- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2000

Big labor is cutting off cash donations and campaign volunteers for some House Democrats who voted for free trade with China, threatening to derail the party's effort to regain control of the House this year.

"I feel like we're taken for granted by the Democratic Party," said Chuck Harple, political director for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. "Why is it every time there's a big-labor vote, they're not with us?"

Rep. Dennis Moore, Kansas Democrat, is the first to feel the financial sting of the Teamsters' revenge, even as he began his re-election campaign yesterday.

The freshman is one of 73 House Democrats who voted in favor of permanent normal trade relations with China on May 24, despite fierce opposition from labor unions. The Teamsters, which donated the maximum $5,000 to Mr. Moore in the primary, have decided not to contribute to his general election campaign.

"I believe in accountability," Mr. Harple said. Democratic candidates "come to us when they want checks and phone-banking and troops in the street. [Withdrawing support] causes dissension, but it's a beautiful thing. It creates accountability. For the Teamsters, this is groundbreaking."

The United Auto Workers also said it won't donate any more cash this year to Mr. Moore's campaign. And the Teamsters are pulling their support for at least two other Democrats who voted for the bill Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado and Rep. Tom Sawyer of Ohio, Mr. Harple said.

"They're very displeased," Mr. Harple said of rank-and-file Teamsters in Mrs. DeGette's district. "They find it horrifying to know that she voted against us on this issue."

The rift with big labor couldn't come at a worse time for congressional Democrats, who need to pick up just six seats to retake control of the House from the GOP.

Mr. Moore's seat looks especially vulnerable without labor's backing. He won in 1998 with 52 percent of the vote against incumbent Republican Rep. Vincent Snowbarger; the district in 1996 favored Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole over President Clinton by 50 percent to 42 percent.

There are about 12,000 union workers and retirees who are registered voters in Mr. Moore's district.

"This could be fatal for Moore," said Jim Wilkinson, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "This is the first time we've seen organized labor reverse an endorsement."

A spokesman for Mr. Moore said he was too busy campaigning yesterday to discuss his split with the Teamsters. Mr. Moore emphasized in a statement that he is committed to issues important to "working families" such as minimum-wage increases and managed care reform.

Erik Smith, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Mr. Moore's legislative record "on balance … has been good for working families."

Mr. Smith also said the DCCC has about twice as much cash on hand as the House Republicans' campaign arm, therefore is better able to offset the loss of union donations to Mr. Moore and others.

Four Republican candidates are competing in an Aug. 1 primary for the right to challenge Mr. Moore.

The vote on permanent normal trade relations for China was the latest in a series of losses on trade votes opposed by unions during the Clinton administration. Union leaders contend the trade pact will result in the loss of union jobs in the United States due to a flood of goods produced by cheaper Chinese labor.

"I think we will lose a lot of good manufacturing jobs, a lot of shipping jobs," Mr. Harple said. "It will have a huge impact."

He said the Teamsters political action committee, the largest in the United States, is going to start re-evaluating its support for Democratic congressional candidates, who receive about 85 percent of the union's donations.

"From now on, they're not going to get it as easily as they once did," Mr. Harple said. "After this election, we're going to start at 'ground zero.' [Election year] 2002 will be the year of reckoning. We'll look at who we support on a case-by-case basis."

The Teamsters earlier said they would revoke their endorsement of Rep. Lois Capps, California Democrat who had announced her support of the China bill. And the union also has withdrawn support for Democrat Michael Case, who has advocated passage of the bill in his race against Rep. Elton Gallegly, California Republican.

Until this year, Congress had conducted an annual vote to determine whether to renew normal trade relations with China. A coalition of union-backed Democrats and conservative Republicans regularly voiced opposition to China's repressive communist regime, with its human rights abuses and religious persecution, but failed to muster enough votes to scuttle the trade agreements.

This year, the Clinton administration and top congressional Republicans joined forces to make permanent China's status as a normal trade partner with the United States. The vote in the House was 237-197; the Senate is expected to pass the measure soon.

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