The West Coast coordinator for Lyndon H. LaRouche’s National Democratic Policy Committee makes no bones about his group’s intentions:
“In the long run, we want to take over the Democratic Party,” said Khushro Ghandhi, adding that by “the long run” he is referring to the 1988 elections, when LaRouche will make his fourth run for the presidency.
“They’re not going to take over the party,” said state Democratic Party Chairwoman Betty Smith, “but it’s a little bit like saying a few Nazis around are not too bad, as long as they don’t get too strong.”
In April, Smith identified 24 LaRouche candidates running as Democrats and Republicans for nominations to the U.S. Senate, 16 congressional seats and 7 California Assembly seats, but party officials said more than 30 others are seeking seats on the Los Angeles County Democratic and Republican committees.
“In most cases, people cast uninformed votes for county committee,” said county Democratic chairwoman Carolyn Wallace. “Every Democrat has the right to make an informed choice. We feel if voters are given the choice, they won’t vote for LaRouche-backed candidates.”
Democrats have been reeling since Illinois’ March primary, when two LaRouche-backed candidates won Democratic nominations for lieutenant governor and secretary of state. Rather than run on the same ticket with those candidates, gubernatorial nominee Adlai E. Stevenson III resigned from the ticket and assailed LaRouche as a “neo-Nazi, a bizarre and dangerous extremist who espouses hate-filled folly.”
A one-time member of the communist Socialist Workers Party, LaRouche, 64, organized a violence-prone faction of the Students for a Democratic Society in the 1960s. That faction, the National Caucus of Labor Committees, later made a sharp swing to the political right and established ties with the Ku Klux Klan and the ultraconservative Liberty Lobby in 1974. It now supports causes such as nuclear power and President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, popularly known as “Star Wars.”
A federal grand jury in Boston is investigating what prosecutors allege is “a massive pattern of credit card fraud” stemming from complaints that the LaRouche organization made unauthorized use of credit cards belonging to people who had contributed to various LaRouche-related concerns.
Los Angeles County Democratic officials have sent over 5,000 fund-raising letters to the party faithful, warning: “The same people who believe Walter Mondale is a drug pusher and KGB agent have sworn to take over our Democratic Party at all costs.”
Money is needed, the letter said, to defeat LaRouche candidates by increasing distribution of the Democrats’ county newspaper, which lists those candidates.
Ghandhi, a candidate for the county committee from the 55th Assembly District, called the effort a “highly illegal witch hunt,” saying state law prohibits the party from supporting, endorsing or opposing candidates in a partisan primary.
He filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court Friday seeking more than $1 million in damages from the county Democratic Committee and Wallace and asked for an order barring the committee from opposing any candidates in a partisan primary.
Judge Warren Deering ruled that the fund-raising letter violated state election law and cannot be repeated.
“In my opinion the letter . . . constitutes an opposition to a candidate,” he said. “Even though (the candidates’) names aren’t set out, they are identified in such a manner that their names could be ascertained.”
The party can continue to publish and disseminate information about candidates in any races, Deering ruled, but it cannot oppose or support candidates in partisan primaries.
Election to the party’s county committee is one route to a seat on the state central committee, and Democratic Party officials say that any LaRouche gains on those committees give that group credibility it would not otherwise have to raise funds, for instance.
Moreover, the state committee determines the delegate selection process for presidential conventions, elects members to the Democratic National Committee and raises money to conduct voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, officials said.
Democratic nominees to state constitutional offices, the Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives or Senate automatically become members of the state Democratic Central Committee. They, in turn, are allowed to appoint other members, and still others are elected from county committees.
In the 33rd Congressional District race, where incumbent David Dreier (R-LaVerne) is seeking reelection, the LaRouche-backed candidate, Paul Jeffrey, could “easily” become the Democratic nominee, Wallace said, because “there’s not that much Democratic money in the primary and not much attention” is being paid to the race.
Other candidates identified by Democratic officials as LaRouche-backed are virtually assured election to the county committee from the 42nd, 55th, 57th and 63rd Assembly districts, because Democrats have not fielded enough other candidates to fill the seven available seats.
LaRouche candidate Henry Gamboa, who is also seeking the GOP nomination for the 56th Assembly District seat, will be elected to the Republican county committee from that district because he is the only candidate running.