September 21, 1997
BY ROBERT NOVAK SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
Highly placed congressional sources say that
expected indictments from a federal grand jury in New York City
probing the Teamsters election almost surely will include one
against the union's president, Ron Carey.
A Carey indictment would throw into turmoil
the new election to head the Teamsters, ordered by the federal
government, between him and challenger James P. Hoffa. Carey's
narrow victory last year was overturned on grounds that he received
at least $220,000 in illegal donations.
The investigation by the U.S. attorney in
New York also is looking at the AFL-CIO's two top officials: President
John Sweeney and Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka. They were
active for Carey against Hoffa.
Unhappy Democratic donors
Aggravating the Democratic National Committee's
fund-raising problems, Chairman Steve Grossman is being besieged
by bitter contributors whose 1996 ``soft-money'' donations without
their knowledge were transferred to ``hard-money'' accounts for
the Clinton-Gore campaign.
That put many donors over individual hard-money
limits prescribed by law, and they are furious. According to Democratic
sources, one famous television producer is particularly outraged
to be unwittingly placed in violation of federal statutes. The
DNC's routine transfer between accounts, unknown to contributors,
came to light at campaign-finance scandal hearings by Sen. Fred
Unhappy money sources are telling the DNC
that their contributions are things of the past. Grossman has
publicly accused Republican Thompson's investigation of trying
to destroy the Democratic Party.
House Republican leaders have rejected feelers
for a plea bargain with Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott on ethics
charges, much as was arranged for House Speaker Newt Gingrich
last year. Instead, they demand that he resign from Congress.
As top Democrat on the House Ethics Committee until this year, McDermott led anti-Gingrich forces to pursue ethics allegations against the speaker.
McDermott faced charges himself after he
leaked to the press an illegally tapped telephone conference call
among the House GOP leadership.
With the House's moratorium on Ethics Committee
cases about to conclude, McDermott and his lawyers are involved
in backstage procedural battles with Republicans. Rep. John Boehner,
chairman of the House GOP Conference, has turned down all plea-bargain
overtures and insists the process can be ended only by McDermott's
Don Hodel, the Christian Coalition's new
president, has turned down pleas by Republican leaders not to
issue a voters guide that could doom the re-election of New Jersey
Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.
Christian Coalition voters guides do not
make endorsements but do reveal candidates' records. The version
to be distributed this year indicates Whitman vetoed a bill barring
partial-birth abortions. That could deflect enough voters from
Whitman to Conservative Party candidate Rich Pezzullo to elect
the Democrat, state Sen. Jim McGreevey.
To keep right-wing Republicans for Whitman,
national party strategists have been seeking a prominent conservative
who would go to New Jersey to campaign for her and whom she would
accept. Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, chairman of the House Judiciary
Committee, declined. The answer might be former Vice President
Trent Lott is not happy with Rep. George
Nethercutt for implying that he was encouraged by the Senate majority
leader to challenge Rep. Linda Smith for the Republican nomination
opposing Democratic Sen. Patty Murray next year in Washington
Smith's support of campaign-finance reform has made her unacceptable to the Republican establishment. Sen. Mitch McConnell, chairman of the Senate GOP campaign committee, has been trying to find an alternative to Smith to run against Murray. But Lott's policy is not to intervene in contests for
Republican nominations. He told me he did
not express a preference in his meeting with Nethercutt and was
surprised by the statements from the second-term congressman,
who upset former Speaker Thomas Foley in 1994.
When she read about Nethercutt's remarks,
Smith sought and obtained a meeting with Lott. He reassured her
about his neutrality and was grateful that Smith did not publicize
Robert Novak is a nationally syndicated columnist
of the Sun-Times.