The second of two articles
Go through the history of the far Right, and time and again you’ll see the same pattern: a vigorous, virulent, and entirely plausible attack is mounted against some aspect of mainstream society; then, at a crucial moment, it falls apart, seemingly abandoned by the very people who were behind it. It gives far right-wing organizations their distinctive feel: simplistic, vacant, inattentive at the top. It’s what has persuaded most people that right-wingers are laughable, inept clowns. How can they be dangerous? the argument goes; they can’t win in the long run if they can’t even achieve short-range goals.
But how much do they really want to? Most analysts say hallmarks of fascism are opportunism and the absence of a consistent philosophy. Fascist organizations talk about popular issues incessantly, and certainly many of the rank and file are deeply committed to anticommunism, anti-Semitism, and the like. But leadership of these organizations is interested in power and power alone; the issues and “short-range goals” are interesting only inasmuch as they can generate recruits, money, publicity, and chaos among enemy groups. Is a fascist group that blows an “important” campaign inept? It depends on what the goals really are.
That’s a question we should be asking when we look at the strange case of Proposition 64, a California political campaign that epitomizes the style and substance of the web of organizations headed by America’s most interesting and potentially most dangerous right-wing extremist, Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr.
LaRouche had made fighting the AIDS epidemic–and particularly its primary victims, the homosexual community–a key plank in the manifesto he issued in the summer of 1985, a manifesto declaring him a candidate for president in 1988. He quickly got down to specifics. An “opsbulletin” issued October 2 from Leesburg, Virginia–headquarters of LaRouche’s National Caucus of Labor Committees–directed one LaRouche front, the Schiller Institute, to begin circulating petitions calling for testing and quarantining as measures to contain AIDS.
The same month, LaRouche’s National Democratic Policy Committee published a pamphlet titled AIDS Is More Deadly Than Nuclear War, which contained model legislation in the form of “a memorial bill to stop AIDS.” Three weeks later, two California-based LaRouche stalwarts, Brian Lantz and Khushro Ghandhi, announced the filing of an initiative incorporating central elements of the NDPC proposal. Six months later, with nearly double the required number of signatures, the initiative had qualified for the November ballot.
From the beginning, the Proposition 64 campaign was a wholly owned subsidiary of the LaRouche organization. From LaRouche’s rallying cry, “Spread Panic, Not AIDS!” his sponsors spun the acronym PANIC (Prevent AIDS Now Initiative Committee); their addresses and phone numbers were those of the two NCLC offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Financial disclosure statements filed with state election officials revealed the central LaRouche business operation, Caucus Distributors Inc. (which according to the attorney general’s office is not even registered to do business in California), had put up more than $201,000 of the $218,000 spent to qualify the measure; more than a third of PANIC’s disbursements were funneled back to LaRouche entities and NCLC members in expenses and salaries for signature gathering.
The campaign was marked by frequent controversy. At one point California’s secretary of state threatened immediate legal action if petition circulators did not stop harassing potential signers and misrepresenting the contents of the measure. Last July, she took the unprecedented legal step of going to court to challenge the truthfulness of pro-64 ballot arguments. The secretary of state was objecting to the case for Proposition 64 that the LaRouche camp turned in to run in the ballot pamphlets–giving arguments pro and con–that the state would be mailing to all registered voters. The three assertions expunged by order of a Superior Court judge said: “AIDS is not “hard to get’; it is easy to get”; “Potential insect and respiratory transmission has been established by numerous studies”; and “Transmission by “casual contact’ is well established.”
In August, the secretary of state warned both sides in the debate to avoid threats or acts of violence–opponents of the measure reported several instances of harassment, while Brian Lantz alleged his supporters had been assaulted by gay opponents.
Now California’s attorney general is investigating possible fraud in the process by which Proposition 64 was qualified for the November ballot. A senior official in the attorney general’s office told a joint legislative hearing last October that several LaRouche fronts, including Campaigner Publications, paid for tickets to fly out-of-staters into California to circulate petitions–in violation of state law. The official said this might have been part of a larger scheme involving similar electoral efforts in several states. And evidence has surfaced indicating that many of the signatures that qualified the LaRouche initiative for the ballot were forgeries.
Proposition 64 was deceptively simple. It not only declared that AIDS “is an infectious, contagious, and communicable disease,” but also that “the condition of being a carrier of the HTLV-III virus is an infectious, contagious, and communicable condition.” It went on to say, “Both shall be placed and maintained [by the state] on the list of reportable diseases and conditions. . .”
There was no mention of quarantine. But both sides agreed the language would trigger existing health codes, particularly sections mandating the isolation of persons with certain communicable diseases, barring them from employment in public education, food handling, and other service professions. The initiative’s flaws were abundant but not readily apparent. Not only was AIDS itself presumed equivalent to much more casually communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, but so was the mere “condition of being a carrier.” But there is no present test for “carrier” status, nor any measure of the AIDS virus’s transmissibility. There is only an antibody test that indicates exposure to the virus. Would the entire population have to be screened to identify “carriers”? Anyone even suspected of carrying the virus seemed to be Proposition 64’s target, and its disruptive potential was clear. Every major health, medical, and scientific organization–and every elected official with the exception of Representative William E. Dannemeyer, an ultraconservative Orange County congressman–condemned the measure.
At the outset of any initiative campaign, opinion polls invariably show wide public support, and Proposition 64 was no exception. But in the waning days of the campaign, the outlook changed. At first stunned and taken aback, the opposition quickly mobilized: at the end of last September, California’s Fair Political Practices Commission reported that 13 opposing Political Action Committees had raised and spent more than $1.1 million, leaving some $100,000 cash on hand for a last-minute ad blitz. By contrast, PANIC–the sole proponent–claimed to have collected a mere $10,000 beyond what it spent to get the proposition on the ballot. In the home stretch, PANIC did not even have working phones. California overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 64, giving it only 29 percent of the vote.
Was this a disaster for LaRouche?
First, it’s important to understand what LaRouche was really asking the voters to support. The real goals of Proposition 64 were laid out in “A Crash Program to Fight AIDS,” which appeared in the October 1985 Opsbulletin. These were: to mandate blood screening and firing of all suspected carriers; to set up nationwide “research institutes” where AIDS patients could be committed, either voluntarily or compulsorily; and to initiate a crash program, “using conventional and unconventional methods,” to effect prevention, treatment, and cure.
A biological purity test; suspended civil rights for suspect groups; involuntary commitment to isolated medical facilities for “unconventional” research–one need not dig out his copy of Mein Kampf to feel the Third Reich’s chill wind blowing across the California landscape. One journalist, Dennis King, actually did compare LaRouche’s writings on AIDS to Hitler’s on syphilis in Mein Kampf, and found many parallels.
Lyndon LaRouche’s followers may not be political realists, but LaRouche himself, in a twisted way, is. He surely realized that Proposition 64 couldn’t achieve any of these goals, that the courts most likely would overturn it in the unlikely event that it passed.
But look what he’s gained for his money: Nearly a third of the California voters supported Proposition 64, whether they understood it or not. That makes LaRouche look legitimate, and he can easily make the case that he was ganged up on by a million-dollar consortium of homosexuals, communists, leftists, and the like–the speeches almost write themselves. He forced his opponents to spend a rather large amount of money, while himself spending rather little. Indeed, there’s no reason to think that the financial statements filed by PANIC reflect the entire financial impact of the Proposition 64 campaign on the LaRouche organization as a whole. AIDS was not just a PANIC issue, but a LaRouche issue, and the California campaign generated widespread attention. It’s certainly conceivable that LaRouche profited, even though PANIC went under.
Last October, PANIC’s Los Angeles office lost its phone service, owing Pacific Bell more than $5,000 in unpaid bills; PANIC spokesman Jim Duree blamed “a political dirty trick” by the attorney general for the cutoff. A day later, a federal judge issued a court order attaching the California bank accounts of Caucus Distributors and PANIC. The order resulted from a federal lawsuit alleging solicitation fraud involving elderly people in at least ten states including California.
The aim is power, not ideology: apply that simple insight and some of the most baffling aspects of the LaRouche organization start to make sense. Take the organization itself: LaRouche has spawned dozens of groups over the years, each with its own appeal, its own literature, and its own target audience. In a 1986 report titled The LaRouche Political Cult: Packaging Extremism, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith listed some 27 past and present LaRouche entities: Caucus Distributors Inc.; Elektra Broadcasting Associates; Lafayette/Leesburg Ltd.; the Fusion Energy Foundation; the Club of Life; Patriots for Germany; the Colombian Andean Labor Party; the National Anti-Drug Coalition (now defunct); The Campaigner magazine; the newspaper New Solidarity. . . the list goes on and on.
The whole dizzying operation is staffed by a well-financed cadre of at least several hundred hard-core activists and several thousand less ardent supporters, who attend and promote an enormous variety of rallies, seminars, programs, and campaigns staged by the various groups.
Assume that the point of the organization is to put into effect all the strange and varied proposals of all the strange and varied groups, and the whole setup seems ungainly and irrational. No single organization is big enough to have much effect. They rarely or never engage in the sort of consensus building and compromise that mark legitimate single-interest groups, even fairly extreme ones. They seem to have no interest in continuity, engaging in image-destroying stunts and even passing in and out of existence with scarcely a word.
Assume the contrary–that the ideology is irrelevant–and the logic of the LaRouche empire is plain: these tiny, rude, rancorous organizations aren’t there to effect change; they are there to sow dissent and exploit discontent, to build an unconscious coalition of the disaffected, and to raise funds.
For years the various enterprises could be traced back to a handful of post office boxes or to the NCLC complex at 304 W. 58th St. in New York City. But in the fall of 1984, the headquarters were relocated to Loudon County, a once tranquil rural area outside Washington, D.C., whose residents now complain of harassment and intimidation, of having their children chased from the luxurious LaRouche compound by armed guards. In an unforgettable address before the National Press Club in the wake of the Illinois primary, LaRouche counterattacked: he characterized the prim and elderly ladies of the Leesburg Garden Club as a nest of Soviet spies!
LaRouche organizers are currently deployed out of some 18 offices around the country; their solicitations are two-pronged. While small contingents fan out to buttonhole the public, others staff a phone bank–making literally dozens of calls a day to individuals, civic groups, public officials, and the news media. The calls serve a dual purpose: information gathering and fund raising, the two strands binding LaRouche’s operation together.
A follow-up call will be made, for example, to a business executive who leaves his card at an airport Fusion Energy Foundation table. It will be attached to a “contact report” filed in the local NCLC office. Reports from Chicago show that in the space of a week, the names of executives from Kodak, Argonne National Laboratories, NBC, and Westinghouse Electric, who’d stopped by the O’Hare Airport FEF table, were entered into the NCLC files. Whatever personal information–occupation, nationality, political beliefs–is gleaned from these encounters is then used to gauge the next approach. For instance, a special report attacking Teamster dissidents might trigger phone calls to union members or trucking industry executives.
In 1981, according to an internal memorandum written by LaRouche, his organizations required income of $225,000 a week to operate. Stretched over a year, that figure would put annual operating expenses at nearly $12 million. That’s not an enormous amount of money in political terms, perhaps–but it’s considerably more than what’s spent, say, by a public-interest group like Common Cause. LaRouche’s memo said that operations were unnegotiable: there was “no room for criticism, constructive or otherwise, concerning the national office’s treatment of priorities.”
Current income levels could exceed $20 million annually; the basis of this estimate is bank records referred to in FBI documents filed in a court battle. Over $4 million went through just one of several LaRouche-related bank accounts in one recent four-month period, according to the FBI affidavit.
Documents from the LaRouche operation in Illinois show that in a single week last November, LaRouche organizers sold 296 subscriptions, 21 special reports, 16,412 pamphlets, and 131 books. Specific dollar amounts were not included in the report, but on the basis of cover prices, these materials would have grossed over $20,000. That’s for one week in one state and publication sales are only part of the fund-raising picture.
The LaRouche network depends on three major sources of income. Members and their contacts are incessantly hit up for dues, loans, even lines of credit–sometimes countersigned by friends and relatives; there’s income from a myriad of large and small LaRouche-controlled businesses; and the network sells information packaged in various forms–essentially political intelligence. Some investigators believe the last to be the most profitable component. There’s a suspicion that there must be other significant sources of funds, although analysis of the sketchy financial records in the hands of investigators hasn’t identified any.
Solicitations for the LaRouche front groups are conducted either by telephone or out in the public–at airports, post offices, and shopping centers. There’s a modest merchandising operation, with one popular line being bumper stickers: “I Don’t Brake for Liberals,” “Don’t Get AIDS–Eat Like a Republican,” and the memorable “Nuclear Plants Are Built Better Than Jane Fonda.”
Before LaRouche decided to assault the Democratic party–the nominations of Illinois acolytes Fairchild and Hart being the most notable result–his political strategy entailed building a third-party base. In 1976, LaRouche ran for president on the U.S. Labor Party ticket. But in December of 1979, LaRouche folded the U.S. Labor Party tent and became a candidate for the 1980 Democratic nomination. LaRouche’s political network was already spread wide enough to easily gather the money he needed–at least $5,000 in contributions, in amounts of $250 or less, in each of 20 states–to qualify him for federal matching funds. By the time a string of primary failures allowed Washington to turn off the tap in April of 1980, LaRouche had garnered nearly $500,000 in taxpayer money.
In the end, LaRouche didn’t win a single delegate; but his list of contributors to “Citizens for LaRouche” was rolled over to underwrite his new project: at the 1980 Democratic Convention, LaRouche announced the creation of the National Democratic Policy Committee (NDPC).
NDPC literature describes this organization as a “political action committee designed to support Democratic candidates and officeholders, and to develop policies in the nation’s interest . . . formed as an alternative think tank to Brookings, the Rand Corporation, and other institutions that have written themselves out of the Democratic Party policy making by their advocacy of austerity.” LaRouche and his followers apparently recognized that the U.S. Labor Party–now defunct–had remained politically irrelevant in large part because of its hysterical-sounding conspiracy talk. Hysteria has been kept generally in check in NDPC publications; they attempt to strike a conservative, responsible-sounding chord through more moderate language, more sophisticated arguments, and slicker graphics.
Although NDPC pledged support for Democratic candidates, NDPC’s filings with the Federal Election Commission indicate no contributions whatsoever to Democrats outside the LaRouche orbit. In one reporting period, fully 84 percent of the NDPC disbursements went to either known LaRouche members or LaRouche businesses as “expenses.” Nearly 93 percent of the money borrowed by NDPC for political work was owed to what appear to be LaRouche-connected individuals and business entities.
At least 23 of the major donors to NDPC had contributed to other LaRouche ventures. For instance, Barbara Boyd, NDPC treasurer, also was a donor to LaRouche’s presidential campaign, and currently writes for New Solidarity. Even the notary on the NDPC filing was a LaRouche donor.
Despite its stated mission as a support group for Democratic party, the NDPC has published numerous leaflets attacking prominent Democrats–prompting the Democratic National Committee (note their similar acronyms: DNC versus NDPC) to circulate a letter to its state chairs announcing that the NDPC was not affiliated with the Democratic party. Repeated requests from the Democratic party to the NDPC to change its name were ignored by the NDPC, but a long-discussed lawsuit to compel a name change has never been filed.
According to former members and staff of the Democratic National Committee, several committee members argued in 1984 in favor of distributing information pamphlets to local party workers detailing the political views of Lyndon LaRouche. Such an idea had been pushed by labor unions and religious groups horrified by the NDPC’s six-year record of increasing vote tallies in Democratic primary races. But the Democratic National Committee decided not to bother. Lawyers warned of costly litigation by aggressive LaRouche attorneys, and the committee members convinced themselves that distributing such literature would only draw more attention to the LaRouche program.
In the wake of Illinois, needless to add, that policy has been reevaluated. Leading Democrats are now taking a stronger stand against LaRouche, showing an increased willingness to identify the LaRouche agenda as authoritarian; and a few, even as neo-Nazi.
Whatever the issue of the moment, “the money all goes into the same stomach,” a former staffer at NCLC national headquarters told the authors of this article. From the beginning, “there has always been one organization with LaRouche in charge,” confirmed an eight-year veteran who left over increasing anti-Semitism in the group. “No matter what name the money is solicited under, it gets used for whatever priority has been set by LaRouche.”
The peculiar structure of the LaRouche organization–numerous organizations serving but ostensibly separate from a separate core that sets policy–has been one of the organization’s great strengths. Lately, however, it appears that LaRouche has gotten careless. NCLC has become implicated in the misdeeds of some of the scattered LaRouchian organizations. Thanks to a case involving alleged credit card fraud, a Boston grand jury has seized truckloads of documents, and unprecedented resources have been directed at the task of unraveling LaRouche’s complex financial network.
Federal prosecutors in the Boston case allege that the LaRouche organization masterminded a nationwide swindle based on unauthorized credit card charges. The scheme was conducted in the last weeks of LaRouche’s 1984 presidential bid, when the candidate was purchasing television time costing over $1.5 million. A typical incident involved a Chicago man who agreed to lend “Independent Democrats for LaRouche” $500, posted to a personal credit card. When the man’s monthly statement arrived, however, he found an unauthorized additional charge of $500 credited to LaRouche’s Campaigner Publications in New York.
Several states have pending legal actions involving the LaRouche network. One of them is Illinois, where the office of the attorney general has been trying for the last five years to obtain the financial records of the the Illinois Anti-Drug Coalition, records it is entitled to under state law governing charitable solicitation. The LaRouche front has fought the demand in a complex array of legal maneuvers.
In 1981, the Chicago Sun-Times called the Anti-Drug Coalition a “front” for LaRouche’s U.S. Labor Party. “Sometimes,” an editorial declared, “the campaigns are anti-Semitic; sometimes they’re racist or sexist; but in the main they’re funded by unwitting contributions to the group’s high-toned ‘charities,’ which is disgusting. . . .The charade has been going on long enough.”
In March 1982, the LaRouche organization responded with a $70 million lawsuit naming the Sun-Times, the Illinois attorney general’s office, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, and other defendants in an alleged conspiracy to deprive LaRouche and the NADC of their civil and constitutional rights. Chip Berlet, coauthor of this article and author of a 1980 Reader article alleging financial irregularities on the part of LaRouche front groups, was another defendant. The civil lawsuit was eventually dismissed, but litigation drags on in the attorney general’s quest for financial documentation. Illinois, unlike other states, is still attacking the LaRouche network piecemeal. It hasn’t got the joke yet–it doesn’t understand the various tentacles all belong to one octopus.
To illustrate the interconnectedness of LaRouche operations, two of last year’s unsuccessful LaRouche-backed Democratic primary candidates–Peter Bowen and Sheila Jones–were named as plaintiffs in the National Anti-Drug Coalition’s lawsuit against Illinois’ attorney general. Sheila Jones is currently running for mayor.
Historically, LaRouche’s biggest headaches have been internal schisms that periodically drain away loyalists. Financially, the most costly blow came when New York City’s Computron Technologies Corporation, a software house and the financial linchpin of the NCLC proprietary network, entered bankruptcy proceedings in the spring of 1981, brought about by a mass exodus of LaRouchites including most of the top programming talent.
Two other corporate fronts in New York, PMR Printing Company Inc. and World Composition, a computer typesetting firm, have proved financially disappointing, according to internal NCLC documents.
An internal schism in the fall of 1981 caused nearly a third of LaRouche’s key political operatives to leave his Detroit and Chicago offices. The Detroit faction retained control of the lucrative Renaissance Printing and Marketing, a computerized typesetting and graphics firm now totally outside the LaRouche orbit. The midwest defectors also took away two important trade publications, American Labor Beacon and Parity. The double loss cost the NCLC influence among Teamsters and farm activists that it has never fully regained.
But LaRouche organizers have gained a new foothold among midwestern and southern farmers by exploiting the economic crisis in rural America. They’ve blamed the collapsing farm economy on “the standard panoply of LaRouchian coconspirators,” according to Lenny Zeskind, research director of the Atlanta-based Center for Democratic Renewal. These inroads, says Zeskind, may have paid off last year in primary votes from certain hard-pressed downstate Illinois counties where the candidates developed networks.
There has been scattered support for LaRouche candidates in certain black Chicago neighborhoods, where LaRouche’s stands on fighting drugs, feeding Africa, and finding jobs through high technology have drawn audiences of more than 200. LaRouche groups have been attempting for years to penetrate Chicago’s black churches, scoring periodic though often short-lived successes. One asset to LaRouche organizing in black areas is an apparently authentic picture showing South African archbishop Desmond Tutu posing with a representative of LaRouche’s Schiller Institute.
NBC TV broke the national story of the “LaRouche connection” to government and intelligence circles in 1984. The network quoted a former White House special assistant, Dr. Norman Bailey, who asserted–sounding rather like an NCLC sales brochure–that “LaRouche runs one of the best private intelligence services in the world.” In a subsequent court deposition, LaRouche stated that even after the broadcast, he and Bailey continued a cordial relationship.
LaRouche sued NBC for defamation. The suit cited allegations in the network’s report linking him to organized crime figures and extremist right-wing groups, including the Ku Klux Klan and Posse Comitatus. The report also charged that LaRouche had once discussed with aides assassinating then-president Jimmy Carter and members of the Carter administration.
Others named in the lawsuit included the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and free-lance writers Dennis King and Chip Berlet. The security arrangements LaRouche insisted on were extreme. Pretrial depositions were held in hotel rooms the locations of which were announced one hour in advance. Armed guards ringed the hotel perimeter and defendants and their attorneys were made to pass through a rented airport metal detector. Briefcases were searched and two armed guards huddled next to LaRouche whenever questioning became heated.
When attorney Phillip J. Hirshkop, representing King and Berlet, protested the conditions and forced the reduction of armed guards in the deposition room down to one, LaRouche refused to appear there, claiming that Hirshkop, King, and Berlet were plotting his assassination. An already-weary federal judge immediately dismissed the charges against King and Berlet.
NBC eventually countersued, charging LaRouche operatives with interfering in the network’s news-gathering activities by attempting to sabotage critical interviews the network had arranged for its report on LaRouche. In 1985, an Alexandria, Virginia, jury rejected LaRouche’s defamation suit, upheld NBC’s, and awarded the network damages. LaRouche pleaded poverty, but by September of 1986 he’d run out of room to maneuver and was faced with a choice of either releasing sensitive financial records to demonstrate his straitened means or paying the judgment. His attorneys delivered a $256,000 cashier’s check and LaRouche walked away from the case. A spokesperson for LaRouche said the payment was made to thwart an elaborate assassination attempt involving NBC and the judge.
LaRouche, a prolific writer possessing undeniable rhetorical gifts, has over the years touted his contacts in both American and Soviet intelligence circles. Former associates say he is in daily contact with government and private intelligence agents worldwide. One New York-based defector has claimed the organization prepared special reports for intelligence agencies in South Africa, Libya, Iraq, Taiwan, France under Giscard d’Estaing, and Iran under the shah. The LaRouche operation seems to function as a veritable information boutique, a mercenary intelligence army acting without apparent partisan rhyme or reason.
Domestically, former members say that LaRouche government contacts are largely confined to the Right–citing, for example, frequent meetings with the staffs of senators Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond. These contacts, it should be pointed out, are mostly initiated by the National Caucus of Labor Committees, whose members invariably exaggerate their frequency and importance. LaRouche’s doings are carefully construed to maximize his apparent influence and prestige.
For instance, the Executive Intelligence Review of February 11, 1985, carried the “Testimony of Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. on the Confirmation of Edwin Meese to be U.S. Attorney General.” The magazine did not say where LaRouche offered his testimony, but it did say when: on January 29, the day the Senate Judiciary Committee opened its confirmation hearings. The reader will assume that LaRouche testified before that committee, at its invitation. Committee records reveal, however, that LaRouche did not.
But this is not to say that LaRouche is a man whose political influence is only a fantasy. In a lengthy cover story, the New Republic of November 19, 1984, detailed LaRouche operatives’ access to Reagan administration officials, including high-level aides at the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency. Henry Kissinger told the magazine that if these ties to the Reagan administration and U.S. intelligence agencies actually existed, “it would be outrageous, stupid, and nearly unforgivable.”
New York free-lancer Dennis King was one of the authors of the New Republic story. He has told the authors of this article that he believes the connections between LaRouche and the U.S. intelligence community revealed to date reflect “merely the tip of the iceberg.”
An employee of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration allegedly cooperated with a LaRouche “investigative team” on another project, Dope Inc., originally published in 1978 and now in a second edition. Former LaRouche loyalists have said a person generally understood to be a DEA staff member spent days in the New York NCLC office contributing to the book’s manuscript, which blames the British royal family for the international opium trade.
“From 1715, when the British East India Company opened up its first Far East office in the Chinese port city of Canton,” says the book, “it has been official British Crown policy to foster mass-scale drug addiction.”
According to an NCLC internal document, the Illinois Anti-Drug Coalition–another LaRouche front–worked closely with the Chicago Police Department in 1979. The IADC, says the memo, had a series of conversations with Lieutenant Dave Mozee, the department’s director of news affairs, adding that “the other openings with the police are through Chicago Police Organization (CPO) and Joe Mescall and with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and John Dinneen [sic], both of whom are very friendly and potentially will work with us.”
Such contacts–if they actually occurred–were no doubt initiated by NCLC members; the officials themselves may not have known who they were dealing with. Law enforcement officials consistently deny that they put much stock in LaRouche-provided information. In general, they say, they listen to unsolicited information all the time, from all sorts of sources; it’s part of the job. They do not share information, police assert, but only accept it; it is not as if they are cooperating with the LaRouche organization.
But however one-sided the relationship between NCLC organizations and law enforcement and other public officials might generally be, repeated contact contributes to an accruing perception of legitimacy. In 1981, a Seattle lawsuit against police surveillance activities revealed copies of the LaRouche intelligence newsletter Investigative Leads in one of the department’s active files on terrorism. In his book The Age of Surveillance, author Frank Donner cites a LaRouche intelligence briefing that warned of terrorist disruptions of Philadelphia’s 1976 bicentennial celebration. The briefing is credited–or blamed–with prompting Mayor Frank Rizzo to call for federal troops.
The late Los Angeles police detective Arleigh McCree confirmed to us that he’d had regular telephone contacts with LaRouche operative Sixto Mendez Jr., but denigrated their importance by insisting that “I have no use for those people.” With masterful understatement, he described the NCLC as “a little bit of the lunatic fringe, I think.”
Nevertheless, an article by McCree in the summer 1981 issue of Military Police had paralleled in several instances the conspiracy-mongering that dominates LaRouche writings–down to specific examples. McCree at first acknowledged to the authors that some of his information had come from Investigative Leads; then he denied it. In November 1981, a former LaRouche security staffer told us it was common knowledge inside the NCLC that a friendly LA police officer was in touch with LaRouche’s Los Angeles headquarters.
Reporters are frequent victims of LaRouche deception experts, who sometimes concoct elaborate ruses to gain information. These schemes are essential to feed LaRouche’s intelligence-gathering operations, which require massive amounts of raw and processed data. Tens of thousands of words daily are fed into a sophisticated telecommunication system linking American NCLC offices with 11 international NCLC branches in North and South America and Europe. For many years this system was based on Telex machines. Now the system appears to have been upgraded by using modems to connect individual computers through phone lines.
The amount of information collected and disseminated through this system is staggering. Their files are claimed to be among the largest private repositories of intelligence information in the country, and each day operatives feed in more data gleaned from various publications and phone conversations–from both friendly sources and those cultivated under some pretext. NCLC staffers will pose as reporters–often using New Solidarity or Executive Intelligence Review or a LaRouche news service as a media affiliation–in approaching government aides, public officials, or corporate executives. This pose is surprisingly successful.
While preparing a joint article for publication several years ago, the authors separately received a phone call from a “Jean-Claude Adam,” claiming to be writing a report on LaRouche for a publication connected with the French Defense Ministry. Subsequent checking exposed the fraud, and free-lance journalist Dennis King established “Adam” to be a LaRouche operative Laurent Murawiec; King had arranged a photographic ambush and showed the pictures to former NCLC members. Before his cover was blown, however, Murawiec had interviewed reporters, staffers at Anti-Defamation League offices around the country, and even top officials of the New York Council on Foreign Relations.
The March/April 1985 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review carried an article by NBC producer Pat Lynch (a defendant in LaRouche’s lawsuit against NBC) recounting dozens of incidents where LaRouche information gatherers claimed to represent fictitious publications or falsely claimed to represent legitimate media. In addition, LaRouche agents have adopted the identities of actual reporters to conduct interviews (in 1983, two LaRouche publications were enjoined from impersonating a U.S. News & World Report reporter).
And sometimes they switch gears and become media “experts” on high-visibility issues. Last October, ABC TV’s Nightline program unknowingly presented a LaRouche operative as a legitimate expert on terrorism in France. The same month, the normally intelligent PBS program that examines the black experience in America, Tony Brown’s Journal, featured a white doctor whose widely refuted theories on the origin and spreading of AIDS are regularly quoted to buttress the homophobic charges of LaRouche publications campaigning to curtail civil rights and civil liberties for AIDS victims. Blacks close to LaRouche are suspected of helping arrange the doctor’s appearance on Brown’s show, for the purpose of lending credence to his theories.
Despite recurring setbacks, the LaRouche movement has consistently shown an amazing resilience organizationally and financially; the binding force remains the intense commitment of LaRouche’s inner cadre. Every split, defection, or legal defeat is used to enforce even greater acts of loyalty and self-abasement from the party faithful. The recent indictments are already being used as the basis of a new fund-raising campaign. But the intense psychological pressure to conform and produce that holds the movement together may also be the force to cause a final blowout.
Some LaRouche followers have left the organization when they were finally asked to breach some inviolable rule of conscience; others report it was LaRouche’s overt anti-Semitism they could no longer stomach; several said the organized crime ties and intelligence links snapped them out of their slavish obedience to LaRouche; still others say that one day they realized that what LaRouche was talking about was fascism–and they knew all too well what that had meant for millions around the world.
Of those who stay, a former Los Angeles contributor told us, “They just don’t seem to be their own people–they’re psychological groupies. When you try to argue a point, they’re just . . . intensely myopic. Blind to the day-to-day realities.”
LaRouche’s minions may be brainwashed and victimized dupes, or they may be neo-fascist shock troops–but either way, the game plan is clear enough: LaRouche is intent on pursuing his own personal and political advancement as the only man with the moral and intellectual capacity to save the world. In the mind of Lyndon LaRouche, personal or political opponents are not even human. Jerry Brown and Tom Hayden are “creatures”; the rest of us are merely “beasts” or “sheep.” The tools at hand may be anti-Jewish hatred, racist attacks on ethnic cultures, or “counterterrorist” witch hunts against personal enemies. Authority comes from the top down, and it wears jackboots.
“You can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” LaRouche crowed last April before a stunned audience at the National Press Club. Maybe not. But continuing investigations by law enforcement officials and a newly mobilized media are testing that contention never before. Still, it would be ironic if in this year, the 200th anniversary of our Constitution, the LaRouche network collapsed over charges involving credit cards, rather than from popular rejection of LaRouche’s neo-Nazi political philosophy–a philosophy that most media, either from ignorance or fear, will not call by name.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Kurt Mitchell.