Textile Billionaire Gave Pat Buchanan $2.1 Million Boost -- Front Group Paid To Fight Free Trade
Textile billionaire Roger Milliken cleared the way for Pat Buchanan's run for the White House with pre-campaign donations of more than $2.1 million.
Milliken's record-setting gifts were given not to Buchanan's presidential campaign - which is prohibited by federal law from accepting more than $1,000 per individual - but to a little-known, nonprofit organization controlled by the conservative commentator and his sister.
That group, the American Cause, spent most of Milliken's millions on a 1994 advertising campaign aimed at persuading Congress to defeat the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), according to its former financial administrator.
The campaign against GATT failed.
But with the Spartanburg, S.C., billionaire's money, Buchanan succeeded in building a political organization that has made him the strongest conservative challenger to the Republican Party establishment since Ronald Reagan.
"What appears to have happened at the American Cause is a classic example of the power of money in politics," said Josh Goldstein, research director for the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics.
On the last Friday night in 1994, Angela "Bay" Buchanan and her staff locked the doors of the suburban Virginia offices of the American Cause.
The next week, she returned to the same Elm Street office and opened the national headquarters of her brother's presidential campaign.
Also returning to the McLean offices were campaign hand Terence Jeffrey, fund-raiser Connie Mackey, advance man Tim Haley and treasurer Scott Mackenzie.
American Cause promoted Buchanan's political positions and employed his staff between election cycles.
Milliken gave American Cause $1,902,000 specifically to lobby against GATT, and another $250,000 to support the organization's other activities, according to Mackenzie.
"Two million dollars is off the charts," Goldstein said. "That's a huge contribution by any standard."
Inherited from Reagan
Other candidates, including Bob Dole and Lamar Alexander, have used nonprofit fronts. But Buchanan's group carried an unusually rich Republican pedigree.
"After Pat ran for president in 1992, he and Bay were trying to figure out what to do with the organization he had built," said Lyn Nofziger, an adviser to former President Reagan.
"They decided to set up a (not-for-profit corporation)," Nofziger said. "But these things can take as long as six months to get through the IRS."
So Nofziger offered Buchanan the use of a corporation that he and Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese had set up in 1978.
Bay Buchanan changed the name from Citizens for the Republic to the American Cause in February 1993. She and her brother led the group's board of directors.
Bay Buchanan was paid $47,500 in 1993, and Jeffrey made $52,500, according to tax documents on file in Virginia.
"This organization was essentially the launch pad for Buchanan's presidential campaign," Goldstein said.
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