By Kevin Galvin
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, April 30, 1998
WASHINGTON (AP) --
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney defended his deputy Thursday against
allegations he took part in an illegal scheme to funnel money
into Ron Carey's 1996 campaign for the Teamsters presidency.
Testifying for the first time about charges
the AFL-CIO was used to launder money for Carey's campaign, Sweeney
told a House panel that he has seen no evidence that any federation
official did anything improper.
Sweeney confirmed that AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer
Richard Trumka, who invoked his Fifth Amendment right and refused
to appear, also has declined to explain a questionable transaction
to federation attorneys.
Nevertheless, he told the House Education
and the Workforce subcommittee on investigations that he doubts
court testimony that implicated Trumka.
``He tells me that he is innocent and that
I will come to that same conclusion when the investigation is
completed,'' Sweeney said.
Carey's re-election was overturned, and his
campaign manager and two consultants pleaded guilty over a scheme
to siphon $885,000 from the union treasury to boost his campaign.
The union's former political director, William
Hamilton, was indicted.
Martin Davis, a consultant to Carey, told
a federal judge he persuaded Hamilton to give $150,000 to the
AFL-CIO after Trumka agreed to pass the money along to a liberal
consumer group, Citizen Action.
Within days, Citizen Action paid $100,000
to Davis' direct mail consultancy to offset the cost of a last-minute
Carey campaign mailing.
Documents provided to the subcommittee included
a written request from Trumka to Hamilton for the funds, and a
memo from Trumka to the director of Citizen Action.
Sweeney conceded the evidence linking the
Teamsters check to the AFL-CIO and the AFL-CIO payment to Citizen
But Sweeney insisted there was no evidence
that anyone knew the money would eventually be used to boost Carey's
The allegations pose a problem for Trumka.
Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., the subcommittee
chairman, had planned to hear testimony about the transaction
from Trumka's executive assistant, Brad Burton, and Susan Mackie
of the AFL-CIO comptroller's office.
But Hoekstra reversed course after receiving
a letter from Mary Jo White, the U.S. attorney for the Southern
District of New York, which said testimony from Burton and Mackie
at this time ``could seriously undermine'' a criminal investigation.
While the letter indicated Trumka remains
under scrutiny, it was good news for Sweeney. The federation president
has never been directly implicated in the alleged scheme, and
White raised no objection to his testifying.
Sweeney testified AFL-CIO policy would only
allow removal of an elected officer for invoking the Fifth Amendment
only if it was determined the officer did so to cover up wrongdoing.
Subcommittee members suggested they believed
Trumka was doing just that.
``Trumka's role in the events of two years
ago is extremely unfortunate. It leaves a dark cloud over the
AFL-CIO,'' Hoekstra said. ``It is especially troubling that Mr.
Trumka remains a key official of the AFL-CIO.''
The labor federation brought three dozen
workers to sit behind Sweeney during his testimony, and the labor
leader voiced suspicion that the House inquiry was merely a partisan
attack against labor.
``I hope no member of this committee has
any intention of using this committee's work to further the nationwide
effort to intimidate the union movement and silence working families,''
But generally the exchange was amiable between
Sweeney, under whose leadership the AFL-CIO mounted a $35 million
political campaign in 1996 that targeted a couple dozen House
Republicans, and the GOP-controlled panel.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated