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Burden of Proof

Reform Party Dispute: Who is the Nominee?

Aired August 21, 2000 - 12:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ROGER COSSACK, CO-HOST: Just eight years after Ross Perot launched a party to challenge Washington's status quo. The Reform Party is in disarray. Two candidates emerged from the convention claiming victory, and now they're feuding over federal tax dollars. So who is the Reform Party's nominee?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM MANGIA, REFORM PARTY NATIONAL SECRETARY: I think Pat Buchanan is corrupt. I think his campaign is corrupt. I think they're trying to destroy the Reform Party and steal $12 million.

BAY BUCHANAN, EXECUTIVE CHAIRWOMAN, PAT BUCHANAN CAMPAIGN: It is a handful of dissidents who have refused to accept the fact that Pat Buchanan beat them fair and square.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is BURDEN OF PROOF with Roger Cossack and Greta Van Susteren.

COSSACK: Hello and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF.

In 1992, Ross Perot garnered nearly 20 percent of the popular vote in his bid for the White House. But today the leading Reform Party candidate, Pat Buchanan, is pulling down only 2 percent in the latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll. Two weeks ago in Long Beach, California, Buchanan declared himself the party's nominee for this year's election.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CO-HOST: But another candidate claims to have the party nod. John Hagelin says he heads the Reform ticket, thereby making him the rightful recipient of more than $12 million in matching federal money.

Reform Party presidential candidate John Hagelin joins us today from Des Moines, Iowa. Joining us today in Washington, Bay Buchanan, who's the co-chair of brother Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign.

COSSACK: And here in our studio, Brian Jones (ph), Mark Braden, a former chief counsel to the RNC and an expert on election law, and Darryl Wold, chairman of the Federal Election Commission. In the back, Dravon James (ph) and Jacques Derossina (ph).

Let's go right to Bay Buchanan.

Bay, what is the claim -- why do you have the claim to the $12 million, and why do you -- what is it that you think you should get it and not the other side?

BUCHANAN: Because we won, Roger. It's that simple. Pat Buchanan beat Hagelin and any other candidates that were opposed to him in 50 state conventions. He beat them in the primary process, and he beat them in the national convention. We had two thirds of the delegates at the convention. And so we won everything, on every count. And a few dissidents walked out of the hall and said, "Oh, we really won." And it just doesn't -- it's absolute nonsense, and to even suggest that they should get the money is tantamount to fraud.

VAN SUSTEREN: Bay, John Hagelin and his supporters claim that there has been some fraud on the part of the Pat Buchanan campaign, and for that reason, he's not entitled to the nomination. What do you make of that allegation of fraud?

BUCHANAN: Well, it's -- it's malicious, a false allegation. It's cheap. Easy -- easy to make these statements, but there's no committee, subcommittee or any recognized body within the Reform Party that's made that accusation against us. They met on it. They looked at it. No one made that charge against us.

And just because that primary process was questioned by all of us -- because people were getting two and three ballots, there was computer errors, people who didn't exist were getting ballots, people who were dead were getting ballots -- we, as a convention, the Reform Party convention, set aside that ballot to make certain that our candidate clearly was the person that was going to get that nominee would be without question the nominee. And -- and they nominated Pat by over two thirds of the delegates at the convention. And so no matter which way you look at it, Pat Buchanan won fair and square.

And it was an interesting scene as the Hagelin group, that little dissident group, met. And they looked at the numbers. The primary ballots came in. Pat won 2 to 1. And Mr. Hagelin got up and said, "I humbly accept." I mean, he won nothing. He won absolutely nothing in any state or any national effort.

VAN SUSTEREN: Commissioner Wold, at what point does the FEC get involved, or does it get involved? We have a political party. The Reform Party has a dispute as to who is the correct nominee. Does the FEC ever get involved in this dispute?

DARRYL WOLD, CHAIRMAN, FEC: Well, we do because we have to certify the eligibility of an individual for the public funding for the general election campaign, the taxpayer funds that Roger referred to earlier of about $12.6 million. We certify the eligibility of a candidate for that money to the treasury, and the United States Treasury Department writes the check.

VAN SUSTEREN: But what -- I mean, how -- in this particular dispute between the Pat Buchanan faction and the John Hagelin faction, I mean, what are the factors which would -- that -- does the commission look to to decide who won? Is it, as what Bay Buchanan says, it's the fact that Pat was the one who was chosen, or do you look at the fraud issue that the John Hagelin side says exists?

WOLD: Well, we look first to what our statute requires, the Federal Election Campaign Act, and in particular, the Presidential Public Funding Campaign Act. And that says that the first criteria that we look to is whether the individual is on the ballot as the nominee, in this case of the Reform Party, in at least 10 states. So if a candidate can show us evidence that he is on the ballot as the nominee of the Reform Party in 10 states or more, then he has met the initial criteria for entitlement to the funds.

COSSACK: Bay, what is the fraud that the other side is claiming that was committed, or allegedly committed by your side that you -- so that you shouldn't receive these funds?

BUCHANAN: Well, one of the processes by which you can receive the nomination in the Reform Party is to win the mail-in ballot. And they send out -- anyone who makes a request for these ballots, or if you've signed petitions -- there's a number of ways you get on the list.

And we worked very closely with the nominating committee to find out exactly who's allowed to be on the list and how we put it together and when they need to receive it, all the details. And we mailed them exactly -- or we e-mailed them exactly the list that they -- that they suggested was legitimate. And we sent it to them, and they mailed them out.

And then the other side, knowing they couldn't beat us legitimately, just started making accusations that the list we sent wasn't right, that it was a fraudulent list. It was not a fraudulent list. We only lived by exactly what we were told to do. We were given the rules and the regulations. We talked to them. We got explanations. And we sent to the Reform Party exactly what they asked for.

COSSACK: Where did you get the names that were on that list?

BUCHANAN: From a variety of places, all of which were approved by the nominating committee.

VAN SUSTEREN: Bay, it seems like, according to the commissioner, that this -- this -- at least this current horse race is going to be determined, assuming that there's no fraud established, by which candidate gets on the ballot in 10 states. Is Pat on the ballot in 10 states? Or where does it stand, at this point?

BUCHANAN: We have -- we're looking at any number of those states. We've already received confirmation from a number of them, and we expect confirmation from the rest that we need before the end of this week.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you mean by "a number of them"? Give me a -- where does it stand now? How many think Pat's on today? BUCHANAN: I think we're possibly on four or five right now, where we've actually been certified, have a piece of paper saying it's been certified. But I understand there's another 10 or 15 that have been -- that have all the documentation and just a couple days turnaround time is necessary.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, we're going to take a break. Up next: the dissent in the Reform Party. John Hagelin joins us to tell us why he's the Reform Party nominee.

Stay with us.

(BEGIN LEGAL BRIEF)

A Kent, Washington, jail guard has been suspended for a month without pay for sprinkling itching powder on the bedsheets of four inmates.

(END LEGAL BRIEF)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Welcome back.

We're going to take you to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Governor George W. Bush is addressing the VFW national convention.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Think of it, a guided missile destroyer of the United States Navy turning back because there was not enough money for fuel. In the Pacific Fleet training exercises have been cut back for the same reason. They've had to wait until the next fiscal year for training. In the Atlantic Fleet 21 warships need maintenance that's been delayed or the maintenance has been canceled. In both the Navy and Air Force there are shortages of one of our most effective weapons, the cruise missile.

The Navy is not only short on money, maintenance and weapons, it's short on sailors. The Navy entered this new century with a shortage of nearly 10,000 enlisted personnel at sea. In 1998-1999, for the first time the United States Army fell short of its recruiting goals for the all-volunteer force. And the Air Force missed its recruiting goals for the first time since 1979.

Over the last several years, the services have found it more and more difficult to retain the best people. Our men and women in uniform and their families are the foundation of America's military readiness, yet in a survey last year of more than 1,000 officers and enlisted personnel, more than half said they were dissatisfied and intended to leave the service when their current term of enlistment was up.

I don't care what's said in a political campaign, these are signs of a military in decline and we must do something about it. (APPLAUSE)

The reasons are clear: lack of equipment and material, undermanning of units, over-deployment, not enough time for family, soldiers who are on food stamps and soldiers who are poorly housed.

Dick Cheney and I have a simple message today for our men and women in uniform, their parents, their loved ones, their supporters: Help is on the way.

(APPLAUSE)

We are going to restore morale in the United States military and treat American soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines with the respect that they have earned.

American soldiers must have confidence that, if asked to serve and sacrifice, the cause will be worthy and our support for them total.

(APPLAUSE)

First, we will give our armed forces better pay, better treatment and better training.

(APPLAUSE)

Recently, after long neglect, a pay raise was finally passed, but I don't think it was enough. In my first budget I will ask the Congress to further the pay raise by $1 billion a year, to make sure our men and women in uniform are properly paid for their duty to America.

(APPLAUSE)

Too much of our military housing is substandard. I will make renovations a priority and increase housing allowances to improve living conditions for our military families.

More than 700,000 children of service men and women are taught in schools owned and funded by the Department of Defense and the Department of Education. Yet, after years of underfunding, many of these schools are rundown and in need of repair. I will ask Congress for $310 million needed to repair and construct schools that will educate the children of the men and women who wear our nation's uniforms.

VAN SUSTEREN: We've been listening to Governor Bush, who's speaking at the VFW national convention in Milwaukee. We're going to now go back to BURDEN OF PROOF and our discussion about the dispute within the Reform Party.

And we're joined by John Hagelin, who's in Des Moines.

John, you claim you are the rightful candidate, the nominee for the Reform Party. Why? JOHN HAGELIN (REF), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the Reform Party claims that I am. Pat Buchanan did hold his own convention. You could call it a Buchanan reform convention. But 9 out of the 11 Reform Party leaders, the strong states, the party rank and file, held a Reform Party convention where they nominated me and Nat Goldhaber as my vice presidential running mate.

VAN SUSTEREN: Correct me if I'm wrong, but the convention, the national convention, as I recall, was held in Long Beach, California, and that there was a vote and that Pat Buchanan was elected. Am I wrong on that?

HAGELIN: You are wrong on that. There were two conventions in Long Beach. There was the Buchanan convention, stacked with what are called "Buchanan brigades," and then there was the Reform Party convention, with the properly elected state delegates, that overwhelmingly nominated me.

The way Pat Buchanan got himself disqualified from the Reform Party was that he was caught perpetrating what might be the most massive election fraud in U.S. history. He submitted a concealed list under a secrecy agreement of a half a million ineligible voters in the Reform Party election. Once those votes are purged from the list, I have the lead in the popular vote and in the party's rightful nomination.

COSSACK: Commissioner Wold, I don't envy you and your organization trying to sort this one out, but how will you go about investigating these competing claims?

WOLD: Well, at this point, we're not at that stage where we would have to even do that. As I said earlier, we look first to whether a candidate is on the ballot as the nominee of the Reform Party in at least 10 states. And if only...

COSSACK: Well, let's assume they both get on the ballot in 10 states, and they show up at your door one day and say, "You know, I understand you got $12 million that belongs to me." What do you do then?

WOLD: Well, at that point, we're in uncharted waters, and we don't have a course of action set out for us in the statute or the regulations. So this was a situation that Congress obviously did not contemplate when they wrote the law.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, let's go to Mark Braden, who -- Mark usually joins us to help us when the Republican Party is having a fight, but you don't have a dog in this fight. You're a lawyer. Help us out. How should this be resolved?

MARK BRADEN, ELECTION LAW EXPERT: Well, you know, as a partisan Republican, I hope they send the money to Ralph Nader, but I don't think that's one of the options. I think that, actually, it's likely to be decided in some state litigation. I think in some states, you're going to see litigation on these charges, and there'll be a determination as to whether there's any underlying validity. So I think you're going to see some litigation in various states.

VAN SUSTEREN: But Mark, the election's in November.

COSSACK: Yeah.

VAN SUSTEREN: And the way these wheels of justice turn in this country, I mean, it's not going to be resolved in any state litigation between now and November.

(CROSSTALK)

COSSACK: ... next election.

BRADEN: No, I actually do think it's possible.

VAN SUSTEREN: Two elections from now.

COSSACK: Yeah.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you figure?

BRADEN: I think it's possible.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you figure?

BRADEN: Well, preliminary injunction-type. These are -- or a mandamus action to get on the ballot, something that'll have to be decided in a very short timeframe. Now, you're not going to get the full-blown litigation. It might be overturned at some stage. But there's going to be a determination by -- at the state level in various states as to who's going to get on the ballot. And I think that's going to determine what the commission's going to do.

BUCHANAN: Greta, Mark is correct. You have absentee ballots that have to be printed, many of them, by the 25th, 26th, which is this week, of this month. And so they're going to have to make a quick determination. We're not finding a lot of trouble out there. But there will be places we may have to have an attorney step in.

But let me go back to what Mr. Hagelin said...

COSSACK: Bay, let me...

BUCHANAN: Sure.

COSSACK: ... just interrupt you a second because I want to go and ask John a...

John, what do you intend to do with regards to establishing the validity of your claim?

HAGELIN: Well, already an investigation, a complaint was filed with the FEC. The FEC is already in the process of investigating some of the undemocratic tactics that took place in Long Beach. There's a very clear record of what happened there. These "Buchanan brigaders," they overran what was called physically the national committee meeting that they had to win to stack the rules in their favor at the convention, to be sure that only "Buchanan brigades" were seated. That's when the party split in two. The actual delegates to the party stood up, walked out of that kangaroo convention and established a proper convention of their own. That is the convention that followed the rules and where proper credentialing took place. And that is why the Hagelin-Goldhaber ticket was rightfully nominated by the...

VAN SUSTEREN: John, do you have -- are you going to end up, do you think, in court? I realize you filed a complaint with the FEC, but I mean, I guess I got my eye on this November election date and don't have the optimism that Mark has...

HAGELIN: Well, fortunately...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... about courts resolving problems quickly.

HAGELIN: Well, the courts may not resolve it that quickly. Frankly, we have a lot more to gain here. The Hagelin-Goldhaber campaign is a well-financed campaign. We have ballot access in close to 50 states because mine is a coalition candidacy, bringing together the Reform Party, the Natural Law Party, the Independence Parties in many states across the country. Buchanan has left the Reform Party and taken with him, yes, ballot access in 20 states or so. But the Reform Party remains, and it is rebuilding, and we'll have ballot access in far more states and a far better-financed campaign.

COSSACK: Bay, I want to give you an opportunity to respond now.

BUCHANAN: You know, the people that left -- if you counted all the people that were with Mr. Hagelin and walked out of this convention -- let's assume every one of them -- his son, his daughter, whomever else, his spiritual adviser -- were all delegates. Assume they all were. There's 200. We had 441 in our -- who voted for Pat Buchanan, legitimate delegates. We beat him 2 to 1, even if you threw in everybody he wants to -- who was out there for him. We beat him everywhere.

This is a nut case who's trying to steal the Reform Party, trying to go to the FEC, make problems for us. It's not going to stand up in court. It's a joke, my attorney says. He feels that we have all the documents, everything we need. We did everything right. We won fair and square. And the people that the FEC recognizes as the chairman of this party has certified us in 32 states, and that's what's going to hold up.

COSSACK: All right, let's take a break.

Up next: What will happen with the fledgling Reform Party? And how will the FEC resolve this intra-party dispute?

Stay with us.

(BEGIN Q&A)

Q: What famous painting was stolen on this day in 1911?

A: The Mona Lisa.

The painting was recovered in 1913, and Vincenzo Peruggia served 7 months of a 1-year sentence for the theft.

(END Q&A)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSSACK: There is dispute in Ross Perot's Reform Party. Two candidates emerged from the party's convention declaring themselves to be the nominee. Now the FEC will decide who really represents the party and could help shape the future of it.

Commissioner, we're talking about who gets $12 million. How is the number $12 million decided upon?

WOLD: Well, the Reform Party's nominee is entitled to the public funding in that amount based on the percentage of the vote that the Reform Party's candidate received in the last presidential election -- that is, in 1996. You take the popular vote received by the Reform nominee in that campaign, as compared to the average of the popular vote received by the two major party candidates, and they're entitled to public funding in the same ratio as in the amount of the -- taken as a percentage of the public funding that the major party nominees are entitled to this year. And those are based on a statutory computation.

VAN SUSTEREN: John, on the -- Pat Buchanan has said that he wants to participate in the Republican (ph) debates. He has, according to the last poll that I have, less than 2 percent of the vote, but he has over -- about 64 percent of the American people think the Reform Party candidate should be in the presidential debate. What are you going to do about the presidential debate?

HAGELIN: Well, I have four years' standing in a lawsuit against the FEC and the Debates Commission to open up these debates to be representative of the American people. This 15 percent threshold put in place by the so-called Debates Commission was obviously fine-tuned to keep third-party voices out of the debate. Abraham Lincoln, as a third-party candidate, would not have been admitted to these debates under these absurd rules.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Mark, I think it's a little bit of big- footing by the two major parties, as well, this 15 percent threshold. It strikes me as odd since the presidential debate would be a time where you could persuade the American people to vote for you. If over 60 percent want to hear from the Reform Party candidate, whether it be John Hagelin or Pat Buchanan, isn't this 15 percent threshold big- footing by the two major parties?

BRADEN: Yes. The bottom line is the two parties are controlling the Debate Commission to some degree, and their desire is not to have competitive voices on the stage with them. Of course, the answer to that is yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Chairman, how do you -- how do you respond to that? I mean...

COSSACK: What are you going to do about that, Chairman?

VAN SUSTEREN: Yeah, what are you going to do about that?

COSSACK: Yeah.

VAN SUSTEREN: The American people want to hear from these candidates.

WOLD: Well, again, our role in this is somewhat limited, so I can duck a little bit on this issue also. Our regulations provide that -- only that the -- the debate -- the criteria for being a participant in the debates has to be objectively set by the entity that is staging...

VAN SUSTEREN: How -- how -- what if it's...

WOLD: ... the debates, so...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... big-footing by two major parties to keep the Reform Party candidate out? Is that an objective criteria?

COSSACK: As admitted by our guest, Mark...

VAN SUSTEREN: Yeah, Mark Braden.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: And I'm sure Bay would agree. Go ahead, Bay.

BUCHANAN: Greta, they'll be -- the Federal Election Commission will be before a judge and our attorney, I believe it's the 6th or the 7th of September, to make their case. We make a very strong case that when you have the taxpayers financing a third party, which they are in the Reform Party, and the recognize us as a national party, that you can't have some bipartisan commission keeping us out...

VAN SUSTEREN: That's -- which is...

BUCHANAN: ... and it's a strong case.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's (INAUDIBLE) is the American taxpayers paying $12.5 million...

COSSACK: Right.

BUCHANAN: Exactly.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... but the parties won't let us hear from the party to whom we're giving this $12.4 million.

But I get the last word today.

COSSACK: And you're right!

VAN SUSTEREN: And I'm -- oh, good. And Roger agrees with me! Now I know I'm right.

(LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN: That's all the time we have for today. Thanks to our guests, and thank you for watching.

Today on "TALKBACK LIVE": Today's young women are single, and they're lovin' it. Find out why husbands are out and girl power is in today at 3:00 PM Eastern time, noon Pacific.

COSSACK: And join us tomorrow for another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF. We'll see you then.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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