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Los Angeles Times
July 14, 2000


By Massie Ritsch, Times Staff Writer

Responding to allegations from Pat Buchanan's sole challenger on the Reform Party's presidential ballot, Reform officials have agreed to allow an audit of nominating petitions filed on Buchanan's behalf.

The audit seeks to determine whether the front-runner for the Reform nomination fattened his petitions with people who never signed them. Buchanan's spokesman refused to comment Thursday on the allegations.

In a move late Wednesday, the Reform Party's executive committee voted, 7 to 2, to allow John Hagelin, a physicist running against Buchanan for the Reform nomination, to examine the nearly half a million names submitted by Buchanan to receive Reform ballots. Hagelin said Thursday that he would hire an independent firm to determine whether the names on Buchanan's petitions are valid.

Under Reform Party rules, anyone who requested a ballot may vote in the party's mail-in primary. Ballots are being sent to registered Reform Party members and everyone who signed a petition endorsing the Buchanan or Hagelin candidacy. Nearly 900,000 ballots have been or will be sent, party officials say....

What Hagelin suspects is that Buchanan asked that ballots be sent to people who never signed a petition supporting Buchanan's Reform candidacy, namely Republicans who have contributed money to his Reform campaign or to his previous two presidential campaigns as a Republican.

If so, Buchanan would be breaking the party's rules and--more critically to his underdog challenger--seriously stacking the deck against the candidacy of Hagelin, who said he submitted just 24,000 names to receive ballots.

"Buchanan has been unfortunately trying to derail this democratic process," Hagelin said Thursday at a news conference in Los Angeles, where he touted the endorsements of several Reform Party groups in California and a New York wing led by former Buchanan campaign co-chairwoman Lenora Fulani....

"I would hope that the campaign would be waged on the issues and who's the best candidate as opposed to who's trying to take advantage and who's trying to cheat," said Michael Farris, president of the Reform Party's nominating committee.

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