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One of the up-and-coming stars of the hearings was a young Chief Counsel for the McLellan Committee on Improper Activities In Labor Management, Robert F. Kennedy.
The Select Committee focused its attention for most of 1957 on the Teamsters union. Teamsters President Dave Beck fled the country for a month to avoid its subpoenas before returning in March 1957. The Select Committee had a difficult time investigating the Teamsters. Four of the paper locals were dissolved to avoid committee scrutiny, several Teamster staffers provided verbal testimony which differed substantially from their prior written statements (the Select Committee eventually charged six of them with contempt of Congress), and union records were lost or destroyed (allegedly on purpose). But, working with the FBI, the Select Committee electrified the nation when on February 22, 1957, wiretaps were played in public before a national television audience in which Dio and Hoffa discussed the creation of even more paper locals, including the establishment of a paper local to organize New York City’s 30,000 taxi cab drivers and use the charter as a means of extorting money from a wide variety of employers. The 1957 hearings opened with a focus on corruption in Portland, Oregon, and featured the testimony of Portland crime boss Jim Elkins. With the support of 70 hours of taped conversations, Elkins described being approached by two Seattle gangsters about working with the Teamsters to take over Portland vice operations. The colorful testimony brought the committee’s investigations national media attention from the outset. As 1.2 million viewers watched on live television, evidence was unearthed over the next few weeks of a mob-sponsored plot in which Oregon Teamsters unions would seize control of the state legislature, state police, and state attorney general’s office through bribery, extortion and blackmail. On March 14, 1957, Jimmy Hoffa was arrested for allegedly trying to bribe an aide to the Select Committee. Hoffa denied the charges (and was later acquitted), but the arrest triggered additional investigations and more arrests and indictments over the following weeks. Less than a week later, Beck admitted to receiving an interest-free $300,000 loan from the Teamsters which he had never repaid, and Select Committee investigators claimed that loans to Beck and other union officials (and their businesses) had cost the Teamsters more than $700,000. Beck appeared before the Select Committee for the first time on March 25, 1957, and notoriously invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 117 times. Beck was called before the McClellan Committee again in May 1957, and additional interest-free loans and other potentially illegal and unethical financial transactions exposed. Based on these revelations, Beck was indicted for tax evasion on May 2, 1957.
This Special program, wrapping up the days testimony ultimately forced Beck out as Teamster head in 1957 and into prison in 1962. The real fireworks would come later when new Teamster Chief Jimmy Hoffa took the hot seat in what would become a long-term blood feud between the future Attorney-General and the Teamster Chief.
Here is that wrap-up, as broadcast on the evening of March 27, 1957.