By Kevin Galvin
Associated Press Writer
Monday, April 27, 1998
-- James P. Hoffa won a second chance to run for the Teamsters
presidency Monday, while the union's former political director
was indicted on charges stemming from the tainted 1996 election.
After a five-month investigation, a court-appointed
monitor cleared the son of labor legend Jimmy Hoffa to participate
in a rerun despite finding that he was occasionally ``vague and
not credible'' in his sworn statements about the conduct of a
top aide. The monitor barred that aide from participating in the
Though often critical of Hoffa and others
on his election slate, the report by election officer Michael
Cherkasky gave Hoffa the go-ahead to seek control of the union
that his father built into a national force.
``The election officer did not find evidence
of large-scale cheating or other improprieties to warrant disqualification
of Mr. Hoffa or any member of his slate,'' Cherkasky wrote.
Incumbent union president Ron Carey's slim
1996 re-election victory was overturned in November by another
monitor, who found that Carey took part in a scheme to use some
$885,000 in union funds to boost his re-election coffers.
Carey has denied wrongdoing, but he was barred
from running again and three consultants to his
campaign pleaded guilty in federal court.
Hours after Cherkasky's announcement, William
Hamilton, who resigned from the union last year rather than continue
cooperating with investigators, was charged in a six-count indictment
by a federal grand jury in New York.
Hamilton was charged with wire fraud, mail
fraud, embezzlement, conspiracy, lying to the grand jury and lying
to the election officer. He was ordered to appear in court May
7 and faces up to 30 years in prison.
Hamilton's attorney, Robert Gage, said, ``Bill
is innocent of all charges and we look forward to our day in court.''
The 39-page indictment outlined various schemes
whereby Hamilton and others allegedly swapped contributions to
political groups in exchange for contributions to Carey, funneled
money through the AFL-CIO and attempted to coordinated a contribution
swap with the finance director of Clinton-Gore '96, Terrence McAuliffe.
The deal with the Democrats never paid off,
and McAuliffe has denied wrongdoing.
Hoffa said Cherkasky's ruling should ``reassure
the government, the press and the public that a Hoffa administration
will finally bring to the Teamsters the integrity and stability
we assume everyone wants.''
But Cherkasky held Hoffa responsible for
misreporting nearly $44,000 in donations, including a
$1,000 check from former Teamsters president William McCarthy, which he failed to itemize.
``Mr. Hoffa's testimony on the preparation
of the (finance reports) and the omission of the McCarthy contribution
was not complete or accurate,'' Cherkasky wrote.
In another instance, Cherkasky found that
the Hoffa campaign paid the salary of a New York Teamster working
on its behalf to the activist's wife rather than admit it had
a convicted felon on its payroll.
The investigation found several violations
of the rules involving disclosure of financial supporters and
expenditures, and fined several Hoffa slate members a total of
Still, Cherkasky said ``the substantial majority
of contributions to the Hoffa Slate Campaigns came from lawful
Cherkasky imposed a $16,767 fine on the Hoffa
campaign for accepting nearly $168,000 in in-kind services from
Richard Leebove and his public relations firm, RL Communications
Union candidates are barred from receiving
anything of value from employers. Cherkasky's analysis found that
Leebove, one of Hoffa's top aides for three years, billed the
campaign just $17,650.
During the same period, Leebove received
more than $240,000 from Detroit Local 337, which is led by Larry
Brennan, one of Hoffa's staunchest supporters. Cheraksky also
found that union funds were skimmed for political contributions
to Brennan's local campaign, but didn't tie it to Hoffa.
Despite telephone records and citations from
newspapers that suggested Leebove was a tireless campaigner, and
statements by some Hoffa partisans that he was their ``dirty trickster''
and ``the brains'' of the campaign, Hoffa and his closest advisers
``denied that Mr. Leebove played any substantial role,'' Cherkasky
wrote. He added that Hoffa and others ``were vague, and not credible
on the subject of Mr. Leebove's activities.''
Leebove, a former operative for political
extremist Lyndon LaRouche, vowed to appeal. He alleged some election
office staffers were embarrassed by his work to ferret out the
details of the Carey campaign's wrongdoing.
``Many of Cherkasky's assistants involved
in the cover-up of the Carey corruptions undoubtedly pressed for
revenge against the source of their embarrassment,'' Leebove alleged.
Election office records show the inquiry
into Carey's finances began before Hoffa protested, but Leebove
has maintained that without his prodding, the Carey campaign finance
abuses never would have been exposed.
At a news conference Monday, Hoffa began
sparring with Ken Hall, a leader of last year's United Parcel
Service strike who has announced his intention to replace Carey
at the top of the ticket opposing Hoffa.
Hall said Hoffa should quit the race because
he had not been completely forthcoming with Cherkasky and because
Cherkasky, in a separate ruling, banned a regional candidate running
on Hoffa's side for coercing contributions from her staff.
``The election officer has issued a long
list of Hoffa campaign violations that cannot be brushed away,''
Hall said. ``Teamsters members deserve much better than a candidate
who was found eligible by the skin of his teeth.''
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press