WASHINGTON (AP) _ Armed with a $202,000 court judgment, lawyers for NBC are moving in federal court to force political extremist Lyndon H. LaRouche to reveal who pays the bills for his country estate, his armed guards and even his laundry.
NBC won the judgment from LaRouche in a countersuit to a libel action he brought against the network in 1984. But LaRouche, claiming he has no money, has refused to pay.
The network is seeking to show that LaRouche and his multimillion-dollar chain of organizations are interwoven and that his organizations should be compelled to pay if he can’t.
″There’s no question that he lives a lavish lifestyle, that he has access to a great deal of money,″ said Phillip Stackhouse, attorney for NBC. ″We believe we ought to be able to try to collect the money from those organizations because of his high degree of control over them.″
LaRouche, a fringe candidate for president, has maintained that he has no income, few assets, hasn’t filed a federal income tax return in more than 10 years and can’t pay the court judgment. He says he doesn’t pay his rent or any of his other personal expenses - and doesn’t know who does.
″I don’t know who pays the bills,″ LaRouche said last month at the National Press Club. ″I’m not responsible. I’m not involved in that ... It’s not my business.″
Documents filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., last month by NBC ask for a court order compelling LaRouche to answer publicly for the first time how his personal finances are handled.
The NBC documents pose more than 150 questions, asking who paid for the presumably costly legal expenses in LaRouche’s lawsuit against NBC; his living costs since 1973, such as for food and housing; the bodyguards and guard dogs that surround the Virginia estate where he lives; the ″safe houses″ he says he requires; car, limousine and air travel; the weapons permits for his guards; utilities; laundry and dry-cleaning; and his furniture.
The network asks LaRouche to admit that those expenses are paid by some 20 organizations linked to him, including his presidential campaign committees, which have received nearly $1 million in federal matching money during two elections; his National Caucus of Labor Committees and his various magazines and other organizations.
Some of them, including Caucus Distributors Inc., are among the LaRouche- related entities under investigation for alleged credit card fraud by a federal grand jury in Boston, according to government prosecutors.
″We do not concede that he has no money of his own,″ Stackhouse, an Arlington, Va., lawyer, said.
″But if through technical means he has managed to have no money in his own name, we believe he is gaining the benefit from a great deal of money from a great many affiliated organizations he has a role in.″
Attorneys for LaRouche filed an objection in court last week, saying the queries were ″for improper purposes.″
In an interview, Robert L. Rossi, the Boston lawyer representing LaRouche, said LaRouche’s position is he has no money and cannot pay the judgment.
″He doesn’t have any assets except what were listed (in court papers),″ Rossi said. ″He doesn’t have the money to pay.″
Rossi said he didn’t know who paid LaRouche’s legal costs to his firm or what they have totaled.
Stackhouse said that if LaRouche doesn’t answer by the end of this month, NBC will ask for a hearing to have a judge order him to answer.
LaRouche filed a $150 million libel suit against NBC in 1984, charging it defamed him in two television broadcasts. A federal jury found in favor of the network and also awarded NBC a judgment in its countersuit charging LaRouche followers had interefered with their business by canceling an interview an NBC reporter had scheduled with a U.S. senator.
The jury awarded $2,000 in actual damages and $3 million in punitive damages to the network. The punitive damages were reduced by the trial judge to $200,000.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit earlier this year upheld the judgment against LaRouche.