LaRouche: Victim or Villain?

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Lyndon LaRouche picked up support for his campaign to get released from prison from a number of right-wing celebrities, including retired Air Force Colonel and intelligence specialist Fletcher Prouty, a leading light among conspiracy researchers. Prouty also works with the quasi-Nazi Liberty Lobby network. Prouty has issued a statement declaring that "instrumentalities of the government have hounded" LaRouche and "created wrongs where none existed before." The LaRouchians, however, have picked up support for their theory of a government conspiracy against LaRouche from a broader spectrum than the political right.

Both James Ridgeway and David MacMichael have reported somewhat uncritically the allegations of the LaRouchians that they are not guilty of financial crimes, but the victims of a massive government conspiracy aimed at crushing them politically.

Ridgeway, in the preface to his book on the U.S. white supremacist movement, Blood in the Face, omits LaRouche from a discussion of the "racist far right." Instead, Ridgeway refers to LaRouche in the context of discussing how the collapsed rural economy in the 1980's distorted the politics of the farm belt and "the whacko candidates of Lyndon LaRouche's party were serious contenders." This passing reference to LaRouche (there is one other bland paragraph in the book) places LaRouche in a discussion mentioning serious politicians such as Jesse Jackson, George McGovern, and James Hightower. This seems to characterize LaRouche as merely a strange and comical player in the electoral arena. Ridgeway says that this was not meant to imply LaRouche was not a force in farm belt fascism, but that his publisher felt that adding the LaRouchians into the book would have confused the issues.

Critics of Ridgeway's view of the LaRouchites, including this author, argue that LaRouche is in fact a neo-Nazi ideologue who should be discussed along with the Ku Klux Klan and the other white racist groups with whom the LaRouchians have associated for years. No one is suggesting that Ridgeway, who has a prodigious track record of sound investigative reporting, shares any of the LaRouchian viewpoints. But it is legitimate to ask whether or not Ridgeway's analysis and treatment of the LaRouchians has perhaps unconsciously been influenced by their value to him as a journalistic source of information on government misconduct and other issues. Ridgeway, like other reporters who cover government repression, received packets of information from the LaRouchians for many years and sometimes relied on the material to develop a story.36 This in itself is hardly unique and not necessarily questionable--other reporters do likewise.

In one case, however, Ridgeway appears to have relied on LaRouche material without independently verifying the accuracy of the material.

On May 17, 1988 James Ridgeway penned a lengthy article in the Village Voice titled "Dueling Spymasters: How the Government Bungled the Case Against Lyndon LaRouche."

Even a careful reading of the Ridgeway article leaves the impression that when a federal judge declared a mistrial in the Boston fraud case against LaRouche and several colleagues, it was caused by government misconduct. This is what the LaRouchians contend--but not what the judge said. Lyndon LaRouche and his associates were on trial in Boston for an alleged credit card scam. The mistrial declared by U.S. Federal District Court Judge Robert E. Keeton came after complaints of hardship were voiced by more than one third of the jurors who had been told the trial would end in early summer, and then learned it could stretch through the end of the year. The judge declared the mistrial because he feared a continuation of the trial would be a waste of time and money due to the real possibility that the number of jurors would fall below the legal limit before the trial ended.

While there was substantial evidence that the Justice Department may have improperly withheld documents relating to LaRouche in pre-trial discovery, a lengthy hearing resulted in a ruling that the documents had no bearing on the criminal charges. According to Ridgeway, "the proceedings had revealed...FBI agents planting obstruction of justice evidence on LaRouche." This is what the LaRouche attorneys sought to prove--and given the history of the FBI, Justice Department and other government bureaucracies, such an allegation was not far-fetched--but no hard evidence to prove that claim had been introduced in court at the time of the mistrial. In fact, the prosecution was still presenting its case. Further, the delay of the trial which caused the juror hardship was caused not only by lengthy side hearings into the document and informant questions, but by numerous challenges and extended cross examinations by the phalanx of defense attorneys representing LaRouche, his associates and their organizations.

Legal actions by both federal and local agencies against LaRouche for questionable fundraising and financial practices commenced years before the flap over Iran-Contragate and the well-publicized airport assault involving LaRouche partisans and Henry Kissinger, who was traveling with his wife. Furthermore, there is a virtual army of persons who claim to have been swindled and victimized by LaRouche-related organizations. Ridgeway offers no evidence the Boston criminal case was a result of the government being out to get LaRouche any more than it is out to get any person accused of being a common crook.

The "seeds of the government's investigation" were not planted by a petulant Henry Kissinger, as Ridgeway asserts, but by hundreds of persons who claimed to have found unauthorized credit card charges on their monthly statements at a time in 1984 when LaRouche was buying half-hour presidential campaign spots on network television. The grand jury which indicted LaRouche heard evidence from angry credit card holders, not Henry Kissinger.

Yet Ridgeway is correct is asserting that there was government misconduct against the LaRouchians which surfaced as part of the case. That the government shut down the LaRouchian publications as part of its probe into loan fraud and tax evasion was a civil liberties outrage, and the action was later rightfully declared unconstitutional. This abuse of government power, however, had no bearing on the evidence which convicted LaRouche and his followers of the charges in the Virginia indictments.

There is no debate that LaRouche was a little fish in the cloudy waters trolled by U.S. intelligence agencies. But when LaRouche hired informants and self-styled intelligence operatives such as Ryan Quade Emerson, Mitchell WerBell, and Roy Frankhouser, he was aware he was opening a Pandora's box filled with smoke and mirrors, double-dealing, and betrayal. WerBell, for instance, was a former OSS officer and international arms merchant. Frankhouser was a well-known government informant and Ku Klux Klan organizer. While LaRouche may have been belatedly frozen out of an active role in Reagan Administration intelligence functions, to conclude that his former allies turned up as government witnesses through a conspiracy to isolate LaRouche the "Spymaster" was a fanciful but unsubstantiated charge. A more likely explanation is that they turned up as witnesses against LaRouche in an attempt to keep themselves out of jail.

Ridgeway also describes LaRouche without mentioning LaRouche's notorious anti-Jewish sentiments. LaRouche, for instance, has claimed there is no such thing as Jewish culture, and that "only" a million and a half Jews perished at the hands of the Nazis, and then primarily due to illness and overwork.

A letter criticizing Ridgeway for publishing LaRouchite assertions as fact was published in the May 31, 1988 issue of the Voice over the signatures of this author and journalists Russ Bellant, Joel Bellman, Bryan Chitwood, Dennis King, Ed Kayatt, and Kalev Pehme.

David MacMichael is the editor of Unclassified, the newsletter of the Association of National Security Alumni (ANSA). In the Feb.-March, 1991 edition of Unclassified, MacMichael casually cites unnamed LaRouche sources in an article about a dismissed case involving Iran-Contragate figures Oliver North and Joseph Fernandez, "LaRouche sources point out that Prosecutor William Burch was not particularly diligent in arguing his case. They note that Burch has been active in the LaRouche prosecutions."

In the October-November 1990 issue of Unclassified, MacMichael presents the same story of intrigue previously reported by Ridgeway. MacMichael also mentions the LaRouchian competition with the "North-Secord enterprise for donations from wealthy individuals," implying it was connected to the LaRouche criminal prosecutions.

It is true that the Oliver North network targeted the LaRouchians for investigation, when LaRouche fundraising, especially to rich older conservatives, was found to be hampering private fundraising efforts for the Contras. There is, however, no conclusive evidence that the North/Secord political investigation of LaRouche influenced the Boston or Virginia criminal investigations or indictments.

Numerous criminal and civil actions against illegal LaRouche financial activities were launched as early as the late 1970's. One such probe was initiated by the Illinois State Attorney General on the basis of an article by this author charging irregularities in LaRouchian financial activities. The article was based on several boxes of original office and bank records.37 In 1979 and 1980, Dennis King published documented charges of widespread LaRouchian financial misconduct in a series of articles in New York's Our Town, a neighborhood newspaper. Several articles were based on secret internal LaRouche memos and financial records obtained by King from sources close to the LaRouche operation.

On December 16, 1981, Dennis King, Russ Bellant, and this author held a press conference in Washington, D.C. charging the LaRouchians with "a wide variety of potentially illegal activities," including: carrying out intelligence tasks for several foreign governments, including Iraq and South Africa; conducting a pattern of "illegal, deceitful and fraudulent activities by non-profit corporations, foundations and fundraising front groups controlled by Lyndon LaRouche."

The Boston grand jury was already investigating illegal LaRouchian fundraising practices well before conservatives and neo-conservatives forced the Reagan Administration to stop access by LaRouchians to the staff at the National Security Council and CIA. It is not likely that LaRouche was the victim of a conspiracy to indict him falsely for crimes. What is more likely is that after LaRouche was forced out as a marginal player in Reagan intelligence circles, his immense criminal fundraising schemes could no longer be ignored, and some of the numerous probes into his many frauds finally were allowed to proceed to court.

Certainly both MacMichael and Ridgeway have a right to report what they wish, and draw any conclusions they feel are warranted by the facts. But to report the LaRouche side of the story of the government's criminal indictments without historical context is to give an imprimatur to the unsubstantiated--and widely disputed--LaRouchian allegations claiming that LaRouche's conviction was the result of a government conspiracy to deny him his political rights. This in turn is used by the LaRouchians to gain sympathy and worm their way into left political circles, especially among students, where the LaRouchians' long history of fascist attacks on left groups is unknown.

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