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Candidate's Ties to Est Loom as Issue in Congressional Race

April 27, 1986|LANIE JONES | Times Political Writer

From his headquarters in San Francisco this March, est founder Werner Erhard was beaming one of his Saturday seminars by satellite to 4,000 students gathered in "area centers" from Los Angeles to New York.

The topic was "The Decisive Edge of the Business of Living," a seminar on leadership, power and achievement. But Erhard, nee Jack Rosenberg, the leader of the "human potential" movement of the '70s, diverged from his subject a moment to discuss a personal issue: his brother Nathan Rosenberg's candidacy for Congress.

"A lot of people have asked me questions about my brother Nathan running for Congress," a transcript of the address shows Erhard as saying. " . . . I could not personally be more proud of who my brother is. As a private citizen and as a member of Nathan's family, he has my support and my best wishes for winning the race that he's in.

"By the same token, as a public figure, it has always been my policy to stay out of politics, and to keep the organization with which I'm associated out of politics. It will be my policy to do so with regard to Nathan's candidacy, and if he's elected with regard to his conduct of the office he holds. . . ."

Address, Phone Number

But for viewers who had "questions" about Rosenberg's candidacy for the 40th Congressional District, Erhard ended by supplying Rosenberg's phone number and Newport Beach address.

Like his brother, Nathan Rosenberg insists that the Erhard personal effectiveness movement is apolitical and won't affect his campaign.

But the television appeal resulted in donations from Erhard followers to the 33-year-old management consultant's campaign. These contributions, the Los Angeles Times learned, were only some of the connections between Rosenberg's congressional campaign and Werner Erhard and his organization.

Rosenberg also acknowledged that he has served in several key leadership positions as a volunteer in his brother's organization.

It was news in Orange County in early March when Rosenberg, a former president of Young Republicans, defied the Republican leadership and took out papers to run against Rep. Robert E. Badham, 56, (R-Newport Beach) a five-term incumbent representing a district that includes Santa Ana and Laguna Beach.

But because of Rosenberg's apparent links to the Erhard organization, Badham over the last two weeks has claimed that his challenger's candidacy is news of a stranger sort--that Rosenberg is a "front" for Werner Erhard & Associates and that his campaign is relying on a hidden network of est graduates and those who have taken Erhard's new program, The Forum, for campaign contributions, precinct walkers and a manager.

Claiming that the est techniques once used by Erhard have included "brainwashing," Badham calls Rosenberg's campaign "scary. . . . His ties are terribly close to Erhard."

The motives for Erhard to promote a candidate are not entirely clear, Badham said, but "I would imagine that would be the outreach for power, the tenets to the est program: to create a different world by mind revolution. And that is ominous in scope."

Nothing Sinister

Both Rosenberg and spokesmen for Werner Erhard & Associates say there is nothing sinister about the campaign.

And they vociferously deny that Erhard or any organization he helped start are behind it.

Badham's charges "smack of McCarthyism, Rosenberg said last week. "There is no connection between my brother and his organization and this campaign."

Far from using "brainwashing techniques," The Forum, and est before it, use a method of inquiry to enhance personal initiative, sense of responsibility and general effectiveness, Rosenberg said. "It's really a very middle-class--kind of a mom, apple pie--kind of thing."

Certainly some of those who watched Erhard on closed-circuit television saw it that way. Philip H. Brooks, a retired psychiatric technician from Riverside, saw the satellite broadcast at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, discussed Rosenberg's candidacy with a friend and mailed Rosenberg a check for $60.

"I have been impressed with the training, with Werner's work for a long time. It's altered the consciousness of not only individual people but also the country," Brooks said. "I think Congress could use someone who's been through that type of training. It would be a great asset."

Wrote $100 Check

In Miami, attorney Bernard Marcus, a friend of Rosenberg's from seminars they had led together for eight or nine years, also saw the broadcast and wrote Rosenberg a $100 check.

"It was not a solicitation," Marcus said of Erhard's announcement. But "I have an idea how these things work. I didn't wait. I just sent him a check."

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