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web posted January 3, 2000

Reform Party splinters over convention, ideology, court action

The battle for control over the Reform Party is becoming increasingly public, with Dallas billionaire Ross Perot's backers creating a new corporation and supporters of Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura taking their case to court.

Party members caught in between tried to put an optimistic spin on the battle, saying it represented growing pains that would fade.

"This is us learning the hard way about the democratic process and what it means to build a party," said Reform Party Secretary Jim Mangia of Los Angeles. "There are power plays on both sides. If there's a presidential candidate who could unite both parties, that could go a long way."

But the two most prominent presidential candidates are already picking sides. Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan has left the Republican Party and drifted toward Perot's faction, his eye on the Reform Party's $12.6 million in federal campaign funding.

Meanwhile, billionaire developer Donald Trump plans a public outing January 7 with Ventura in Minnesota.

The sides, squabbling over the Internet for months, split publicly on December 28 when the battle shifted to U.S. District Court in Minnesota, and Perot's supporters announced that they were forming the Reform Leadership Council, aimed at preserving Perot's vision.

"It's a battle for control of the party, of the ideology of the party," said Donna Donovan of Connecticut, spokeswoman for the new group representing 15 states. "It's a way to show for sure that the majority of this party joined because of the sentiments expressed by Ross Perot."

On the other side, incoming Reform Party chairman Jack Gargan dubbed the council's formation a "power grab" by Perot supporters trying to dictate the party's direction. Gargan, who is aligned with Ventura, took office on January 1.

Gargan warned the "Dallas faction," to stop trying to control the party through attacks on its wings -- or see it perish.

The party grew out of Perot's 1992 presidential bid, preceded by his group United We Stand, America. Perot ran for president under the Reform Party banner in 1996, and the party's first national convention was in 1997.

Gargan dismissed the Perot faction's new corporation.

"A little core of yappers from 15 states does not make up the Reform Party. Last I checked there were 50 states," Gargan said from his home in Cedar Key, Fla., where he'll maintain the party's new headquarters. "If the party is to survive, the Dallas faction is going to have to cease and desist their incessant attacks on everything that the party is trying to do that doesn't suit their fancy."

In St. Paul, Minnesota State Party Chairman Rick McCluhan sought a temporary restraining order against Perot's national party members, who are trying to hold the annual convention in Long Beach, Calif., instead of in Minnesota.

U.S. District Judge Donald Alsop appeared reluctant to interfere in a political squabble, but promised a prompt ruling.

The disputes have grown in number and intensity with the influence of the Reform Party in national politics. Because Perot received more than 5 percent of the presidential vote in 1992 and 1996, the Reform Party qualifies for $12.6 million in federal funding for its presidential nominee in 2000. It also boasts Ventura, the party's only statewide elected official.

Perot's supporters released a statement announcing formation of the Reform Leadership Council.

"The party is at risk of becoming redefined by a very vocal minority which is challenging the consensus and democratic decisions of the majority," the statement said. "We must unite in steadfast support of the principles of reform ... and articulate a vision for the future which reflects the vision of our founder, Ross Perot, and millions of like-minded Americans."

Gargan responded: "It's a power-grab ... If they can't have the power to run the party the way they want, they don't want anyone to have it.

"How can you entice new people to come into a party that looks like it's split six ways to Sunday?" he added. "They have been and continue to be a real detriment to the progress of this good party."

Minnesota attorney general sues over sharing of public radio donor lists with DNC, others

The state's attorney general sued Minnesota Public Radio on December 28 for allegedly sharing its donor lists with the Democratic National Committee and others, saying MPR broke laws governing charities.

In the lawsuit filed in Ramsey County District Court, Attorney General Mike Hatch seeks civil penalties against the station. He alleges that MPR allowed 100 organizations to use its member information, sometimes even including member phone numbers.

"This translates into 3 million member names, addresses and phone numbers disclosed for fund-raising solicitations," according to Hatch's summary of the lawsuit.

The suit alleged that MPR members did not get enough information on how their names and addresses would be distributed to other groups, and that this lapse constituted fraud under state laws on charities.

Over the summer, it was revealed that at least two dozen public television stations had exchanged membership lists with political groups, causing problems in Washington for public broadcasting, which has nonprofit status.

MPR, a nonprofit group that receives some state funds, said previously it had twice purchased lists of names of DNC donors, and once swapped names with the DNC. It said it also got names from organizations such as The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Forbes magazine, the Minnesota Orchestra and catalog companies, but only occasionally exchanged member information.

After the controversy over political ties arose, MPR decided it would no longer purchase lists from partisan political organizations, Haddeland said at the time. But in July, two GOP state lawmakers requested that Hatch, a Democrat, investigate MPR's actions.

Haddeland has also said MPR has a policy of asking donors in writing whether they would like their names omitted from any list shared with others. Of MPR's 88,000 members, 5,000 opted not to allow sharing.

Bradley claims to catch Gore in overall fund-raising

Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley's campaign said on December 29 he raised enough money in the fourth quarter of 1999 to put him on a financial par with Vice President Al Gore, while Republican candidate John McCain apparently doubled his quarterly fund-raising totals.

The Bradley campaign released a statement saying it will report raising more than $8 million in the period covering October through December. The figure, the most that Bradley has raised in a quarter so far, brings his campaign's total to more than $27 million for the year.

The Gore campaign raised about $4 million in the final quarter. The campaign's fund-raising total is around $28 million.

Bradley's fund-raising strength has been matched by a steep upswing in spending. The campaign says it spent $10.4 million in the fourth quarter, bringing its total spending to about $19 million this year.

The Gore campaign has not released its spending figures for the quarter, but as of September 30, the campaign had already spent about $14.5 million.

Since both campaigns are accepting federal matching funds and are thereby subject to overall spending limits, the real test will be in how much each campaign has spent so far and how much cash on hand they have coming into the primary season.

Germany to start Kohl fraud probe

German public prosecutors have launched an investigation into suspected fraud by ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who accepted secret campaign donations while in power, a senior member of parliament said on December 29.

The probe launched by the public prosecutors office in Bonn was widely expected but nevertheless represents a startling setback for Kohl, the architect of German reunification and a leading European statesman.

Wolfgang Freiherr von Stetten, a member of parliament, told Reuters prosecutors had sent a letter to the assembly's lower house informing them of their decision to investigate Kohl.

The parliament confirmed in a statement that it had received a letter from prosecutors that they had launched the investigation into Kohl. But it did not specify that fraud would be the subject of the probe.

Kohl has admitted accepting two million marks (US$1 million) in secret campaign donations, in violation of German laws.

Stettin, a member of the Christian Democrats, is chairman of parliament's immunity committee that could, at least in theory, block the criminal investigation. Stettin said that was unlikely.

Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse said the campaign donation affair was an ugly stain on democracy in Germany.

"We all have to work together now to clear up what happened so that we can limit the damage that this affair has caused for democracy," Thierse told ZDF television.

Prosecutors have been studying whether to bring charges of fraud, misuse of power or money-laundering against Kohl, who served as chancellor from 1982-98. If convicted of fraud, Kohl could face a maximum of five years in jail or a fine.

Under German law, a criminal investigation of Kohl could be launched 48 hours after Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse is notified.

Thierse could use his powers to seek to block an investigation, but he has said he believed Kohl broke the law.

The Christian Democrats, anxious to avoid further political fallout from the scandal, again urged Kohl to reveal the identities of secret campaign donors.

CDU General Secretary Angela Merkel, who has led a cautious campaign against the still-powerful Kohl, said the woes the conservative party faces could disappear if he revealed the donors' names. Kohl has refused to do so.

Kohl, despite violating campaign finance laws, said he would not reveal their names because he gave the donors his "word of honor." He said he never accepted any bribes.

Parliament is already conducting its own investigation into allegations that a web of secret accounts used by Kohl to receive undeclared donations left him open to bribery.

Study suggests Kyoto emission targets will be expensive to meet for Canada

Hundreds of thousands of lost jobs and a sizable decline in economic output are the price Canada will pay to meet its Kyoto emissions targets, a new study predicts.

"Canada is the country that is going to suffer the most among major industrialized nations," says Milka Kirova, who wrote the study for the Center for the Study of American Business at Washington University in St. Louis.

Kirova's study, obtained by the Globe and Mail, suggests Canada would have to trim its emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases by 31 per cent to meet its Kyoto protocol commitments by 2010.

Doing so, she estimates, would slash 2.8 per cent from what the country's gross domestic product would otherwise be that year.

There would also be a corresponding rise in the country's unemployment rate, she said, to the tune of 3.4 percentage points.

It's nothing new that Canada faces a tough economic challenge to meet its commitment to cut greenhouse gases - other studies have calculated the cost in the billions of dollars.

But the Globe says Kirova's study is the first to back the big-business claim that Canada will be put at a global disadvantage by the Kyoto protocol.

Canada has yet to ratify the Kyoto protocol, in large part because the United States has not done so. The study ranks the United States as the country facing the second-largest economic challenge.

The impact on Canada is highest, Kirova says, because of the large role the natural-resources sector plays in the economy. Canada's economy is also heavy with exports, which makes it more susceptible to international declines in demand that may result from meeting climate change targets.

An official at Natural Resources Canada said the study's numbers must be largely based on speculation, since the government has yet to announce its plan for meeting the Kyoto targets.

A recent study conducted for the federal government by a panel of bureaucrats, business leaders and environmentalists put the price tag for meeting the Kyoto targets at between $1.6-billion and $3.2-billion a year.

Earlier private-sector predictions had put the bill as high as $17-billion a year.

Elizabeth May, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, dismissed the study as out of line with even the federal government's own estimates of the Kyoto costs.

The Sierra Club's own estimates show that large sectors of the economy would benefit from conversion to cleaner, more efficient fuels.

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