WASHINGTON — Tom Andrews, the former Democratic congressman from Portland who lost a Senate bid in 1994, is once again looking for work.
This time, Andrews was an unintended victim of the mushrooming scandal involving the controversial Teamsters election in 1996. Since January, Andrews has been deputy director of Citizen Action, a Washington, D.C.-based consumer rights group that has promoted clean drinking water, product labeling and, most recently, campaign finance reform.
But Citizen Action also has become ensnared in the Teamsters controversy, under allegations that the liberal-leaning group helped launder campaign contributions for Teamsters President Ron Carey, who narrowly won re-election in 1996 over James Hoffa Jr.
Even though Andrews was hired long after the union’s election, he is paying the price. The group’s fund raising has been severely hampered, forcing it to close down its Washington office, where Andrews and about 20 other employees have coordinated Citizen Action’s national agenda.
“It’s purely a financial issue. We’ve been under this cloud for months and months,” said Hetty Rosenstein, chairwoman of Citizen Action’s national board. “A cloud such as this is what really hurt us, in terms of financing.”
That cloud turned into thunder and lightning when a federal overseer of the Teamsters’ election found that Carey’s advisers contributed $475,000 of the union’s money to Citizen Action. As part of a reported “quid pro quo,” Citizen Action and its donors funneled more than $100,000 to a firm working on behalf of Carey’s re-election.
The federal overseer has overturned Carey’s election for this and other similar money-laundering schemes. Prosecutors are focusing their investigation on only a handful of Citizen Action workers, Rosenstein said. “[Andrews] had absolutely nothing to do with the Teamsters.”
Andrews was out of town and unavailable for comment.
Without a Washington office, Citizen Action’s campaigns will focus almost entirely on their 24 state affiliates, including Maine Citizen Action, which last year coordinated many efforts in support of the state’s Democratic candidates.
This is the latest in a string of hard-luck incidents for Andrews, who represented Maine’s 1st District in Congress for two terms in the 1990s. In 1994, he was resoundingly defeated by Sen. Olympia Snowe when he ran for the Senate.
In 1995, he took over People for the American Way, a civil rights organization. After considering another run for the Senate in 1996, Andrews stuck with People for the American Way — only to be fired a month later.
Rosenstein said she was not sure what Andrews would do next, except that he would “continue to be a real leader on campaign finance reform.”