|The Ron Carey Campaign
Teamsters Help Marijuana Campaign
By KEVIN GALVIN
WASHINGTON (AP) - Last year's drive in California to legalize marijuana for medical use received a $195,000 boost from an unlikely source: the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
The money came from a contribution-swap scheme that illegally bolstered union President Ron Carey's re-election campaign, according to government documents and interviews with people familiar with the case.
Carey's December 1996 victory over James P. Hoffa was annulled and a federal grand jury probe is continuing after three former Carey campaign advisers confessed to the conspiracy Sept. 18.
According to their testimony and the written decision overturning Carey's election, consultants Michael Ansara and Martin Davis got wealthy donors to give to Carey by arranging for the union to donate to causes they supported.
Ansara enlisted West Coast fund-raiser Charles Blitz, court records show, and told him the Teamsters would match or double amounts he raised for Carey with contributions to causes of his choice.
Jere Nash, Carey's former campaign manager, admitted in court that he participated in the scheme and alleged that Teamsters political affairs director William Hamilton facilitated the union payments.
But until now, it wasn't clear what was in the deal for Blitz.
``In return, he was going to get a piece of the action,'' said one source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. ``And that was going to be used for the movement to legalize medicinal marijuana in California.''
Blitz used Citizen Action, a liberal consumer group for which he raised money, as a conduit in the fund-raising scheme, court records show.
On Oct. 14, 1996, he directed Citizen Action official Rochelle Davis to ask the Teamsters for $225,000. On Oct. 23, he had another request for $250,000 sent.
The Teamsters paid $475,000 to Citizen Action's ``Campaign for a Responsible Congress'' on Oct. 24, with Carey's approval.
Blitz arranged for at least $90,000 of that payment to be funneled to a Carey committee called Teamsters for a Corruption Free Union. In total, he directed about $185,000 to the committee, court records show.
Rochelle Davis told investigators that Blitz wanted to support the medicinal marijuana campaign, according sources familiar with the probe, and Citizen Action cut a $195,000 check to the Lobby for Individual Freedom and Equality in late October.
LIFE Lobby director Laurie McBride confirmed that the group, which advocates on behalf of AIDS victims, received a check in excess of $100,000 from Citizen Action.
Records filed with the California secretary of state show that LIFE Aids Lobby gave $143,000 to Californians for Medical Rights on Oct. 24 and $25,000 five days later.
LIFE Lobby changed its name to LIFE AIDS Lobby, director McBride said. Bill Zimmerman, a leader of the medicinal marijuana group which has changed its name to Americans for Medical Rights, said McBride's group was a key ally.
``The issue of medicinal marijuana is very important to the AIDS community in California, and they are very active politically,'' Zimmerman said. LIFE AIDS Lobby gave nearly $370,000 to Zimmerman's group last year.
Zimmerman said he was unaware that Blitz had anything to do with the Citizen Action payment to LIFE Lobby, although he said Blitz was involved in fund-raising for his group ``to a limited extent.''
McBride, who failed to produce documents she promised would show that she had requested the grant from Citizen Action, said she had no contact with Blitz.
``We applied to Citizen Action for general funds and for outreach programs, and some of that money ... certainly was used around the proposition for medicinal marijuana,'' she said.
Blitz's attorney, Stephen Ryan, did not return a request for comment.
Mark MacDougall, attorney for Rochelle Davis, issued a statement saying she ``did not knowingly participate in any financial transactions with the knowledge that funds drawn from the Teamsters union treasury were to be fraudulently diverted to the Carey re-election effort.''
As part of the contribution-swap, the Teamsters also sent funds to Project Vote, active in Rep. Loretta Sanchez's race to unseat Rep. Bob Dornan, R-Calif.
Hamilton, the union's former political director, has denied wrongdoing.