LaRouchites Try for a Foothold in County

By Judith Scherr
Thursday May 29, 2008 - 09:43:00 AM

Described as friendly, brilliant and bright-eyed—and at the same time as scary and cult-like—six LaRouche Democrats are running for Alameda County Democratic Central Committee (ACDCC) slots. 

Historical complaints about the LaRouchites—racism, homophobia and sexism—are not the salient characteristics noted by local Democratic Party activists concerned about the mostly under-30 crop of Lyndon LaRouche followers in Alameda County.  

“They’re trying to get a foothold in the Democratic Party,” said Edie Irons, who is running for a seat on the ACDCC on the Grassroots Progressive (GP) slate in the June 3 election. 

“We’re all really concerned—it’s anxiety-provoking,” said Sumi Parajape, also stumping for a slot on the Central Committee as part of the same slate. LaRouchites have run in the county before with one or two candidates. “There’s never been a full slate of Lyndon LaRouche supporters,” Parajape said. 

Concerns of a half-dozen local Democratic Party activists contacted by the Planet center around the group’s apparent intent to move the committee away from its current activities doing local organizing around concrete issues such as health care and improved working conditions. 

Repeated attempts by the Planet to reach the LaRouche candidates were unsuccessful. 

Irons described the behavior of LaRouchites when they come to the county meetings: “Mostly, they’re pretty quiet in meetings—then they’ll ask a non-sequitor question,” she said.  

Irons talked about her interaction with a member of the Lyndon LaRouche Youth Movement (LYM) at a recent Democratic Party state convention.  

“He wound up telling me what we have to do is explore the planet Mars and bring back the space program,” she said.  

Irons described the group at a recent state convention: “It was a large group, all under 30-years-old—a lot of people of color. It was overwhelmingly men. They aggressively passed out literature.” 

And they were singing. 

Douglas MacLean, communications director for Assemblymember Sandre Swanson, observed them singing just outside the convention. “I think they were singing their platform,” he said, “something about FDR, global warming and an international conspiracy.” 

Several persons who have had contact with the LaRouchites said they were exceptionally bright. “He gets smart kids,” said Mark Briggs, who is running for a slot on the committee with the Grassroots Progressives. Briggs said that the LaRouchites talk impressively about international politics—but do so when the discussion is focused around other questions, such as how to build the local party.  

None of the local Democratic Party activists contacted by the Planet felt they knew the purpose of the LaRouchites’ attempted entry into the local party structure. 

“When they speak, it’s like they’re presenting an ideological statement, more like diatribes,” said Howard Egerman, a 14-year member of the ACDCC, describing a meeting held by Rep. Barbara Lee at the Allen Temple Baptist Church in East Oakland: “They kept asking strange questions—and singing,” he said. 

“I’m not able to truly understand what they want to do,” Irons said. “Their weird evangelism is off-putting to me.” 

On the League of Women Voters’ website, LaRouchite candidate Ian Overton has posted a “position paper,” written by Amelia Robinson, of the Schiller Institute, one of the institutions associated with the LaRouche organization. The paper is more of a letter of advice to the six LaRouche candidates: Overton, Jon Stuart (incumbent), Ben Deniston, John Craig, Ramiro Bravo and Oyang Teng. 

In part, it says: “Though this is a seriously messed-up world, with Lyn’s and Helga’s [Lyndon and Helga LaRouche] wisdom and experience you can’t go wrong. You are building the foundation for bigger and better positions (be sure you keep your mind and body clean), so don’t stop keeping your eyes on the prize (President). Above all, keep your hand in the Hand (God’s) of the man who troubles the waters. To get to the top, be kind, patient, and loving, as well as truthful.” 

Another aspect of the group that worries local Democrats is that the LaRouchites apparently get paid for their work in the Democratic Party. 

“The rest of us have regular jobs,” said Howard Egerman, a 14-year member of the ACDCC. He said the question of paid activism came up at a Metropolitan Greater-Oakland Democratic Club candidates’ forum. “The question was, ‘Are you paid?’ They said, ‘yes,’” he said. The statement was confirmed by a second person attending the meeting. 

The purpose of the 40-member ACDCC is to build the Democratic Party at the grass roots—register voters, search out candidates, endorse people running for office and actively campaign for them. 

The LaRouche Democrats do not do the nuts and bolts work of building the party and supporting candidates, Egerman said.  

“I’d like to see someone from our party as governor” and getting good appointments for judges, but “they’re thinking only about Lyndon LaRouche.” Egerman said. 

Lyndon LaRouche, 85, has run for president eight times since 1978, seven times on the Democratic Party ticket. In the 1990s he was convicted of tax and mail fraud and served five years of a 15-year sentence. Researcher and writer Chip Berlet notes that LaRouche claimed he has no income “although he lived in a huge mansion surrounded by armed guards, and regularly jetted around the globe....” (See www.publiceye.org/larouche/truestory.html.) 

Sumi Paranjape, running on the Grassroots Progressive slate, told the Planet that most voters don’t know who is running. They will look at their ballot and all the information they’ll get are names and occupations. 

The cultlike nature of the group is of concern, Egerman said. “The overall goals are tied to one person—Lyndon LaRouche.” 

“Something about them makes you uneasy,” said Rodney Brooks, chief of staff to Supervisor Keith Carson.  

For information from Lyndon LaRouche, see www.larouchepac.com.