- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 11, 2003

It has long been clear that Dick Gephardt’s strategy for winning the Democratic presidential nomination was to capitalize on his relationship with Big Labor and to depict the Bush presidency as “a miserable failure.” If Mr. Gephardt is truly interested in exposing “a miserable failure,” he ought to review the role of American Federation of Teachers boss Sandra Feldman in the seven-year conspiracy of Washington Teachers Union President Barbara Bullock and her associates, who plundered millions of dollars in union dues from the WTU treasury. Bullock pleaded guilty Tuesday to multiple felony charges relating to her siphoning off more than $2.5 million in union dues to finance an incredibly luxurious lifestyle built upon greed. Bullock and her partners in crime never could have gotten away with even a small fraction of their multimillion-dollar scam if the Feldman AFT had not failed to exercise its fiduciary duty.

AFT regulations require all locals to conduct audits every two years and to file them at AFT national headquarters, which happen to be located a short walk from the WTU offices in Northwest Washington. Bullock became president of the WTU in 1994 and filed her first and last audit with the AFT in 1995. Had the AFT fulfilled its duties during the Bullock years, it would have learned, among other things, that: 1) The WTU stopped employing an accountant in 1996; 2) Leroy Holmes, who earlier pleaded guilty for his role in Bullock’s massive money-laundering conspiracy, was paid more than $100,000 a year to be Bullock’s chauffeur and gofer; and 3) Bullock had been spending $100,000 for season tickets to the Washington Redskins and Washington Wizards — with limousine service. A more timely audit commissioned by the AFT after Bullock repeatedly failed to meet the requirement to file biennial audits with the parent organization would have uncovered outrageous credit-card splurges, exemplified by an American Express bill for nearly $100,000 for one month.

As it happens, even when the WTU became delinquent in remitting its dues payments to the AFT, the AFT never intervened. Not until Bullock began extracting $160 in dues deductions from teachers’ paychecks (instead of the appropriate $16) did the AFT belatedly become involved.

Consider the actions of AFT lawyers at a hearing in federal court this spring involving a suit by WTU member Nathan Saunders, who is seeking the imposition of a court monitor to oversee the efforts of the negligent AFT to reform its D.C. affiliate. AFT attorneys brazenly asserted that the AFT had no legal obligation to review the audits or even verify that they were received. But, as U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said, “It seems everyone in a responsible position fell asleep at the switch. The only ones who were vigilant were the thieves.”

Following Bullock’s guilty plea, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao echoed the judge’s comments. “This case involved more than just the ethical failures of a few unscrupulous officials,” Mrs. Chao said outside the courthouse. “There was a failure of accountability, an absence of oversight and a lack of concern for the well-being of union members.” We couldn’t agree more.

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