UPDATE: Dems Cut Ties With Telephone Fund-Raising Firm

L O S   A N G E L E S, Aug. 17, 2000 -- The Democratic Party abruptly ended itsrelationship Wednesday with a telephone fund-raising firmafter learning that the company founder continued to work thereeven after his conviction in the Teamsters union scandal.

Records show the company, The Share Group Inc., was paidhundreds of thousands of dollars by the Democratic NationalCommittee and Vice President Gore’s election campaign in 1999 and2000.

The action, on the third day of the Democratic convention, wastaken after ABCNEWS told the party that founderMichael Ansara continued to work at the company as a contractemployee and that his wife still owns half the company.

“We have verified the information that he is a contractemployee and based on that information we plan to terminate anyfuture business with Share Group,” DNC spokesman Jenny Backussaid.

Democratic Party officials said they had ascertained before theyhired the firm in late 1997 that Ansara wasn’t involved in theday-to-day operations.

Pleaded Guilty to Conspiracy

At the same time, correspondence shows they were informed thatAnsara still owned more than half the firm and had pleaded guiltyto conspiring with other Teamsters to misuse union dues for theunion’s 1996 election.

“While Michael Ansara no longer has any operational control ofShare Group, he continues to own approximately 56 percent of thecompany,” the company wrote the DNC in fall 1997.

A few months later, Ansara shifted the stock to his wife, whoremains on the company board. The company said Ansara was removedas chief executive in 1997 but has been hired back as a contractemployee.

“I think his decisions and his actions were regrettable and hehas asked for our forgiveness a multitude of times,” Share Group’scurrent president, Dennis McCarthy, said in an interview Wednesday.

“We value Michael’s guidance and insight. He is a damn hardworker,” McCarthy said, adding Ansara does not work on any of theDemocratic or Gore business.

Democratic Party officials said they’ve used Share Group sincelate 1997 to make telephone solicitations from potential donors.Gore’s campaign hired the company for similar work beginning in1999 for his primary campaign.

FEC records show the Democratic National Committee has paidShare Group $512,555 in the 2000 election cycle, while Gore’scommittee paid the firm $154,234.

DNC Stunned

Backus said the DNC had relied on the assurance of the companyin the 1997 and were surprised to learn of Ansara’s current role.

Gore’s campaign said it didn’t know about Ansara’s role. “Werelied on the DNC’s assurance that Ansara was no longer involvedwith the company,” Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway said.

Hattaway said Gore last used Share Group in late 1999. Recordsshow the vice president’s campaign’s last payment to the companycame May 30 of this year.

Ansara’s attorney, William Codinha, was out of town andunavailable for comment, his office said Wednesday.

Share Group was never accused of any criminal wrongdoing in theJustice Department investigation into an alleged scheme to swapunion money for donations during the Teamster election between RonCarey and James Hoffa Jr. in 1996.

The federal election officer who oversaw the scandal-marredelection in 1996 recommended the company nonetheless be fined andprohibited from doing business with the Teamsters for six years.

“Mr. Ansara individually and his companies, Share Group andShare Consulting, are hereby barred from any further participationof any kind” with Teamsters, federal election officer Barbara ZackQuindel ruled in 1997.

Share Group appealed the ruling, and it was reversed by a judgea few weeks later. “The decision implicating the Share Group inthe campaign funding irregularities is reversed,” the judge wrote.

Confession Key to Case

Federal prosecutors’ criminal case involving Teamsters was madewhen Ansara confessed to the FBI about his role in the donationswap. He has since cooperated and his testimony was key to the juryconviction prosecutors secured in 1999 against former Teamsterspolitical director William Hamilton.

Ansara awaits sentencing after pleading guilty in September 1997to one count of conspiracy to embezzle union funds and circumventthe federal rules governing union elections. He faces a maximum offive years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

Ansara acknowledged he created a shell company that allowedTeamsters officials to funnel union funds through political groupsto assist Carey’s re-election bid. Prosecutors argued the schemeallowed union dues to be illegally used to support a unioncandidate.

The federal investigation into alleged union corruptioncontinues. ABCNEWS reported Tuesday the Justice Department iscurrently investigating Richard Trumka, the No. 2 official in theAFL-CIO.

Trumka, who spoke to the Democratic convention on Tuesday, saidhe did not believe there was an ongoing investigation.