April 23, 2004,
In July of 1996, union boss Ron Carey, whose election as head of the Teamsters would soon be thrown out by the courts as corrupt, met with Arlen Specter and told him, according to Carey's notes for the meeting, "we remember our friends."
That pat on the back from a man who would be indicted a few years later was accompanied by a $5,000 check from the Teamsters' Union PAC. Over the next 18 months, the Teamsters would send another $10,000 Specter's way.
It was the least Carey could do. After all, Specter, as chairman of the appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Labor Department, had played a key role in providing tax dollars to the Teamsters, to fund the crooked election in which Carey won his leadership post.
Like the fictional Forrest Gump who found himself at historic moments, Specter seems to pop up in the center of the worst scandals of the Clinton era.
In 1997, chief Clinton fundraiser Terry McAuliffe (now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee) was in hot water over a slew of scandals involving possible money laundering, including the Teamsters' graft.
Quick to McAuliffe's side came Richard Ben-Veniste. Familiar today for his mad-dog attacks on Condoleezza Rice in the 9/11 Commission hearings, Ben-Veniste was mostly known as a friend of the Clintons in 1997, having defended them as chief Democratic Senate counsel in the Whitewater hearings. Ben-Veniste also played a key role in helping squelch curiosity about the odd conditions of Vincent Foster's death.
In 1997, Ben-Veniste contributed to the reelection of Specter, having just completed his first two years as the Labor Appropriations Chairman. Specter, also served on the Judiciary Committee. Ben-Veniste's other gifts were to the likes of Hillary Clinton, Barbara Boxer, and the House Judiciary Committee's top Democrat, John Conyers. Specter remains the only Republican underwritten by the Democratic super-lawyer.
The story of Arthur Coia, president of the Laborer's International Union, is similar. Coia gave heavily to the Clintons and got out of his tax-evasion and mob-related charges with a slap on the wrist. While Coia was under investigation, his union sent Specter $8,000.
Specter remains a champion of union bosses. In July 2002, Specter was one of only four Republicans who voted to kill a measure demanding, in the post-Enron days, that labor union presidents certify the accuracy of their financial reports.
This past year, Specter gave up his demand that Bush keep federal overtime protections for white-collar union workers in exchange for the administration's weakening rules requiring unions to disclose how they spend member dues-hardly sticking up for the working man.
The overlap is stunning between the friends of Bill Clinton and the friends of Arlen Specter. Socialite Denise Rich, whose contributions to the Clintons helped buy her husband Marc Rich a pardon from a conviction for which he never served a day, included Specter in her largesse, giving the maximum contribution to his 1992 reelection.
In 1998, on the eve of impeachment, Clinton named Joan Specter to a paid position on the National Endowment of the Arts. Specter then voted the impeachment charges "not proven."
Pennsylvania voters should ask themselves what Harold Ickes and George Soros, both bankrolling Specter's primary against conservative Rep. Pat Toomey, are getting out of their investments this election.
Timothy P. Carney is a reporter for the Evans-Novak Political Report.