Authorities See Pattern of Threats, Plots : Dark Side of LaRouche Empire Surfaces
Lyndon Hermyle LaRouche Jr. gets by all right for a man who thinks the Soviets, Jews, FBI and Henry Kissinger are out to get him.
He lives royally, surrounded by loyal followers, in Virginia horse country. He pays no bills or income taxes, yet travels the world with a retinue of armed bodyguards. He meets with heads of state and top scientists and, until recently, his calls were returned by some officials in the Reagan Administration.
Operatives in a dozen cities, including Los Angeles, and 13 countries feed daily “intelligence” to his computers. Trusted aides and a network of multimillion-dollar organizations defend him when the outside world--as it increasingly does--calls LaRouche a kook or something more devious.
But last week’s raid on his Leesburg, Va., headquarters by an FBI task force focused public attention on reports of a dark side to LaRouche’s political empire, which is the force behind Proposition 64, the AIDS measure that California voters will decide Nov. 4.
Authorities, who gathered truckloads of internal records in the raid for a federal grand jury, say that LaRouche, 64, masterminds a threatening and deceptive ring of troublemakers that goes far beyond politics.
Ten followers, including the head of his paramilitary-trained security force, were indicted by the federal grand jury in Boston in connection with a million-dollar credit-card fraud scheme. Since the raid, the FBI and prosecutors have described a pattern of threats against foes and plots to subvert the law.
LaRouche, who sent President Reagan a telegram vowing to resist if arrested, said the accusations are orchestrated by the Kremlin and others who oppose his view that AIDS is spread by, among other things, poor economic conditions.
The charges brought by the government reflect what some groups who watch LaRouche have long believed. They say he is more than a benign spouter of fanciful conspiracy tales--the Queen of England pushes drugs, AIDS is caused by the banks--and backer of odd, hopeless candidates who sell books and magazines at airports.
“A small-time Hitler,” the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith said of LaRouche two years ago. LaRouche sued for libel, but a jury sided with the prominent Jewish organization, which considers LaRouche a leading anti-Semite.
“Considering how bizarre and extreme the LaRouche cult is, this crackdown comes as no surprise to the Anti-Defamation League,” Irwin Suall, director of fact-finding for the ADL, said after the indictment. “They have the capacity to do an awful lot of damage if they want to.”
In court documents and published reports, defectors describe an organization that kills the pets of critics, persuades female members to get abortions and strictly controls the lives of members. At the same time, until journalists began reporting the connection, LaRouche and his followers used to meet regularly with Administration officials who valued their wealth of intelligence about world events.
Veterans of anti-Vietnam War rallies in New York in the 1960s remember LaRouche as a radical leftist named Lyn Marcus. With the help of a small band of disciples, he started violent incidents during anti-war protests.
Many of the original followers are still with the group, which swung hard right in the early 1970s and now defies easy description. They run the headquarters in Leesburg, where computers whir behind locked doors and bulletproof glass. LaRouche and his German wife, Helga Zepp-LaRouche, live outside of town on a 171-acre estate owned by an Oklahoma oil millionaire. About 200 followers live in nearby towns.
From Leesburg, they work on a plan to win the White House and instill a new world order based on the views of LaRouche--self-described as “the leading economist of the 20th Century” and as “the type of influential personality who tends to come to the leadership of a great nation only under conditions of deadly crisis.”
He raised $4.3 million to run for President in 1984, and two followers won Democratic nominations for statewide office in Illinois last spring. Their Fusion Energy Foundation promotes nuclear energy and space-based weapons. The Schiller Institute promotes the view of both LaRouches’ that classical German culture is superior. LaRouche offices typically feature a piano room with music from German composers and German posters.
It is the security unit, run by trusted aides, that enforces “damage control” by running smear campaigns and threatening critics and perceived enemies, the FBI and others say.
Often, the tactic is simply to skewer their foes in LaRouche’s many publications. For instance, in 1980, a call went over the group’s national Teletype for jokes about President Jimmy Carter and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) that could get the LaRouche presidential campaign some publicity. More recently, they wrote that Kennedy tottered into a Senate hearing “smelling of drink.”
Backers of Walter F. Mondale say the group got hold of his schedule during the 1984 presidential campaign and used it to disrupt his appearances. In 1982, according to an FBI informant, they printed a phony section of the New York Times and delivered it to Manhattan newsstands to embarrass lawyer Roy Cohn, who died this year, and New York Mayor Ed Koch.
But more serious charges have become common in recent years.
Forrest Lee Fick, an FBI informant and former Ku Klux Klan member who used to handle security chores for LaRouche, told NBC News in April that some in the LaRouche organization also discussed killing Kissinger, an arch villain in the LaRouche world view.
Fick said on camera that Paul Goldstein, a security aide who was indicted last week, had obtained details of Kissinger’s daily activities and suggested planting a bomb with help from Fick and another former klansman, Roy Frankhauser, who was also indicted last week.
Goldstein denied the accusations, no such attack was ever reported and no charges were filed. Fick and Frankhauser are now cooperating with the federal investigation of LaRouche’s empire.
After last week’s arrests, LaRouche spokesman Warren Hamerman said all the criminal charges were false, as were reports of devious activities by the followers.
“We are the most scrutinized organization in the world--and we’re the most honest,” said Hamerman, chairman of the National Democratic Policy Committee, the group that sponsors LaRouche candidates. The group has no connection to the Democratic Party.
But many critics of LaRouche report that they have been harassed. Flyers appear calling women prostitutes, men are called homosexuals and government officials are called agents of the British-Zionist drug conspiracy. Reader’s Digest, after a story about LaRouche, was called a Soviet tool in a long article in New Solidarity, a LaRouche newspaper published three times a week.
In a 1984 report, NBC aired a number of charges against LaRouche and quoted defectors as saying that LaRouche followers were hired by the Teamsters Union to harass union dissidents.
LaRouche lost a libel suit against NBC over that report, and in turn, the network won a $200,000 punitive judgment against LaRouche for his supporters posing as NBC journalists to disrupt an interview with Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.).
Ever since that report, the network has been under sustained attack. Producer Patricia Lynch said she has been harassed to the point that she calls back to check the authenticity of everyone who telephones her. LaRouche publications also carry frequent allegations that NBC and its reporters lead a large drug ring and have plotted his assassination.
FBI Agent Richard Egan, in federal court, said intimidation of critics is a key role of the security unit headed by Jeffrey and Michelle Steinberg, who remain jailed after being indicted last week on obstruction of justice charges.
Egan said a defector told him that the Steinbergs reported gleefully one morning how they had stayed up all night to make harassing phone calls to Charles Steele, general counsel to the Federal Election Commission, which has investigated LaRouche’s political fund-raising and imposed civil penalties. Steele confirmed the calls occurred, Egan said.
The Steinbergs also held hundreds of conversations with security aides about how to frustrate the Boston grand jury by sending LaRouche followers to his German headquarters in Wiesbaden and using supposed intelligence contacts to call off the investigation, Egan said. The Steinbergs denied the charges.
Residents of Leesburg appeared to be special targets. They have reported threats after opposing LaRouche motions before the City Council and Planning Commission, and local merchants set up a defense fund to repel LaRouche lawsuits. In fact, prosecutors credit frustrated and observant townspeople with providing a wealth of evidence to federal investigators.
Attorney Philip Hirschkop, who has represented Leesburg residents and others in legal battles with the LaRouche organization, said the group files lawsuits by the bundle to intimidate critics. But he is not aware of any litigation that the LaRouche organization has won.
He is not involved in any LaRouche cases now, and is not eager to take on one.
“I have a lovely dog I don’t want to have killed. You don’t want to be unnecessarily careless with the LaRouche people,” Hirschkop said.
Prosecutors say more criminal charges are expected against the LaRouche network of companies and groups, which they say are really operated jointly under the auspices of the National Caucus of Labor Committees--the political group LaRouche convened in the late 1960s. A national executive committee oversees policy, according to members.
In a 1981 memo to National Caucus of Labor Committees members, LaRouche disclosed how the small New York group had grown into a large money-making international organization.
He said it required income of $225,000 a week in gross sales to keep its programs going--or $11.7 million a year.
“We are about to deploy as we have never deployed earlier,” LaRouche wrote. “The purpose is not to increase the income, but to accomplish strategic political purposes. Nonetheless, the shift will create conditions in which the income problem can be mastered.”
By 1984, the empire had the means to move from Manhattan to Leesburg. Companies and associates purchased more than $1 million in property, set up new businesses, bought a local country-western radio station and began to publish a community newspaper, the Loudoun County News.
It is a mystery how much money the organization takes in now. The grand jury in Boston heard testimony that a single account of Campaigner Publications Inc., which publishes some of the LaRouche literature sold in airports, handled $4.5 million in a four-month period of 1984. And the empire includes a dozen such companies and committees.
Much of what comes in stays in. The organization’s own companies typeset, print and distribute all the literature, with a staff of about 250 in Leesburg.
On the Proposition 64 campaign, much of the $200,000 spent to gather signatures was sent to California by a New York unit, Caucus Distributors Inc., and was largely paid in salary to local LaRouche candidates. LaRouche has backed candidates in scores of California races in recent years. A few have won seats on local party committees.
“They spend as little money outside the organization as they can,” said Joel Bellman, a Los Angeles journalist with extensive experience on LaRouche.
Prosecutors say an alleged credit-card scam that was at the core of the Boston indictment was masterminded in Leesburg but claimed victims all over the country. The grand jury said, after a two-year investigation, that unauthorized charges were made to the credit cards of about 1,000 people who bought New Solidarity and other LaRouche publications, such as Executive Intelligence Review and Fusion magazine.
In addition, the indictment says intimidation and lies were used to pressure people to lend large sums. LaRouche operatives promised to repay the loans with generous interest, but prosecutors allege that the policy was to not repay.
Court records show that a Virgina state police agent received 22 “abusive and demanding” phone calls from LaRouche associates in the week after he posed as a potential donor at National Airport near Washington. Callers said $5,000 and more was needed to keep LaRouche out of jail and stop AIDS, the agent said.
Authorities in 10 states are investigating the pressure tactics, including charges that elderly people with sizable bank accounts have been victimized, and an increasing number of civil lawsuits against the practices are pending.
First Fidelity Bank of New Jersey recently sued the LaRouche organization, charging that the bank was used as a conduit for credit-card abuses similar to those alleged by the Boston grand jury.
A Florida bank, representing Charles H. Zimmerman, 80, a retired Bethlehem Steel executive in Florida, sued this summer after Zimmerman turned $2.6 million over to various LaRouche organizations. Zimmerman now says that he was tricked into contributing the money.
In a celebrated case within the LaRouche organization, a Pennsylvania judge awarded financial custody to the family of Lewis duPont Smith, a young adherent who had contributed some of his share of the duPont chemicals fortune to LaRouche. Smith says his family objects to his political allegiance to LaRouche. Smith now lives in Leesburg and writes articles for New Solidarity--but cannot give LaRouche any more money.
Meanwhile, LaRouche pleads that he has no idea who pays his bills--just “associates.” He admits to paying no income taxes in a decade.
In documents from the early days of the National Caucus of Labor Committees, LaRouche talks about the wide-ranging role he plays in members’ lives.
He warned members in 1973 that devotion to him would involve some stress.
“In respect of the mental processes, absolutely nothing is secret; there is merely blindness. . . . In Germany I am Der Abscheulicher (the abominable one); I shall soon be regarded similarly here,” he said
The beginnings of his U.S. movement in place, LaRouche wrote in a confidential message to organizers in 1973, titled, “The Politics of Male Impotence,” that he had set up a European base “on the premise that our growing importance in the world would close borders to me very soon.”
He also predicted seizure of world power within the decade--through curing the sexual impotence of his followers.
“The principal source of impotence, both male and female, is the mother. . . . If you are sexually impotent--as most of our members inevitably are--then you are impotent as political organizers,” he wrote.
Sexual performance and motherhood were common themes in LaRouche’s early essays.
“All Germany is a heaving mass of sexual impotence,” he writes. Latin machismo “is nothing but the fear of homosexuality, of male impotence in the extreme.” Blacks have a special problem, he said: “Can we imagine anything much more viciously sadistic than the black ghetto mother?”
In a 1981 memo, wired “highest priority” to all points, LaRouche declared that democratic rule of the group was unacceptable.
“I do not wish to hear, ever again, that I must wait until our legal council (sic) has assessed the wisdom of one of my decisions or that some members personal sensitivities must be taken into account. . . .
“I promise you that I shall function, unrestrained, as a commanding general of a combat organization. Anyone who opposes my orders will, in the moral sense, be shot on the spot for insubordination.”
His single-minded view has not always proven popular to followers. Two long-time members of the National Caucus of Labor Committees, Donald and Alice Roth, protested to the National Executive Committee in 1981 about LaRouche spreading the claim that Hitler oversaw the extermination of far fewer Jews than commonly believed.
“That . . . was the sign of a mind which has become dangerously ill. . . , " the Roths said in a resignation letter.
But by all accounts, the members feel great affection for LaRouche, who was born a Quaker in New Hampshire.
Internal documents call the LaRouches simply Lyn and Helga. When LaRouche faced contempt charges in the NBC suit, Michigan lawyer Max Dean said of the courts: “They are incapable of imagining the deep respect and esteem in which Lyndon LaRouche is held by thousands and thousands of people.”
New Solidarity reported in August that it had passed 100,000 subscriptions. But LaRouche watchers say his hard-core U.S. following, which is mostly drawn from young college-educated circles, is no more than a few thousand.
“He is convinced he really is the single most important mind of this century,” said Chip Berlet of the Midwest Research Associates, a Chicago group that investigates extremist movements. “This is not a con game--they really believe these things.”
LaRouche has written his own history of the whole controversy.
He says his troubles began in 1973, when the Soviet intelligence services began “operations” against him.
In 1974, he said, the New York Times published the first major media criticism of him. That story reported the arrest of several LaRouche followers, including Khushro Ghandhi, who is now managing the AIDS campaign in California, and current Leesburg lieutenant, Edward Spannaus, on kidnaping charges. The case was dropped when the victim, an attempted defector, forgave the charges.
Ever since, LaRouche’s people say, reports of abuses and alleged crimes have been cooked up to get LaRouche.
“Up to the present time, there is no known published attack on the candidate in the U.S. news media whose threats and insults did not originate . . . with the ‘left’ or with drug-lobby circles,” a LaRouche book says.
In the past, LaRouche admitted that his people posed as journalists and others to get information. But he says that most of the charges about his groups’ tactics are fabrications by enemies.
Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev called for last week’s raid on Leesburg as a condition of the just-concluded superpower summit, LaRouche said in a written statement. The plot included a plan to kill LaRouche, he said, but for some reason it was not carried out.
“This is the truth, and anything contrary to what I have just stated is false,” LaRouche went on. “The man with the mark of the beast on his head, Mikhail Gorbachov (sic), has demanded my elimination.”