Congress Wraps Up Teamsters Investigation
February 26, 1999
The leadership of the Teamsters union mismanaged its financial affairs, bringing it to the brink of bankruptcy. That’s the finding of a Michigan congressman who has wrapped up his 17-month investigation of the corrupt 1996 Teamsters election.
“We found a profound lack of accountability by past Teamsters leaders,” said Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the Republican chairman of a House oversight and investigation subcommittee. He recommended that the union create better financial controls so its leaders are held accountable to rank-and-file members.
Democrats say the investigation was abusive, wasted taxpayer money, implied guilt where none was proven, and turned up nothing new.
In 1996, incumbent Ron Carey won re-election as the Teamsters’ president against challenger James P. Hoffa, son of the infamous Jimmy Hoffa. But Carey’s campaign was found to have used embezzled union funds, so the election was set aside. A re-run election late last year put Hoffa in charge, but he has yet to take office because of legal challenges.
The Teamsters’ elections have been run by a federal overseer since 1989, when the union signed a consent degree to avoid racketeering charges. Republicans say Hoekstra’s findings raise questions about whether than system is working to prevent corruption.
Hoekstra’s subcommittee on oversight and investigations recommended that the union set up a budget process including a record system that accurately reflects spending by union bosses. It also said the union should establish an inspector general with the power to detect and prevent fraud, and union management should adopt a code of ethical conduct.
The union's net worth dwindled from more than $150 million in 1992 to just over $700,000 early last year, according to a committee auditor.
On Tuesday, Kenneth Conboy, acting as a special election appeals judge, threw out appeals to an earlier court ruling certifying Hoffa as the president of the union. Conboy gave interested parties 15 days to appeal his ruling, but the action brings Hoffa a step closer to final certification as president.