By Albert Samaha
By Darwin BondGraham
By Keegan Hamilton
By Anna Merlan
By Anna Merlan
By Tessa Stuart
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIAOstensibly, what took place here at the Doubletree Hotel last week was merely Brigadeführer Patrick Buchanan's announcement that he and his minions were defecting from the Party of Lincoln to the Party of Perot. Metaphorically, it was yet another example of a dysfunctional polity begetting an even more dysfunctional corrective: a Franco-esque presidential pretender buttressed not just by his loyal Kulturkampf storm troopers, but by the hedging support of the profoundly weird and perennially scheming Lenora B. Fulani.
As an exercise in irony, the event did not disappoint: that Buchanan would address his business-suit-clad, Wall Street Journal?reading audience as a "peasant army" was worth the trip to Falls Church alone. But what of the leadership of this army? Largely unreported in the wake of this conclave of whooping yahoos was news that the Buchanan campaign has either purged or been deserted by some of its most loyal soldiers, that some in the upper echelons of the campaign have historically used the Buchanan apparatus to do anything but take vows of poverty, and that because of his switch Buchanan's campaign could be on shaky financial ground.
To take the second item first: In 1996, for example, Bay Buchanan was working as Pat's campaign manager, making over $100,000. The Buchanan '96 campaign's main purchaser of media time was a company called WTS Media. Incorporated in 1994, WTS had a Maryland address-not an office building, in fact, but the residential apartment of one Carolyn Melby, an ex?Buchanan campaign staffer employed by Bay Buchanan, who, filings with the FEC reveal, was proprietor of WTS. Registered with the Virginia Corporation Commission by the future general counsel of the Buchanan campaign, and including as an officer campaign treasurer Scott Mackenzie, WTS did $4 million worth of business during the 1996 cycle and took an 8 percent commission, netting a $320,000 profit.
When queried on his association with WTS in 1996, Mackenzie said he had no idea his name was on the company papers, and Michael George, the campaign counsel, indicated he'd had no role in WTS since he filed the papers at Bay's behest, and that it was Bay's baby. Bay, for her part, has explained that outside media buyers usually take a 15 percent commission, that her 8 percent was a savings for the campaign, and that a substantial portion of the commission money went to pay for production costs. In 1997, according to Virginia state records, WTS changed its name to Carmel Consultants, and lists Melby as "president/ secretary/treasurer." When asked last week about the name change and any role Carmel might play in the upcoming campaign, Bay claimed she was "unaware" the company she owned had changed names and management, but added that using Carmel in the 2000 campaign was a possibility.
The WTS/Carmel specter isn't the only ghost of campaign finance past lurking around the Buchanans. Earlier this year, the FEC released its audit of the Buchanan for President '96 campaign. Among its findings was that the campaign "did not exercise best efforts to obtain and report" the occupations or employer names of contributors who gave a total of $2,422,604 to the campaign. The audit also found that nearly $60,000 in disbursements couldn't be accounted for, and that another $51,343 in expenses either had nothing to do with the campaign or were redundant. But perhaps the most intriguing item dealt with a company called Matching Funds, Inc., which the campaign hired to prepare and file applications to the government for matching funds. "MFI did not make commercially reasonable attempts to collect $183,009 for services rendered," the FEC found, "thereby making an apparent prohibited contribution" to Buchanan's campaign. (The campaign is appealing the findings.)
A principal in MFI is campaign treasurer and longtime Bay lieutenant Scott Mackenzie, which makes this all the more interesting. The Voice had planned to ask Mackenzie about MFI-and about the allegations of '96 campaign finance improprieties raised in a much-neglected September Penthouse article by an ex?Buchanan staffer, Stephen Marks-after Buchanan's Monday announcement. However, the Voice discovered, upon the presentation of a business card by one Robert Bowes, identifying him as "finance director," that Mackenzie-who goes back with Bay to the days of the Reagan campaign-is no longer with the campaign. Vague on the details of Mackenzie's departure, Bowes characterized Marks's article as "bogus." When asked about a specific claim in Marks's article that Buchanan staffers were taking unusable cash contributions, buying money orders with them, and funneling them back into the campaign, Bowes responded that such alleged improprieties "never happened."
The Voice had also intended to ask press aide Bob Adams about the Marks article, but learned that Adams, too, has been replaced and is no longer with the campaign. Neither, the Voice discovered, is longtime Buchanan webmistress Linda Muller. According to a copy of an October 19 e-mail sent by Muller to Buchanan supporters and obtained by the Voice, Muller was abruptly fired by Bay Buchanan. "She explained that the campaign was going in a different direction and that I no longer fit in with her plans," Muller wrote, saying she was "in a state of shock and disbelief," since "for the last five years my whole life has been dedicated to Pat and our cause." When asked last Monday if all recent staff departures were voluntary, Bay Buchanan said Adams left because he didn't want to leave the GOP, while "the others were just, you know, internal decisions."
According to renegade ex-operative Marks, the departures of Muller and Mackenzie are "surprising," but the rough handling of employees isn't exactly unprecedented. "One of the ironies of the Buchanan campaign was that Pat was promoting himself as sticking up for the little guy, yet the campaign violated federal labor law by not paying its hourly employees time and a half when they went over 40 hours," says Marks. After filing a complaint with the Department of Labor that eventually went to court, one worker even got a $5000 settlement.
While the Buchananites stand to get over $12 million in matching funds from the federal government if they win the Reform nomination, it's not entirely clear what the Buchanan finances are going to look like in the coming months. After Buchanan's Monday announcement, his sister noted several times that, despite his change of parties, "it's still the same campaign." Buchanan's switch of allegiance raises an interesting question: Now that he's a Reform Party candidate, can he use the money he raised as a Republican candidate to get federal matching funds? According to the FEC's Sharon Snyder, the agency has "indicated we thought the question was ripe for an advisory request" from the Buchanan campaign. No request, she says, has been received; if another candidate or citizen filed a complaint, however, the FEC would be obliged to investigate, or the FEC could launch a compliance investigation of its own.
Which, perhaps, makes something musician Warren Zevon said last Friday night at the State Theater in Falls Church potentially prophetic. Amending the lyrics to "Werewolves of London," he sang, "you better stay away from him, he'll rip your lungs out, Jim, and he's coming for Pat Buchanan."