Knight Ridder Newspapers
October 21, 1999
By Mary Otto
WASHINGTON -- Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. says ecology is a "destructive cult belief," warns that the world economy could collapse within the next year, and believes the president should be a "philosopher king."
At 78, he has launched his seventh bid for philosopher king, but while his writings are voluminous and his charts put Ross Perot's to shame, he is facing some formidable obstacles.
For one thing, it isn't clear how many voters will rally behind his discourse on the "growth of European population, population density, and life expectancy at birth, estimated for 100,000 BC-AD 1975."
For another, he can't even vote for himself in his home state of Virginia, because he is a convicted felon.
Nevertheless, LaRouche, who has been called "the dean of the American political fringe," will be using the taxpayers' money to help finance his run for the presidency. His prison record notwithstanding, he meets the legal requirements and qualifies for federal matching funds.
LaRouche is recovering from a minor heart attack in Germany, says aide Debra Freeman, who has been working for LaRouche nearly 30 years. She says this crusade will be a piece of cake compared with the 1992 race he ran from the Federal Medical Center, a penitentiary in Rochester, Minn.
There he served five years for fraud and tax evasion, after he and six associates were convicted of swindling lenders out of $30 million, promising high rates of return on loans that prosecutors say they never intended to repay.
Freeman contends that the convictions were politically motivated. Still, she allows, "There were people, as a result of bankruptcy, who were not paid back. Those were unfortunate times. A lot of people were victimized." So far in this election cycle, LaRouche has collected more than the necessary $100,000 in small donations from 20 states to qualify for matching funds. His aides say the campaign already is entitled to $300,000 to $600,000 in matching money.
Under the 1971 Federal Election Campaign Act, the federal government matches donations of up to $250 for primary candidates who agree to federal spending limits and extensive audits. Taxpayers can designate money for presidential campaigns in their tax returns.
So far, according to LaRouche's latest campaign expense reports, he has raised $1.29 million, amassing more money than Republican Pat Buchanan in some key metropolitan areas, including places as diverse as Dallas, New York, Washington, and Los Angeles. As of Sept. 30, LaRouche's report shows, he had spent almost all the money he had collected.
Under Democratic Party rules, candidates for president or vice president must be registered to vote and must have been registered to vote in the last presidential election.
"He's a convicted felon. He's not a registered voter and can't vote," said a Democratic National committee spokesman who spoke on condition of anonymity.