Bret Caldwell, the Teamsters' communications director, writes:
Mark, I appreciate your reporting of the Hoffa/Raynor letter to Senator Clinton. However, I want to clarify the Teamsters Union's relationships with President Clinton and Senator Clinton. Immediately after winning election in 1998, Jim Hoffa reached out to President Clinton and established a positive and friendly relationship.
Although Hoffa and the Teamsters vehemently opposed President Clinton's trade policies, it was through this relationship that Clinton's trade agreements during his last two years in office began to include greater labor protections and were closer to the fair-trade deals that Hoffa was seeking. In fact, President Clinton spoke at an event honoring Hoffa in New York in October 1999.
The Teamsters Union has had an extrememly close relationship with Senator Clinton since she first announced her intention to seek elective office. Senator Clinton has a very productive relationship with President Hoffa and Teamsters leaders in New York state, including Gary LaBarbera, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16 in New York.
President Clinton and Senator Clinton each spoke at the Teamsters 100th Anniversary celebration in Washington in 2003. And most recently, Senator Clinton met with our General Executive Board in Washington, D.C. - as did Senator Barack Obama and John Edwards.
Your suggestion that the Teamsters are not fans of the Clintons because they "supported Teamster dissident Ron Carey's presidential bid against Hoffa" couldn't be more off base. First, Hoffa was running to oust the corrupt Carey from office in 1996. Carey was thrown out of the union by a government oversight board in 1997 because of a dues-swap scheme in which he used dues monies in order to cheat democracy in the Teamsters Union. Second, Jim Hoffa and the Teamsters believe that President Clinton and Senator Clinton have fought and continue to fight for working people in this country. While Bush and his cronies have moved to eliminate the middle-class, Senator Clinton has been a leader in the fight for a minimum wage increase and the Employee Free Choice Act. There is no room for mistake here, the Teamsters Union and Jim Hoffa have an excellent relationship with each of the Clintons.
As for the real issue at hand, Mark Penn's company has some unsavory clients and has performed some unsavory work. I'm certain that Jim Hoffa and Bruce Raynor with discuss the issue further with Senator Clinton.
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Marc Ambinder is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.