Bush’s New Best Friend

Republicans’ Oily Courtship of the Teamsters

Today, even by the toughest measurement, the union is a wholly different organization, and Hoffa has created his own program, called RISE, which he wants to install as his own internal watchdog apparatus while Teamster officials make disciplinary decisions on other Teamsters. White, according to sources, wants the union to adopt a plan similar to that of the Laborers union where leaders agreed to have an outside investigator and hearing officer.

But Hoffa's plea wasn't helped by charges filed in May by the Independent Review Board against one of his former top aides and the Teamsters leader in Chicago for allegedly trying to bulldoze a Las Vegas Teamsters local into giving a sweetheart labor deal to a contractor. Hoffa later denounced the deal, but Leedham's backers have cited the charges as proof that the union under Hoffa is still vulnerable to the kind of corruption that plagued it in the past.

When it comes to recent corruption, however, Hoffa has kept up a steady drumbeat against the ousted Carey regime, pointing to the conviction of six former Carey aides on charges stemming from the illegal fundraising scheme and the perjury indictment of the former White Knight himself.

Carey's conviction on the criminal charges, however, is far from a sure thing. At the end of more than a week's testimony, the prosecution's witnesses had done little to show the former president was aware of the scheme. The key witness, former Carey campaign manager Jere Nash, was only able to point to a single momentary telephone conversation with Carey in which he claimed he explained how the union's contributions to several nonprofit organizations would in turn lead to campaign gifts. Another witness, former Teamsters governmental affairs director William Hamilton, who is now serving a three-year sentence, testifying under subpoena, stated that Carey expressed puzzlement at one point at the large contributions to the nonprofits, asking Hamilton: "Why are we spending all this money?"

Carey's contention is that he was duped by a group of smooth-talking political consultants and upon learning of the scheme he ordered a thorough, no-holds-barred investigation. But even if the jury accepts that explanation, it will do little to restore Carey's image as a fearless reformer. History's judgment would be that, while not corrupt, he was so out of touch as a leader that he never noticed nearly a million dollars being siphoned out of the union.

What's becoming clearer, however, is that the White House is showing more interest in the Teamster union's political preferences than its cleanup.

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