At the college, Rohrabacher was a founding member of the Libertarian Supper Club and organized Future of Freedom conferences. His Libertarian activities continued later at USC, where he earned a master's degree in American studies in January, 1976.
"For a couple years I was really an avid Libertarian," Rohrabacher said. "I thought I had to be a 100-percenter. I had to be totally consistent. My whole life was centered around being consistent to some fundamental beliefs."
But over time, he said, his political views have changed.
"If the Dana Rohrabacher who I was 20 years ago was running for Congress today, I wouldn't even vote for him," he said. "But the fact is I have matured a lot in the last 20 years and I hold different views on life and I'm a much more responsible person than I was when I was a 21-year-old."
Although there are still a lot of areas "where my beliefs coincide with what Libertarians believe in . . . I don't feel a compulsion to be some kind of a consistent Libertarian now at all. On the issue of drugs, I have disagreed with them and I have all along during the Reagan Administration." Rohrabacher called himself "one of the champions within the White House of the President's crusade for a drug-free America."
Dr. Carlton Turner, former director of the White House Drug Abuse Policy Office and a Rohrabacher supporter, agrees with that assessment. During his 7 years as a White House speech writer, Rohrabacher played "a significant role" in pushing for stronger presidential statements against drug abuse, Turner said .
Turner said he had "many discussions" with Rohrabacher in the White House "about his Libertarian views." But Turner recalls that during those conversations Rohrabacher said he could not agree with the Libertarian view on decriminalizing drugs.
Rohrabacher said: "Whatever indiscretion that I may have committed as a young person in my distant past certainly did nothing but bolster my commitment to try to change social attitudes on drugs in the United States."
Nonetheless, Rohrabacher has received financial support for the congressional campaign from Libertarians locally and across the country--including noted economist Milton Friedman and the Reason Foundation, a Santa Monica-based Libertarian organization that helped pay for a fund-raising mailer.
This month's issue of Reason magazine, which features a cover story titled, "If Drugs were Legal," contains two photographs of Rohrabacher at a recent party celebrating the magazine's 20th anniversary.
Views on Libertarianism
"The fact is that I still enjoy the intellectual discourse with Libertarians," Rohrabacher said. "I have certain things where my beliefs have run parallel. I think they have done a lot of work on individual rights and on privatization of government services, a lot of studies of the free-enterprise system and how you can reduce taxes. I think that is very important. I have other areas where I disagree with them."
Rohrabacher embraces such Libertarian concepts as turning over the U.S. Postal Service, the air traffic control system and possibly the National Weather Service to private industry.
His basic philosophy about individual freedom also reflects Libertarian ideology. When it comes to sex among consenting adults, for example, "People's private behavior is their own business," he said. "It's as simple as that."
On pornography, Rohrabacher said: "Adults have a right to read what they want to read" as long as children are "neither exposed to nor exploited by pornography."
He believes that such issues as regulation of prostitution and control of adult bookstores should be "left to the local community and reflect local community standards."
But on abortion, Rohrabacher said that after much soul-searching, he has decided that he would support a constitutional amendment banning it.
A 'Practical Person'
Rohrabacher opposes mandatory school prayer, saying that decision should also be "left up to local parents and school boards."
He favors the death penalty and opposes gun control.
"I'm a practical person. I'm involved in politics," Rohrabacher said. "I tend to be (inclined) toward less government. I tend in the direction towards people having their destiny in their own hands, toward people keeping more of what they earn. I tend in those directions."
On offshore oil drilling, he said he supports it off Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach, where platforms already exist. But he opposes opening up new areas to drilling off the Palos Verdes Peninsula and in Santa Monica Bay.
"You've got oil drilling in half the district already, so the decision there for any increased oil drilling would not have as dramatic an impact on the people of that local area and their property values as in Palos Verdes and the other side of the district where it is virgin territory," Rohrabacher said.