Indictment predicted for Carey

September 21, 1997


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 Thompson's committee.

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.

Ethics target

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 resignation.

Threatening Whitman

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 Dan Quayle.

Neutral Lott

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 state.

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 their conversation.

Robert Novak is a nationally syndicated columnist of the Sun-Times.

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