Obama-Teamsters deal to end federal oversight?

posted at 10:20 am on May 5, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

The Wall Street Journal reports that Barack Obama had to do some hard work in winning the endorsement from the Teamsters. Obama told the union that he favored an end to federal oversight intended to keep Mafia corruption out of the organization. Until now, presidential candidates have avoided any such politicking on this point, preferring to keep it in the DoJ — and Obama has already begun backpedaling:

Sen. Barack Obama won the endorsement of the Teamsters earlier this year after privately telling the union he supported ending the strict federal oversight imposed to root out corruption, according to officials from the union and the Obama campaign.

It’s an unusual stance for a presidential candidate. Policy makers have largely treated monitoring of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters as a legal matter left to the Justice Department since an independent review board was set up in 1992 to eliminate mob influence in the union.

Sen. Obama’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton, has declined to take a stance on Teamsters oversight. During his eight years in office, President Bill Clinton took no action to end the special board. Democratic presidential nominees in 2000 and 2004 — Al Gore and John Kerry — didn’t address the issue, according to Teamsters officials.

Neither Sen. Obama nor Teamsters President James P. Hoffa has spoken publicly about easing up federal oversight, a top priority for Mr. Hoffa since he became union president in 1999. On the campaign trail, Mr. Hoffa stresses Sen. Obama’s criticism of the North American Free Trade Agreement as the big factor in winning the 1.4-million member union’s support.

But John Coli, vice president for the Teamsters central region, who brokered the Teamsters endorsement, said Sen. Obama was “pretty definitive that the time had come to start the beginning of the end” of the three-member independent review board that investigates suspect activity in the union. Mr. Coli said that Sen. Obama conveyed that view in a series of phone conversations and meetings with Teamsters officials last year.

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor confirmed the candidate’s position in a statement to The Wall Street Journal, saying that Sen. Obama believes that the board “has run its course,” because “organized crime influence in the union has drastically declined.” Mr. Vietor said Sen. Obama took that position last year.

The Teamsters have a long association with the Mafia and organized crime corruption. James Hoffa Sr. allowed the Mob to use its pension fund as a piggy bank to finance, among other things, massive construction in Las Vegas in the 1950s. The disappearance of Hoffa has always been considered linked to those connections, and the influence of organized crime continued until the federal government took oversight responsibilities for the union’s management activities.

This answer stands in stark contrast to Obama’s response on the DC gun ban. When asked whether the city’s outright ban on handguns was constitutional, the constitutional lawyer refused to take a position, claiming he had not read the briefs. Has he done any research on the Teamsters and the status of the oversight effort? Or does he have a different threshold when it comes to pandering to union bosses rather than gun owners?

This morning, Obama has already started his retreat. This exchange on Good Morning America shows that Obama understands the damage he did:

SAWYER: Want to turn to the news of the day. Front page of “The Wall Street Journal” today, it says before you won the endorsement of the Teamsters, you indicated to them you would support ending strict federal oversight of the union, which was imposed back in the early ’90s to deal with corruption. Was that commitment made to them?

SEN. OBAMA: You know, I wouldn’t make any blanket commitments. what I’ve said is that we should take a look at what’s been happening over the Teamsters and at all unions to make sure that, in fact, you know, organized labor is able to represent its membership and engage in collective bargaining in accordance to what we’ve always believed.

SAWYER: But if they heard you to be saying that you did support, you did support lifting this strict federal oversight, are they wrong?

SEN. OBAMA: No, what I’ve said is that I would examine what is going on in terms of the federal oversight that’s been taking place, but it’s been in place for many years, the union has done a terrific job cleaning house, and the question is whether they’re going to be able to get treated just like every other union, whether that time has come and that’s something that I’ll absolutely examine when I’m president of the United States.

In other words, the Teamsters heard him correctly, and Obama wants to roll back the oversight. He knows he can’t say it outright, but note that he doesn’t dispute the Teamsters’ version of the conversation. In fact he confirms that he made at least some commitment to change the status of their receivership. That puts him into fairly radical territory — and also reveals him as a panderer of the worst sort.


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Comments

How does union corruption help the rank and file, again? Remember who gets victimized, Senator, and it’s not the folks you negotiated this with.

DrSteve on May 5, 2008 at 10:25 AM

And his pandering to unions doesn’t help much anyway. Unions endorse him, then many of the members will go vote for Hillary.

forest on May 5, 2008 at 10:29 AM

A Chicago politician that wants to turn a blind eye to corruption in unions in exchange for power. Shocked, shocked I tell you.

spmat on May 5, 2008 at 10:32 AM

Wait a minute, unions and organized labor are working together? The mafia controlled the unions, and my still be influencing?
Obama is shocked and will look into this…

right2bright on May 5, 2008 at 10:35 AM

Obama told the union that he favored an end to federal oversight intended to keep Mafia corruption out of the organization.

That’s progressive. Good thing he transcends politics as usual. /sarc

smellthecoffee on May 5, 2008 at 10:36 AM

Is this the CHANGE he is talking about?

ctmom on May 5, 2008 at 10:37 AM

Look guys, he said he’s all about change. What better way to show it?

a capella on May 5, 2008 at 10:38 AM

This is some shady stuff. I hope this story gets more play in the MSM. The voters need to know about this.

SoulGlo on May 5, 2008 at 10:43 AM

With all of his private “wink and a nod(s)” I wonder if he even remembers what he actually stands for. I certainly have no idea.

TooTall on May 5, 2008 at 10:44 AM

Awesome.

I’d rather be paid cash for my vote. Perhaps $500? I’ll take prepaid credit cards too.

natesnake on May 5, 2008 at 10:44 AM

Is there something wrong with reviewing policy in the executive branch?

Organized criminals aren’t stupid. Do you think they just see new policy designed to thwart their activities and they dunk their heads in the sand? They adapt. They survive.

gabriel sutherland on May 5, 2008 at 10:49 AM

Warning: Pander bear sighting.

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on May 5, 2008 at 10:51 AM

What else did you expect from someone that comes out of the Chicago political machine?

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on May 5, 2008 at 10:52 AM

Here’s a guy that has a pastor that spews anti-American speeches, a personal friend that is an admitted bomber, and now he is pandering to the mob outright. Sounds perfect for new and improved President doesn’t it?

rich801 on May 5, 2008 at 10:53 AM

Ever notice how when asked a direct question, he says “you know…” and “what I said was…” an awful lot. This dude tap dances better than Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.

Big John on May 5, 2008 at 10:54 AM

And, once again, for those (Democrats) who choose their politicians by the color of their skin and not by the content of their policy positions, we have Obambi positioning himself to the left of Hillary, Bill Clinton, Kerry, Gore, and everyone else in the country who is to the right of them (75% of the electorate).

He is, by his own positioning, a radical leftist.

Jaibones on May 5, 2008 at 10:58 AM

Simple question to Mr Obama,

How does this federal oversight board interfere with the Teamsters conducting legal union business?

Limerick on May 5, 2008 at 10:58 AM

This isn’t the Presidents call. It’s the Justice department’s call. Is he running for dictator now?

Sefton on May 5, 2008 at 10:59 AM

What a non-answer by Obama. He’s a radical and he knows full well what he intends to do. It’ll be Chicago politics as usual in the WH if he gets there.

CP on May 5, 2008 at 11:01 AM

‘What I said is’, ‘examine’; note, no statement of actual beliefs or actions. Non-commital pandering of the highest order.

michaelo on May 5, 2008 at 11:15 AM

The irony, this is the group that in the 50’s promised black leaders, team up with the unions and the Dems and we will have you sitting in tight with the unions, give you positions of power in the unions…and what did they get? Nothing but a few dog bones for the “black leaders”, but nothing for the their “constituents”.
The black leaders sure know how to “help”…

right2bright on May 5, 2008 at 11:19 AM

Great! Obama now has the mob vote.

Together the Messiah and the mob will raise more dead than Jesus. I suspect we’ll see record voter turnout in the fall, in excess of 100&% in some districts even.

Change I can certainly believe in!

moxie_neanderthal on May 5, 2008 at 11:25 AM

Yeah, that would be a change alright. Roll back RICO, while you’re at it, Mr. Obama.

JustTruth101 on May 5, 2008 at 11:26 AM

He is DANGEROUS! Be afaid America, be very afraid!

libhater on May 5, 2008 at 11:27 AM

The WSJ link isn’t working for me.

Connie on May 5, 2008 at 11:32 AM

This isn’t the Presidents call. It’s the Justice department’s call. Is he running for dictator now?

Sefton on May 5, 2008 at 10:59 AM

That’s what I thought but you have to remember that for a liberal there is only a dictatorship. Admittedly it’s a strange and wonderful one where “the people” vote democratically for the dictator but a dictatorship none the less.

jmarcure on May 5, 2008 at 11:35 AM

the union has done a terrific job cleaning house

In other words, they’ve gotten rid of everyone who is problematic to them.

Good piece, Ed. Stay on this one.

Connie on May 5, 2008 at 11:42 AM

He can afford to make all the promises he likes. Once he becomes the Marxist dictator that he hopes to be, he won’t need any stinking unions.

OldEnglish on May 5, 2008 at 11:44 AM

That puts him into fairly radical territory

Make that “very radical,” Ed. Obama, is afterall, an admitted Alinksy acolyte. Unions are the third ingredient of the revolutionary recipe:

“Alinsky’s brand of revolution was not characterized by dramatic, sweeping, overnight transformations of social institutions. As Richard Poe puts it, “Alinsky viewed revolution as a slow, patient process. The trick was to penetrate existing institutions such as churches, unions and political parties.”

Nichevo on May 5, 2008 at 11:46 AM

Simple question to Mr Obama,

How does this federal oversight board interfere with the Teamsters conducting legal union business?

Limerick on May 5, 2008 at 10:58 AM

Exactly. What is broken, and why do you want to “fix” it?

Jaibones on May 5, 2008 at 11:49 AM

Obama never has been one for oversight. He certainly doesn’t want any oversight into his own behavior and associates of the past few decades. Kind of makes you wonder just what he will do if elected President; things he won’t care to have any oversight on.

katieanne on May 5, 2008 at 11:51 AM

Foot in mouth disease strikes Obama——AGAIN!

jeanie on May 5, 2008 at 11:53 AM

Barak Obama: Selling out America one group at a time!

landlines on May 5, 2008 at 11:54 AM

It seems Obama has moved beyond naive to get to stupid.

Buford on May 5, 2008 at 11:56 AM

Barak Obama: Selling out America one group at a time!

landlines on May 5, 2008 at 11:54 AM

Obama has soldout to George Soros, moveon(dot)org and the Unions.. He is taking donations from anyone and will listen and sellout to them for the right price..

Chakra Hammer on May 5, 2008 at 11:58 AM

It seems Obama has moved beyond naive to get to stupid.

Buford on May 5, 2008 at 11:56 AM

Stuck on stupid, since he met Rev. Wright.

Chakra Hammer on May 5, 2008 at 11:59 AM

“Unions” are not an entity with a single mind, no matter how much their ‘leaders’ claim support. Many union workers vote Republican, because they love their country, and mistrust the hard Left Democrats. Many union workers voted for George Bush over both Kerry and Gore. They are Americans first, Union second (or third of fourth).

Doug on May 5, 2008 at 11:59 AM

Unions are not a special interest, right?

MayBee on May 5, 2008 at 12:01 PM

Meltdown continues….

The China Syndrome Candidate…

Its just a question of if the Dean part of the party can get his nomination locked in before the meltdown hits a critical point.

Romeo13 on May 5, 2008 at 12:02 PM

A very large person I know was with co workers at a restaurant known as a teamsters hangout near their work, my guess, about 15 years ago

He was approached by a man who had been eyeing him who said approximately:

“You look like you could break some legs. How would you like a job?”

entagor on May 5, 2008 at 12:04 PM

barry is for the little guy? Rrrriiiiiggggghhhhhttttttt.

peacenprosperity on May 5, 2008 at 12:28 PM

Oh great the dems have finally sealed up the Mob / Union vote…they really do have a big tent. wasn’t the Mob big Kennedy supporters at least for a while.

el Vaquero on May 5, 2008 at 12:31 PM

So, in other words, Obama promised to “end Reconstruction” to gain the Presidency? Shades of Rutherford B. Hayes!

irishspy on May 5, 2008 at 12:48 PM

If Clinton were caught doing this Obama would gripe about the “Washington ways.” His “new politics” brand continues to crack when we see he’s more like a Chicago-politician then he lets on.

seanhackbarth on May 5, 2008 at 1:11 PM

Obama: Eh, he’s not that organized.

– The Cat

MirCat on May 5, 2008 at 1:13 PM

My name is Obama, and I will deal with anyone and give away whatever is needed to get elected.

You have to love the Dems.

Hening on May 5, 2008 at 1:40 PM

When asked whether the city’s outright ban on handguns was constitutional, the constitutional lawyer refused to take a position, claiming he had not read the briefs.

Actually, as I recall, he sputtered out in a rather confused excuse, that he hadn’t “heard” the briefs; most folks read briefs, but apparently the messiah listens to them, or in this case, doesn’t listen to them…

bofh on May 5, 2008 at 1:46 PM

Fun with photoshop

MirCat on May 5, 2008 at 1:47 PM

Unions” are not an entity with a single mind, no matter how much their ‘leaders’ claim support. Many union workers vote Republican, because they love their country, and mistrust the hard Left Democrats. Many union workers voted for George Bush over both Kerry and Gore. They are Americans first, Union second (or third of fourth).

Doug on May 5, 2008 at 11:59 AM

Exactly. My husband is a teamster. Before that, he was in the steelworkers union. He has always held union jobs. But he, and everyone one he works with at his current job, vote Republican. Every single one. He doesn’t think of himself as first and foremost a union worker. He is a husband and father working a good paying job to support his family, and puts God and country first.

StephC on May 5, 2008 at 1:53 PM

Limerick on May 5, 2008 at 10:58 AM

how dare you question the messiah I bet your sitting there clinging to god and guns you racist you :D

Mojack420 on May 5, 2008 at 2:34 PM

They made him a deal he could not refuse.

This is “judgment”?

drjohn on May 5, 2008 at 2:59 PM

“Unions” are not an entity with a single mind, no matter how much their ‘leaders’ claim support. Many union workers vote Republican, because they love their country, and mistrust the hard Left Democrats. Many union workers voted for George Bush over both Kerry and Gore. They are Americans first, Union second (or third of fourth).

Doug on May 5, 2008 at 11:59 AM

There is a difference between union workers and the leaders. The leaders have the power and money, the union workers have the votes. However, the union workers hardly ever fail not to follow the leaders suggestion (at least the majority), because it is couched as, if you vote differently you will lose a job. Not unlike the government workers. My parents were “staunch” republicans, but voted democrat because they worked for the Calif. state.
As they say “follow the money” and the union leaders have the money, and a lot of it, along with a huge amount of power. Your one or two votes mean nothing compared to tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions.
Here is a snippet to show you can move dem union to Republican union, regarding Pataki. By just a few promises those “union” workers would have done the same to his opponent.

With legislative deals worth billions of dollars to raise worker salaries, the governor cemented his relationships with the two most politically powerful labor groups, 1199/S.E.I.U., the health care workers union, and the United Federation of Teachers. He won the endorsements of those and other unions, giving him access to thousands of foot soldiers in the city who ordinarily would be in the Democratic camp.

The health workers union sent more than a million pieces of mail to its members urging a vote for Mr. Pataki, and on Election Day it had 4,000 volunteers on its get-out-the-vote effort and 80 people calling voters from dawn to dusk.

Sorry to say, your husbands and friends conservative union votes mean almost nothing…their money goes to the liberals.

right2bright on May 5, 2008 at 3:05 PM

Many union workers voted for George Bush over both Kerry and Gore. They are Americans first, Union second (or third of fourth).

Doug on May 5, 2008 at 11:59 AM

Yeah, not in Chicago, they aren’t. They are union thugs first, last, and forever, and they vote as if the candidate is a union steward.

Jaibones on May 5, 2008 at 3:25 PM

I’d rather be paid cash for my vote. Perhaps $500? I’ll take prepaid credit cards too.

natesnake on May 5, 2008 at 10:44 AM

We are being paid with this ridiculous tax rebate.

Wade on May 5, 2008 at 3:37 PM

Doug on May 5, 2008 at 11:59 AM

While all that may be true, why do they continue to fill the coffers of the liberals?

Wade on May 5, 2008 at 3:40 PM

In case, no one has noticed…

The Irony is, of course, these are the very same addle-brained idiots, who berate McCain for having ties to Special Interests and Lobbyists.

franksalterego on May 5, 2008 at 7:20 PM

Personally, I’d like to see as much disorganized labor as we can get. ;-)

Dr. Bob on May 6, 2008 at 12:03 AM