|The Ron Carey Campaign
Three Carey Aides Plead Guilty to Raising Funds Illegally
By Kevin Galvin
NEW YORK (AP) Three key players in a scheme to funnel illegal contributions to Teamsters President Ron Carey's re-election campaign pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Two of them, in separate court appearances, implicated the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton-Gore campaign and the AFL-CIO in the scheme.
Martin Davis, a Washington political consultant, and Jere Nash, Carey's former campaign manager, each pleaded guilty to conspiring to funnel union funds through political groups into Carey's re-election bid last year against James P. Hoffa.
Michael Ansara, the owner of a Massachusetts telemarketing firm that did business with the Teamsters, admitted creating a shell company that helped Davis and Nash carry out one of their plans to embezzle union funds.
Specifically, Ansara pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, Davis to one count of conspiracy, one count of embezzling union funds and one count of mail fraud, and Nash to one count of conspiracy and one count of making false statements. Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine but sentencing was delayed as the three men cooperate with investigators.
Nash and Davis were expected to be interviewed by a court-appointed officer who will determine next month whether Carey will be disqualified from a rerun election for union president. Ansara was already providing information to the election officer and the federal grand jury probing Carey's campaign and the union's relationship with Democrats and the AFL-CIO.
Carey was not named in connection with any wrongdoing in the voluminous complaints. Nevertheless, Hoffa aide Richard Leebove called for him to step down "to save the labor movement and the Teamsters further embarrassment from his involvement in this ugly embezzlement scheme."
Carey released a statement through his campaign, saying he would continue to cooperate with the investigation.
Both Nash and Davis said Thursday in court documents that officials working for the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton-Gore '96 campaign agreed to Davis' suggestion that they find donors to support Carey in exchange for Teamsters contributions.
Nash alleged that the Teamsters' political director, William Hamilton, agreed to the plan to trade union donations to Democratic Party organizations for outside donations to Carey's campaign.
While they said that DNC officials found a foreign contributor willing to donate $100,000 to help Carey, Davis and Nash also said that the donation was rejected because they realized the donor was an employer.
"As far as I knew," Nash said. "None of Davis' plans with the DNC or the Clinton-Gore campaign came to fruition."
A DNC spokesman denied Thursday there ever was a plan by the party to funnel money to Carey's campaign. "No plan to raise money in exchange for Teamster contributions to the DNC was approved or implemented by the DNC," said Steve Langdon.
Questions about the existence of such a plan came up after investigators learned about a controversial memo from the DNC requesting more than $1 million in specific union contributions to state and local Democratic party affiliates.
The memo was sent under the name of Richard Sullivan, who was the DNC's finance director last year, to Davis. But the memo was actually written by Laura Hartigan, who was deputy to President Clinton's campaign finance director, Terence McAuliffe, according to sources close to the investigation speaking on condition of anonymity. Neither McAuliffe nor Hartigan could be reached Thursday night for comment.
With Carey in a tight race against Hoffa for the union's presidency, Nash and Davis admitted that they violated federal laws that prohibits using union funds or money from any employer to influence labor elections. Carey's campaign spent $3.6 million on the election; Hoffa spent $3.8 million.
"I acted in an attempt to save the election of a candidate I believed in," Nash told the court, his voice breaking as he apologized to his family. "In doing so, I violated principles of honor and integrity that I have followed my entire life."
Nash said he delivered about $20,000 in cash collected from officials from other unions to fuel the Carey campaign.
Extra funds sought in the closing months of the campaign went primarily to pay for a $700,000 mailing attacking Hoffa. The Carey campaign paid Davis' November Group consulting firm $300,000 for the mailing, and Davis schemed with Nash to raise the rest.
In one instance listed in the criminal complaints, the Teamsters paid $150,000 to the AFL-CIO, knowing that AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka would pass the funds on to Citizen Action, a liberal consumer group that helped funnel prohibited donations to support Carey.
Citizen Action then paid Davis $100,000 to help fund the mailing, according to the court documents.
The AFL-CIO gave about $1.5 million to Citizen Action last year to support the group's get-out-the-vote effort in the 1996 elections. The Teamsters paid a total of $475,000 to Citizen Action.
"The AFL-CIO made no contribution to Citizen Action or to anybody else for the purpose of helping the Ron Carey campaign," AFL-CIO spokeswoman Denise Mitchell said Thursday night. "We can't rule out the possibility that we were used by somebody in a conspiracy scheme."