A federal grand jury in New York is investigating whether Teamster President Ron Carey received illegal campaign kickbacks and employer contributions in last year’s bitterly contested election against James P. Hoffa for control of the 1.4 million-member union, sources confirmed.
At the same time, Barbara Zack Quindel, the federal official charged with overseeing the election has yet to certify Carey’s victory, pending the outcome of her own investigation of the charges. Quindel has the power to order a rerun of the election.
Sources said Tuesday they did not expect Quindel to issue a ruling until after the grand jury completed its investigation.
The Carey campaign, meanwhile, said it has returned more than $200,000 in campaign contributions that opponents allege were illegal.
Nathaniel Charney, general counsel to the Carey campaign, abruptly resigned from his New York law firm last month. Bruce Simon, senior partner in the firm Simon Cohen & Weiss confirmed Charney’s resignation. He said, however, that “in view of the circumstances I think any further comment would be inappropriate.”
The investigations threaten to undermine the biggest union-reform effort in U.S. government history, a 40-year legal effort that resulted in Carey’s stunning 1991 victory in federally supervised elections.
A Teamster spokeswoman Tuesday would not comment on the investigations except to repeat an earlier statement by Carey that matters were being investigated by the appropriate authorities and the union was cooperating with those authorities.
The Teamsters are operating under federal court supervision as the result of a 1989 consent decree the union signed with the Justice Department. The decree settled a civil racketeering suit in which the government accused the Teamsters of being a wholly owned subsidiary of organized crime.
Carey ran as a reform candidate against the union’s old-guard leadership five years ago and has since won praise from both the government and others outside the Teamsters for helping clean up the union. Prior to Carey’s 1991 election, three of the six previous Teamster presidents were jailed for corruption and a fourth died while under indictment.
Carey, members of his election slate and several officials of his re-election campaign have been accused by the Hoffa campaign of receiving illegal employer contributions to help pay for a critical mass mailing last November, just before ballots were mailed to the union membership.
The Hoffa campaign points to a $95,000 contribution to the Carey campaign by Barbara Arnold. Arnold is the wife of Michael Ansara, the owner of the Share Group, a Boston telemarketing company that worked both for the Carey campaign and the Teamsters’ political operation in last year’s federal elections.
In late October, Arnold gave the Carey campaign a $45,000 contribution. The contribution was made just a few days after the Teamsters made a $48,687 payment to the Share Group. In late November, Arnold made a $50,000 donation to the Carey campaign just days after the Teamsters paid the company more than $48,000.
Federal law prohibits unions from accepting money from employers in an election campaign, to prevent employers from trying to influence the union leadership.
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