Washington Post

Calif. Fund-Raiser Pleads Guilty in Teamsters Election Case

By Frank Swoboda

Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, August 18, 1998

A West Coast fund-raiser who helped collect money illegally for the 1996 reelection campaign of Teamsters President Ron Carey yesterday pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal officials investigating the election.

Charles Blitz, 45, of Santa Barbara, Calif., was charged with lying to investigators about his role in a money-laundering scheme in which he agreed to solicit money for two socially progressive groups -- Citizen Action and Project Vote -- with the understanding that a percentage of the money raised would be passed on to the Carey reelection campaign.

Blitz, the fourth person to plead guilty in the widening Teamsters election scandal, faces a maximum of five years in jail and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 2 in New York. Others who have pleaded guilty include Jere Nash, Carey's campaign manager; Martin Davis, a political consultant; and Massachusetts telemarketer Michael Ansara.

"Charles Blitz is a progressive philanthropist who regrets this happened," said Blitz's attorney, Stephen Ryan. "He was trying to help a cause [Ron Carey's reelection] that he believed in."

A spokesman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White said the criminal investigation of the Teamsters election is continuing. Investigators are looking into the possible involvement of officials from the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton-Gore reelection campaign and the AFL-CIO.

Carey narrowly defeated James P. Hoffa in the 1996 elections. That election was thrown out by federal officials supervising the election under a 1989 Justice Department consent decree. Since then Carey has been disqualified from seeking reelection and thrown out of the union, and Teamsters political director William Hamilton has been indicted on charges he was involved in the illegal campaign-finance schemes.

Blitz yesterday pleaded guilty to a single count of making false statements during a 20-minute telephone conversation on Feb. 10, 1997, with federal election officials. During that conversation, the government charged, Blitz made false statements to try to cover up his involvement in the plan to raise money for the Carey campaign.

Under the scheme, as outlined in court documents, Blitz would solicit money from wealthy individuals to contribute to the Teamsters while the Teamsters would give money to "get-out-the-vote" efforts supported by these wealthy individuals. For each dollar solicited by Blitz, the documents said, the Teamsters would make contributions in a multiplied amount to Citizen Action and Project Vote.

In the fall of 1996, the Teamsters gave $475,000 to Citizen Action and $175,000 to Project Vote. Blitz raised $185,000 for a Carey group known as the Teamsters for a Corruption Free Union.

It was unclear yesterday whether Blitz was cooperating with investigators, but his sentencing has been put off until December, indicating that any information he provides may be weighed in deciding his sentence.

According to the court papers, Ansara had sought out Blitz at a meeting of the Social Venture Network, a group of wealthy individuals who give to various progressive causes. Blitz is a past president of the group.

In a related matter yesterday, U.S. District Judge David Edelstein backed down from an earlier order that the union's 22-member General Executive Board appear before him tomorrow to discuss their refusal to pay for any part of the cost of government supervision of the union's upcoming rerun election. A federal appeals court has ruled that if the government wants the election supervised, the government has to pay for it. The general board has refused government requests to pay for half the estimated $8 million election cost.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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