Teamsters' Flirtation With GOP Ends

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Attempts by President Bush and the Republican Party to court national labor unions, particularly the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, have apparently fallen on deaf ears.

Teamsters National Field Director Todd Thompson is preparing a strategy to dramatically increase contributions to the Teamsters political action committee for what sources inside the Teamsters say is a mission to defeat all Republican candidates in 2004.

The Teamsters hope to triple their PAC contributions and dedicate the money exclusively to Democrats. In 2002, the Teamsters PAC known as DRIVE — the Democratic Republican Independent Voter Education — spent $2.3 million on federal candidates, the sources said.

But Teamsters spokesman Rob Black officially denied the report, pointing to the title of the PAC and saying, "The Teamsters has always backed candidates based on their positions, not their party and we will continue to do so."

Black added that the Teamsters and the firefighters union held a reception for Republican members of Congress Tuesday night in Washington.

However, Teamsters officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Fox News that President James Hoffa has decided to back away from the union's strategy over the last few years of supporting some moderate or liberal Republican congressional candidates.

Hoffa was aggressively courted by then-candidate George W. Bush in 2000 and has been closer to the Bush White House than just about any other labor leader.

In recent weeks, Hoffa has harshly criticized the White House for budget proposals and domestic policies that he says have hurt the American working family.

Polls indicate that about 60 percent of union members who vote support Democrats.

In 2002, the Teamsters gave 86 percent of their PAC money to Democrats. Sources said that in 2004, it aims to give all its money to Democrats.

Fox News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.