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Leaders in Seven States Want Reform Party Separate From Perot

July 31, 1996

DALLAS (AP) _ Leaders of some of the larger, more established state organizations within the Reform Party want to secede from Ross Perot’s group to form a new national committee for the fledgling third party.

Party leaders from seven states have banded together to request that the Perot Reform Committee relinquish control of the new party, citing a conflict of interest now that party founder Perot is competing against former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm for the Reform presidential nomination.

``If they don’t do it ... Perot is going to steal this election,″ Scott Farrell with the New York Committee for Richard Lamm said Tuesday. ``If they want to save the party, they’re going to have to make things fair.″

State organizers say creating a separate, ad hoc Reform Party committee would be the next natural step in the creation of the party.

``There has to be three entities right now: Lamm’s campaign, Perot’s campaign and the third-party movement,″ said Laureen Oliver, chairwoman of the New York Independence Party, which became the state Reform Party.

``I want a non-partisan separate committee,″ said Ms. Oliver, who does not support either candidate. ``If it’s not addressed we have the right to quit ourselves. I don’t feel like I have to ask Perot this one.″

Reform Party leaders from New York, California, Maine, Virginia, Oregon, Minnesota and Pennsylvania have been meeting by telephone and requested a meeting with Russ Verney, who heads up Perot’s candidacy. As national coordinator for the Perot Reform Committee, Verney also chairs the educational arm of the group, United We Stand America, and has handled state petition drives to create the Reform Party.

Ron Barthel, vice chairman of the Oregon Reform Party, which joined with the American Party of Oregon, said he understood that a meeting with Verney was scheduled for Thursday, possibly by teleconference.

But Verney said that is not so. ``If they discussed it with me, I don’t recall it,″ he said.

Verney said it wasn’t proper for states to attempt to create a national committee when the party isn’t yet on ballots nationwide. So far, the Reform Party has qualified for ballot access in 30 states.

``When there are 50 states to do this, the 50 states will come together and create the national committee _ not two states or three states, whoever wants to be the leader,″ Verney said. ``It’s a natural progression at the appropriate time. Right now is not the appropriate time.″

Lamm himself has expressed concern about Perot’s influence, saying the party ``has got to declare its independence from Ross Perot.″

But on Tuesday, he backed off from those remarks after speaking with Perot by telephone at least three times the day before.

``I don’t care to criticize (party leaders). I don’t care to criticize Perot. I don’t have a dog in this fight,″ he said.

Hours later, however, Lamm angrily denounced a party decision not to schedule debates before an Aug. 11 convention at Long Beach, Calif.

``We were promised a debate,″ Lamm said in a statement from Denver. ``This is not a hostile corporate takeover. It is a political campaign that must run on openness, dialogue and debate. How can members of a political party vote if they can’t compare the candidates?″

Barthel and Oliver envision an ad hoc committee separate from Perot’s people that would head the national Reform Party, create rules, plan the convention and elect officers.

Barthel said a shortage of information has increased concern among some party members that Perot is controlling the process.

Initially, detailed results of a mail-in survey of party members’ preferred candidates for the nomination were to be kept secret. The Perot Reform Committee later agreed to a Lamm request to release the results.

Perot received 65 percent of the votes cast and Lamm 28 percent.

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