Magazine article Newsweek

Perot's Party Manners

Magazine article Newsweek

Perot's Party Manners

Article excerpt

Instead of toppling politics as usual, the obsessive billionaire is acting more like an old-style boss

THE DEVIL, ROSS PEROT LIKES TO say, is in the details. So it's not surprising that Dick Lamm finds himself in Reform Party Hell. The former Colorado governor has been getting an education in democracy, Ross style, since he decided to challenge Perot for the new party's first presidential nomination. Want the list of the 1.3 million Reform Party members who have supposedly received ballots in the mail? Love to help, party officials told Lamm, but it would violate federal election regulations. By the way, they went on, even if you were to use the list for direct mailings, the language would have to be reviewed in advance by Perotpaid bureaucrats in Dallas. That's to guard against negative campaigning, of course. The pugnacious Lamm is growing more than a little exasperated. "I don't mind begin a [sacrificial] lamb," he said, "but I don't want to be a goat."

The party that was supposed to transform American politics now looks like just another venue for Perot's control fetish. After insisting that the party "isn't about me"--and encouraging Lamm to run--Perot jumped into the race within a day of Lamm's announcement. Lamm, who wanted to run a highminded campaign on the need for fiscal austerity, has resorted to indignant sputtering. Forced to debate Perot factotum and Reform Party chairman Russ Verney on CNN (Perot himself won't appear with Lamm), the former governor demanded access to the mailing list. …

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