- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 27, 2002

Up to his eyeballs in the Big Labor-Global Crossing-Ullico scandal that has jeopardized the pension funds of millions of workers, Carpenters Union President Douglas McCarron is now under investigation by the Department of Labor (DOL), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the National Labor Relations Board and, reportedly, a federal grand jury impaneled in Washington. Mr. McCarron, who withdrew his union from the AFL-CIO labor umbrella organization in 2000, has since become a friend of the Bush White House.
Indeed, Mr. McCarron has twice flown on Air Force One. He was featured this summer at the president's economic summit in Texas. And he hosted President Bush at his union's Labor Day picnic outside Pittsburgh. Mr. McCarron has also endorsed the administration's energy plan and, perhaps most important of all, his union has endorsed the president's brother, Jeb, in the very competitive gubernatorial race in Florida.
While the carpenters' Florida endorsement is undoubtedly helpful to the president and his brother, Mr. McCarron's union at the same time has been playing an aggressive role on behalf of the Democratic Party in competitive races in the Senate and the House. Essentially, Mr. McCarron has opened up his union's general treasury to congressional Democrats in the same way that Ullico, a labor-owned insurance company, opened its treasury to him and other labor bosses serving on Ullico's board. While the Ullico scandal may result in sanctions or even an indictment against Mr. McCarron, his habitual practice of funneling millions of dollars of his members' dues payments into the coffers of the Democratic Party may result in Mr. Bush encountering both a Democratic-controlled House and Senate next January. In either case, Mr. McCarron hardly qualifies as the sort of man Mr. Bush ought to embrace.
According to data collected by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) through June 30, Mr. McCarron's union has contributed $2.5 million in soft money to Democratic national committees since Mr. Bush became president. (Republican national committees received a relatively paltry $20,000 in soft money from Mr. McCarron's union through June 30.) Moreover, the $2.5 million received by Democrats through June 30 may be only the tip of the carpenters' soft-money iceberg. After all, during the 1999-2000 election cycle, in the five weeks immediately preceding the election, the carpenters donated $2.62 million of their $2.87 million in soft-money contributions to Democratic national parties. Thus, even though the carpenters have increased their soft-money contributions to Republican national committees from $0 (1999-2000) to $20,000 (2001-2002), the union will probably substantially increase the absolute difference between Democratic and Republican soft-money contributions during the current cycle. None of these figures, it's worth noting, include the $1.5 million in soft money that Mr. McCarron's union contributed to Democratic state committees in the 1999-2000 cycle.
The carpenters union's political action committee (PAC) has been operating even more cleverly than its soft-money machine this cycle. According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), Republican congressional candidates have received 28 percent of the union's $1.56 million in PAC contributions divulged by the FEC through Sept. 9. However, in the competitive Senate races in Minnesota, South Dakota, Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, Georgia, Colorado, Iowa and New Jersey, the carpenters' PAC has exclusively contributed to Democratic candidates, frequently maxing out with $10,000 in cumulative contributions.
Among the 22 House races considered toss-ups in Rothenberg's Political Report published Sept. 13, the carpenters' PAC contributed to only two Republican candidates. The powerful Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle of Iowa received $10,000, and the PAC gave $1,000 to Illinois Republican incumbent John Shimkus, whose Democratic opponent received $5,000. According to a tally of CRP data by National Right to Work, the carpenters' PAC contributed a total of $117,500 through Sept. 9 to Democrats seeking election in the 22 House races rated as toss-ups on Sept. 13.
If Democrats gain control of both houses of Congress in the midterm elections, they will owe their success in no small part to the largess of Mr. Bush's favorite labor leader. With friends like these … .

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