One condition of the AFL-CIO merger of 1955 was that outright Communists be purged from CIO unions. The AFL-CIO in 1957 instituted a rule that required any union official invoking his Fifth Amendment right (to avoid incriminating himself before a congressional committee) to be removed from his position. But when Richard Trumka twice invoked his Fifth Amendment right in a case involving a corruption and money-laundering scandal during the late 1990s, the response by then-AFL-CIO president John Sweeney was to purge the rule instead of the rule-breaker Trumka.
This case involved the Teamsters Union, whose president, Ron Carey, faced likely defeat in his 1996 run for re-election. According to congressional testimony, Carey agreed to raise $1 million for the Democratic National Committee if $100,000 could be provided to him immediately to finance his re-election campaign. In this shell game, as witnesses explained it, the Teamsters Union paid $150,000 to the AFL-CIO, the same amount which its secretary-treasurer Richard Trumka immediately thereafter gave from AFL-CIO accounts to the leftwing political group Citizen Action, which within days provided $100,000 to the Carey campaign.
Among those named by witnesses and investigators as involved in this scheme to illegally fund and influence a union election were Richard Trumka, Ron Carey, Andrew Stern, AFSCME President Gerald McEntee, Bill Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, and Clinton-Gore fundraiser Terry McAuliffe.
When the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Peter Hoekstra started looking into this Teamsters Union scandal, he was asked by the Clinton-appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Mary Jo White, not to subpoena McAuliffe, Ickes, Trumka and certain others on grounds that their testimony might interfere with a criminal investigation that she and the Clinton Justice Department were already pursuing. But after Hoekstra agreed to White’s request, as he described it, "the entire Teamsters investigation [by White and the Clinton Justice Department] has fallen into a black hole."
Carey's re-election as President of the Teamsters Union was invalidated and he was removed from power. Small players in the case pled guilty. But, despite strong evidence against them, no criminal indictments were ever handed down by White or the Clinton Justice Department against McAuliffe, Ickes or Trumka.