's trial that Carey supporters sent $885,000
in Teamsters funds to liberal outfits such as Citizen Action.
They then kicked back $325,000 to Carey's campaign, the prosecutors
charged. "The money poured out of the Teamsters General Treasury
Fund like water from an open faucet," Assistant U.S. Attorney
Robert Rice declared in his opening statement.
The prosecutors' star witness,
former Carey campaign manager Jere Nash, testified that three
labor leaders-Gerald McEntee of the American Federation of State
County & Municipal Employees, Andy Stern of the Service Employees
International, and Trumka-each committed to raise $50,000 for
Carey's bid. Prosecutors said their fundraising tactics violated
union election rules. Trumka also appears to have played a role
in one of the swap schemes, according to the court testimony.
He has denied any wrongdoing.
The DNC's role? Former DNC Finance Director Richard Sullivan says that he and McAuliffe discussed ways to help the Carey campaign in the hopes of securing future Teamsters support. McAuliffe said "that if we could get a $50,000 contribution for the Carey campaign, he knew we could get $500,000 for [the Democratic fundraising program called] Unity from the Teamsters," Sullivan testified. McAuliffe's attorney, Richard Ben-Veniste, says his client did nothing wrong. "He has been told all along he is not a target," he says. Besides, a suitable donor was never found. So no quid pro quo was ever consummated, making federal prosecution unlikely. At least for McAuliffe.