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CAMPAIGN 2000

Reform Party's Bitter Civil War Moves to Money Front

Politics: Rival candidates Buchanan and Hagelin each will file for $12.5 million in federal matching funds. U.S. says claims are unprecedented.

August 14, 2000|MEGAN GARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As they rolled up the Oval Office-blue AstroTurf laid on the floor of one convention and folded the mammoth American flag at the other, the civil warriors in the Reform Party prepared for the next battle: seizing the $12.5 million in federal matching funds that each side says belongs to its nominee.

Both candidates, conservative firebrand Pat Buchanan and physicist and Natural Law Party founder John Hagelin, are newcomers to Reform. Both will claim the party's millions in filings to the Federal Election Commission today.

But the scrappy third party's divorce is about more than a financial settlement. The breakup has brought out genuine emotion from longtime members on either side of the divide.

What's left is an irreparable split that has made bitter enemies of some longtime friends.

On the podium Saturday afternoon in Long Beach, for one moment, Reform Party Chairman Gerry Moan broke down in tears. He was about to call for the ouster of Jim Mangia as the party's secretary, the man who all week had been presiding over a dueling Reform Party convention of anyone-but-Buchanan folks just blocks away.

For Moan, it was a painful decision, his tears marking not only the rancor of the last few days but also the deep sadness felt by many of Reform's founders.

"We worked together for eight years building this thing," Moan said later. "It's hard."

Mangia, however, said Moan was crying "crocodile tears." Mangia's presiding emotion: sustained outrage over what he views as Buchanan's attempt to "steal" the party's nomination.

And he hasn't pulled any punches. On Sunday he cautioned those now calling Buchanan irrelevant, recalling Adolf Hitler's takeover of a marginal German political party in the 1920s.

"The German press was calling Adolf Hitler irrelevant then," he told a rally of Hagelin's supporters Sunday morning.

Buchanan's campaign officials said they didn't want to respond to "personal attacks."

"We don't want to comment on outrageous allegations when we are linked to someone Mr. Buchanan has called a tyrant and an evil dictator," said Brian Doherty, Buchanan's spokesman.

Of course, the tumultuous week had plenty of insults and put-downs to go around. When he announced Buchanan's victory in the primary--results that the pro-Buchanan convention had nullified even before it was counted--Moan taunted his old friend Mangia: "Whatcha gonna do now, Jimmy? Whatcha gonna do?" As for the all-important millions, for the first time since elections have been publicly funded the check will not be in the mail right away.

Both sides vow to be at the Federal Election Commission in Washington early this morning with the required paperwork to prove they have the rightful nominee.

The FEC has 10 days to certify or deny the applications, although investigators have told both sides that two candidates claiming the same pot of money will be uncharted territory for them.

Bay Buchanan, who serves as her brother's campaign manager, said that she can sustain their efforts until Sept 1. at least, even without the money. Hagelin, who named a multimillionaire Internet entrepreneur as his vice presidential running mate, has promised to fight on regardless of who gets the federal funds.

He told supporters cheering "Go Johnny Go!" that he believed they could put together a strong coalition of students, disenfranchised voters and other third-party members to win the White House,

"What we are going to see is something like the '60s," he said. "A little scary but long overdue."

And Mangia reminded those gathered on their side that they should never forget what the Reform Party founders had accomplished--establishing a political home for a bunch of folks who agreed on little other than the need for an alternative to the Republicans and Democrats.

"The media called us crazies," he said. "But when was the last time CNN and C-SPAN went to an insane asylum to film people?"

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