Below are excerpts of an op-ed written by Village Voice writer Robert Fitch that appear in Newsday on Nov. 2
“…So what do the rank and file get for their estimated $54 million in contributions to the Democrats? Not much, but, given the way so many of their leaders have been investigated by the Clinton administration’s Justice Department, it seems to be protection money.
…Probably a bigger worry for [AFSCME boss] Gerald McEntee than whether public jobs will be contracted out is avoiding indictment. A federal official, former Judge Kenneth Conboy, accused McEntee of illegally contributing $50,000 to the campaign of Teamster President Ron Carey. McEntee admitted that he got $20,000 of the money by shaking down a union vendor. U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White said she was investigating McEntee. But so far she hasn’t brought down the hammer.
The president of the AFL-CIO’s second largest union, SEIU’s Andy Stern, has similar problems with the Justice Department growing out of his role in the Teamster money-laundering scandal. One union leader can’t legally contribute to the campaign of another, but Stern has been accused of promising to raise $50,000 for Carey. He never delivered. But SEIU’s attorney promised to make up for Stern’s default and actually came up with $ 16,000. Stern has given $3.5 million to the Democrats.
Then there’s AFL-CIO’s secretary-treasurer, Rich Trumka. Although he’s under federal investigation by a Manhattan grand jury for alleged participation in two Teamster money-laundering schemes involving $200,000, Gore let him address the Democratic Party convention.
The United Auto Workers long resisted Al Gore. Maybe it was a coincidence, but this summer, shortly after word leaked out of a federal investigation into $200,000 in alleged bribes given to UAW officials for ending the 1997 General Motors strike, union president Stephen Yokich announced he, too, was for the vice president. Maybe this is what they mean by ‘divided government’: One branch threatens to indict you. The other collects cash to keep you from being indicted.
Nader supports everything union bosses say they care about…but hasn’t gotten a single major AFL-CIO endorsement. Labor issues don’t seem to be the point. Not when you can use union members’ money to buy get-out-of-jail-free cards.”