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Teamsters battle overshadows AFL-CIO convention

AFL-CIO convention

Carey says Hoffa contributions should be investigated

September 23, 1997
Web posted at: 2:28 p.m. EDT (1428 GMT)

In this story:

PITTSBURGH (CNN) -- Teamsters union President Ron Carey repeated Tuesday that the campaign fund-raising scheme for which he is being investigated was kept hidden from him by trusted aides with whom he had little contact.

"If there is a victim here, I certainly am the victim," Carey told reporters in Pittsburgh, where he's attending the AFL-CIO convention.

Carey's narrow 1996 win over rival James Hoffa for the presidency of the largest AFL-CIO union was nullified last month by a court-appointed overseer because of illegal campaign contributions.

Teamsters union President Ron Carey speaks about campaign contributions:
icon 257K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

While the Teamsters president was not linked to the scheme, the election overseer is to decide before October 6 whether Carey should be disqualified from an election rerun.

Last week Carey's former campaign manager, Jere Nash, campaign consultant Martin Davis and Massachusetts telemarketing consultant Michael Ansara pleaded guilty in New York to federal charges stemming from the scheme in which funds from the Teamsters union and employers were illegally diverted into Carey's campaign coffers.

Carey said he spoke to Davis only about five times in his life and Nash about 20 times.

Carey: Hoffa had 'organized crime' backing

Teamsters union President Ron Carey

He also said the campaign finances of Hoffa, whose father led the union in the 1950s and 1960s, should be investigated, adding that he believed the younger Hoffa had raised money from organized crime sources.

The Hoffa campaign had $1.8 million in contributions it said came from unspecified small contributors -- donations under $100 that didn't have to be itemized. Asked where he thought Hoffa's money came from, Carey replied: "Employers and organized crime. There's no question."

Carey also referred to grand jury investigations of Teamsters locals and pension funds in Detroit and Chicago that are allied with Hoffa, suggesting that the alleged misappropriation of funds could have benefited Hoffa.

A spokesman for Hoffa, Richard Leebove, told CNN, "We won't dignify what Carey said by having Jim respond."

AFL-CIO involvement also being probed

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney

The fund-raising controversy extends to the AFL-CIO itself, a confederation of 78 labor unions, including the Teamsters.

A federal grand jury in New York is investigating allegations that AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Rich Trumka, using the liberal consumer group Citizen Action, funneled $150,000 in Teamsters money into the Carey campaign.

Trumka has declined comment, but AFL-CIO President John Sweeney says the federation is not a target of the investigation. "We may have been part of a conspiracy scheme, but we have no knowledge of that," Sweeney told CNN. icon (80K/7 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

The convention has its lighter side, too.
video icon 1.2M/31 sec. QuickTime movie
video icon 2.2M/31 sec. QuickTime movie

The Teamsters election controversy threatens to dominate the convention at a time when the AFL-CIO says union membership numbers are creeping up after decades of decline.

The gathering opened on Monday with a strong feeling of union momentum but also with significant fear among some convention-goers that the scandal could slow it down.

Correspondent Gary Tuchman and Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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