Perot loyalists may attempt to deny funds to Buchanan

Thursday, July 20th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A longtime leader of the Reform Party warned supporters of potential nominee Pat Buchanan on Wednesday that if they "stack" the nominating convention credentials committee, opponents will try to deny Mr. Buchanan the party's federal campaign funds.

The threat by former party chairman Russell Verney comes after Buchanan forces called a national committee meeting for Aug. 8, two days before the convention begins, to solidify their control of the party and its presidential nomination.

Interim party chairman Gerry Moan of Arizona said that 25 percent of the 164-member national committee requested the national committee meeting, as required by party rules. All are Buchanan supporters, he said.

The purpose of the meeting, Buchanan spokesman Brian Doherty said, is "to make sure the convention runs smoothly and fairly."

But party members aligned with founder Ross Perot charged that the Buchanan forces intend to take over the committee.

The party's 11-member executive panel has selected Dot Drew, a longtime Reform member and Perot loyalist, as chair of the 15-member credentials committee, which will decide who is seated among challenged state delegations. But Mr. Moan has appointed another veteran, Frank Reed, the Ohio state chairman, to head the committee. The dueling forces are expected to clash at the Aug. 8 meeting.

The Buchanan campaign has said it would accept Mr. Reed as credentials chair.

Mr. Reed said he is not aligned with any candidate but added: "The people I'm not acceptable to are the people who want to dump Buchanan at any cost."

"The national committee meeting is the flash point. It's about stacking the credentials committee on behalf of Buchanan," Mr. Verney said.

Such action, he said, "will be the trigger for John Hagelin, the executive committee and members like myself filing an injunction against Pat Buchanan's receiving of the federal funds," he said.

Mr. Buchanan will be "getting out of the wrong end of an old-age home before he actually receives the $12 million, if they do it," said Mr. Verney, a political consultant to Mr. Perot.

Mr. Hagelin, a physicist who twice has run for president under the Natural Law Party banner, is the only other candidate for the party's nomination. He is attracting support from members who want anybody but Mr. Buchanan.

Meanwhile, Mr. Moan said the "Verney wrecking crew" is behind many of the delegation challenges– which he said may occur in as many as 40 states.

"Their object is clear at this point," he said, "to destroy the party."

But longtime party activist Paul Truax of Dallas said Mr. Moan is required to follow the directive of the 11-member executive committee. The party won a court battle earlier this year that determined that the chairman could not unilaterally make such decisions, he said.

Mr. Truax predicted that Perot loyalists will walk out of the convention if Mr. Buchanan becomes the nominee.

"We're not going to stand still for this. We've worked eight years. Perot has spent $100,000 on this movement. We're not going to stand by and let this be a right-wing Buchanan party. They've got to beat us first," he said.

Mr. Buchanan's press aide declined to comment on any effort to deny Mr. Buchanan the federal funds that will be granted to the Reform Party as a result of Mr. Perot's 1996 campaign, which garnered 8 percent of the vote.