The Teamsters Union has denied the WSJ report stating that the reason for the Union’s endorsement of Senator Barack Obama was his promise to ease federal oversight of the powerful union. They are not denying the promise, or the fact that the endorsement was made, only the fact that the two were tied together. Considering the fact that we are talking about two reputable parties, Senator Barack Obama and the management of the Teamsters Union, well, what can I say (that wont get me a place next to Jimmy Hoffa). The full NY Times story follows:
Teamsters Defend Endorsement of Obama
BySTEVEN GREENHOUSE The Teamsters union vigorously denied on Monday that its decision to endorse Senator Barack Obama in the presidential race was in any way tied to Mr. Obama’s statement that federal supervision of the union had run its course. The union also noted that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Obama’s rival for the Democratic nomination, suggested that she might also support ending the union’s consent decree with the federal government when she spoke to the Teamsters’ general executive board last year. “You can’t go around dragging the ball and the chain of the past,” Mrs. Clinton said on that occasion — the March 27, 2007, meeting of the board — according to an audio tape that the union made available. “And I think that’s true for anybody, any organization, any individual,” she continued. “And so I would be very open to looking at that, and to saying, ‘What are we trying to accomplish here?’ and see what the answers were. At some point, you turn the page and go on.” Bret Caldwell, the communications director for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said there was “no link whatsoever” between his union’s endorsement of Mr. Obama and the candidate’s statements about federal supervision. “You’re going to be hard-pressed to find any political figure saying we should be under the consent decree,” Mr. Caldwell said. The decree is a 19-year-old agreement between the union and the federal government, under which government-appointed monitors have worked to root out mob influence from the union, which has 1.4 million members. Mr. Caldwell was reacting to an article in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, which said that Mr. Obama won the Teamsters’ endorsement after he privately told the Teamsters, according to campaign and union officials, that he supported ending the federal oversight. Bill Burton, chief spokesman for the Obama campaign, called the article in the Journal “surprisingly sensational.” “Obama’s position on this is old news,” he said. “Despite the sensational nature of this ridiculous story and the Clinton attack, Obama has not said he would take the Teamsters out of the consent decree — he’s said it has run its course,” Mr. Burton said. Referring to Mrs. Clinton, he said, “This is a pathetic effort to distract attention from the fact that voters are seeing through her political pander on the gas tax gimmick.” Officials with the Teamsters and the Obama campaign said on Monday that Mr. Obama had told Teamster officials in the Midwest last summer that he believed the consent decree had run its course. The Wall Street Journal quoted John Coli, a Teamsters vice president in the Midwest, saying that Mr. Obama had been “pretty definitive that the time had come to start the beginning of the end” of the three-person government-appointed review board that investigates corruption in the union. “Obama has indicated his support of the Teamsters’ position to end their consent decree,” Mr. Caldwell said. “That’s a whole lot different from saying he would end the consent decree. No candidate would ever say that. It makes no sense that anybody would go there with that.” Mr. Caldwell added, “We believe there’s only a judicial end to this process. It’s not a political end to this process.” At the Teamsters’ board meeting last year, a union vice president asked Mrs. Clinton for her views of the consent decree, and her first response was to jokingly call it “the world’s longest consent decree.” “I am of the opinion that, based on what I’ve seen over years of observation, this union has done a tremendous job in turning itself around, and that’s my observation,” she said. “And at some point the past has to be over.” On the audio tape, the Teamsters’ board can be heard enthusiastically applauding her remarks. The official who has the power to end the consent decree is Judge Loretta Presca of the Federal District Court in Manhattan, who officially oversees the consent decree. Mr. Caldwell said that the question of whether to petition Judge Presca to end the decree would be decided by career anticorruption officials in the Justice Department, not the White House. Appearing on the ABC program “Good Morning America” on Monday, Mr. Obama denied that he had committed himself to ending the consent decree. “I wouldn’t make any blanket commitments,” he said. He added: “The union has done a terrific job cleaning itself in-house, and the question is whether they’re going to be able to get treated just like every other union, whether the time has come. That’s something I will absolutely examine when I’m president of the United States.” Phil Singer, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, issued a statement on Monday morning saying that Mr. Obama, during his appearance on “Good Morning America,” had contradicted what his campaign had said about ending the consent decree. Mr. Caldwell, the union spokesman, said, “The Obama campaign believes that the consent decree has run its course. We’ve had plenty of people in various campaigns who have said the same thing.” He added, “We can’t ask a candidate to say they’re going to end the consent decree. We couldn’t even approach a candidate with that.” Doug Hattaway, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, said on Monday about the consent decree: “She hasn’t taken a position on it. She hasn’t made any promises on it. The Clinton Administration didn’t take a position on it, either.” Mr. Caldwell said that the consent decree was no longer such an important issue for the Teamsters because there was little mob influence or corruption in the union and because federal monitors had done little in the way of prosecuting such corruption in recent years. “Sure, we’d like to negotiate out of it,” he said. “We’re living and operating under what is basically a program that doesn’t do very much any more — because there’s nearly zero organized crime prosecutions under the order.” In 2001, soon after Mr. Bush became president, James P. Hoffa, the president of the Teamsters, urged the Bush administration to move to lift the decree, saying that it was costing his union millions of dollars and that it was redundant in light of the union’s own anticorruption efforts. Mr. Caldwell said that if lifting the consent decree were so vital to his union, then the Teamsters would have endorsed Mr. Obama last summer when he originally made his remark about the supervision having “run its course.” The Teamsters did not endorse Mr. Obama until February of this year.