10/01/97 - 02:02 AM ET - Click reload often for latest version

AFL-CIO mum on testifying before panel

WASHINGTON - After its No. 2 official skipped a deposition under subpoena, the AFL-CIO is declining to say whether he will provide testimony to Senate investigators about allegations of an illegal union fund-raising scheme.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard L. Trumka was subpoenaed to answer questions Sept. 22 before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee but missed the deposition to attend the labor federation's convention, officials say.

The development occurred as court papers in New York implicated Trumka in a scheme to funnel union money to assist the re-election campaign of Teamsters President Ron Carey last year.

Two former campaign aides to Carey alleged Trumka's involvement when they pleaded guilty to embezzling union funds Sept. 18.

The AFL-CIO notified the Senate committee that Trumka wouldn't attend the deposition because he was in Pittsburgh for the convention. No new deposition session has been scheduled, AFL-CIO spokeswoman Denise Mitchell said.

"The subpoena for him to show up at a deposition was delivered 5:30 p.m. on a Friday for a Monday when people knew we were at a convention," Mitchell said.

She declined to say whether Trumka would be willing to be questioned in a Senate deposition, saying, "It's not a live question." She also said Trumka has hired a private attorney.

"I know there are probably ongoing discussions with the committee, Mitchell said. "There is not right now an outstanding request for him to be deposed or to testify," she said.

But Senate aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, say investigators still want to question Trumka and that the deposition subpoena is still pending. Committee lawyers are having discussions with Robert Weinberg, the AFL-CIO's attorney, aides said.

The Senate's attempt to get Trumka to testify in public comes as a grand jury in New York is investigating the AFL-CIO's involvement in an alleged scheme to route union money into Carey's re-election campaign last year.

Jere Nash, Carey's campaign manager, and Martin Davis, a Washington political consultant, implicated Trumka in the scheme to divert Teamsters funds to Carey's campaign when they pleaded guilty in New York federal court.

Davis said in court he asked Trumka to donate $150,000 to Citizen Action, a consumer advocacy group that supports labor causes and "told him that it would help Ron, meaning Ron Carey."

Davis said Trumka told him the AFL-CIO couldn't make the contribution but "If I was able to persuade the Teamsters to give the AFL $150,000 he would have the AFL-CIO pay $150,000 to Citizen Action."

Court papers assert that Trumka wrote the Teamsters government affairs director requesting the $150,000 contribution and three days later arranged for the AFL-CIO to donate that amount to Citizen Action.

After the transaction was completed, Citizen Action paid $100,00 to Davis' consulting firm to cover expenses for Carey's campaign, court papers said.

The committee, meanwhile, heard pleas by former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, R-Kan., and ex-Vice President Walter Mondale for swift enactment of legislation to ban unregulated, limitless contributions to campaigns. Both said they opposed a plan by Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., that would require unions to get written approval from members before using due for political purposes.

Former presidential aide Harold Ickes is expected to be questioned Oct. 7 about Democratic Party and labor-movement fund raising when he testifies before the panel, aides said.

By The Associated Press

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