- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2000

LAS VEGAS Vice President Al Gore yesterday finally secured the endorsement of the Teamsters, but the union's president, James P. Hoffa, was privately unenthusiastic about supporting an administration that was once his bitter enemy.
Still, the endorsement was important to Mr. Gore, especially in battleground Midwestern states, where support from the 1.5-million-member union could prove crucial in this unusually close election.
Although Mr. Hoffa made no public mention yesterday of the bad blood between himself and the Clinton-Gore administration, he made it clear there was little personal warmth in his endorsement of the vice president.
"We have no permanent allies; we have no permanent enemies," he told 1,500 Teamsters at a gathering in Bally's Casino before the vice president arrived. "We have permanent interests."
Mr. Gore steered clear of his administration's adversarial history with Mr. Hoffa yesterday as he cast himself as the union's ally in fighting big oil and pharmaceutical companies.
"I will take the hard-working men and women of the Teamsters," Mr. Gore said in formally accepting the union's endorsement.
Mr. Hoffa waited until 11 months after the AFL-CIO endorsed Mr. Gore and nearly six weeks after the endorsement of the United Auto Workers, the only other major union to hold back its support. Even now, it was difficult for the Teamsters leadership to formally cast its lot with the same Democratic establishment Clinton-Gore activists, liberal fund-raisers and the heads of other unions who actively helped former Teamsters President Ron Carey beat Mr. Hoffa in a 1996 election that was later ruled fraudulent.
Although conservatives wined and dined Mr. Hoffa at a reception during the Republican National Convention in August, aides to the union boss said Texas Gov. George W. Bush's labor policies precluded an endorsement from the Teamsters. Still, Mr. Hoffa remains the only major labor leader to have established a meaningful dialogue with Republicans, which could pay future dividends for the GOP.
Hoffa confidants say the Teamsters also never seriously considered endorsing presidential candidates Ralph Nader of the Green Party or Pat Buchanan of the Reform Party. It came down to a choice between endorsing Mr. Gore or sitting out the election, as the Teamsters did in 1996.
Mr. Bush could have claimed at least a partial victory if the Teamsters had abstained from any endorsement in the 2000 campaign. Instead, the endorsement threatens to build further momentum for Mr. Gore in the swing states he needs most, including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Mr. Hoffa's home state of Michigan.
In endorsing the vice president, Mr. Hoffa was also looking out for his own interests. With his own re-election coming up next year, Mr. Hoffa did not want to risk being cast as the man who split Big Labor in two. Besides, with momentum swinging toward Mr. Gore in recent weeks, the union leader recognized the merits of hitching his political fortunes to a likely winner.
Furthermore, Mr. Hoffa did not want to alienate the grass-roots members of the union, only 35 percent of which are Republicans. And by holding out until late in the campaign to issue an endorsement, Mr. Hoffa was able to flex his own political muscle and, to some extent, play the role of kingmaker.
Union officials took a measure of satisfaction that Mr. Gore had to wait until 50 days before the election and rearrange his schedule to accept yesterday's endorsement.
Still, the Teamsters won no major concessions from Mr. Gore during their 11-month holdout. The union still strongly opposes the vice president's support of China trade and the Kyoto Agreement, a global environmental accord that the union believes would cost American jobs.
"Our endorsement process has taken a long and winding trail," Mr. Hoffa said at his joint appearance with Mr. Gore. "But it's not how you begin the journey it's how you end the journey. And we end the journey with Al Gore."
Although top Teamsters officials here told The Washington Times yesterday that Mr. Hoffa is "not one to hold a grudge," they acknowledged that throwing their considerable political weight behind Mr. Gore is a bitter pill to swallow. After all, the political consultants, fund-raisers and union leaders who partook in the illegal money-laundering scheme to defeat Mr. Hoffa in 1996 were simultaneously working on the Clinton-Gore campaign.
The scheme was masterminded by Martin Davis, who served as consultant to both Mr. Carey and the Clinton-Gore team. The illegal funneling of Teamsters treasury funds into Mr. Carey's campaign coffers was overseen by Carey campaign manager Jere Nash, who was also a paid consultant for Clinton-Gore.
The money-laundering was proposed to Clinton-Gore fund-raiser Terence McAuliffe, who referred the matter to Clinton-Gore finance director Laura Hartigan. Miss Hartigan, in turn, promoted the idea to the Democratic National Committee, which lined up donors for an elaborate money swap involving the Clinton-Gore campaign, the Carey campaign and the Teamsters' treasury.
The top leaders of other unions, many of whom are Mr. Gore's biggest boosters, actively participated in the effort to keep Mr. Hoffa from winning the Teamsters presidency.
For example, Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, improperly raised $50,000 in cash and checks for the Carey campaign, according to a federal investigation. Mr. Trumka remains one of the most vociferous promoters of the vice president, often appearing with him on the campaign trail.
Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME), improperly solicited $20,000 in cash from an AFSCME vendor for the Carey campaign. Mr. McEntee is Big Labor's chief strategist in marshaling union votes and tens of millions of dollars to help elect Mr. Gore and congressional Democrats.
Paul Booth, AFSCME's national organizing director, improperly raised $7,100 for the Carey campaign. Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), agreed to improperly raise $50,000, but never did so.
These and other major leaders of organized labor were conspicuously absent from yesterday's endorsement by the Teamsters. Several of the leaders have made no secret of their displeasure in recent weeks that the Teamsters were delaying their endorsement of Mr. Gore.
Meanwhile, Mr. Gore yesterday pushed a plan to force HMOs to pay for breast cancer treatment and mocked Mr. Bush's "real plans for real people."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide