Patrick Buchanan’s Reform Party Begins to Unravel
As the reform party unravels in the wake of a disastrous run for office, right-wing extremists scramble to pick up the pieces
By Martin A. Lee
Whereas economic nationalism had been the centerpiece of Perot's campaign, Patrick Buchanan coupled his tirades against globalization with outspoken criticism of racial and cultural diversity.
His vilification of "illegal aliens" ("Listen, José, you're not coming in this time!") and civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., touched a raw nerve among those who saw Latinos and African-Americans as threats to white majority rule in the United States.
Buchanan explicitly warned of a Mexican plot to reconquer the American Southwest, a conspiracist notion embraced by hate groups and anti-immigration leaders, including many of K.C. McAlpin's colleagues.
Buchanan's presidential bid turned the Reform Party into a catch-basin for energetic racial nationalists who were eager to campaign for Pat. Right-wing extremists secured leadership roles in various state chapters, including the notable example of Virginia. There, Peter G. Gemma, a friend of Buchanan's and veteran far-right agitator, became a national committee member as a representative of the state Reform Party.
A self-described "moderate extremist," Gemma has championed many conservative causes over the years. His career includes a stint as executive director of the National Pro-Life Political Action Committee in the early 1980s.
The diminutive Gemma was also a member of the influential and highly secretive Council for National Policy (CNP). Founded in 1981, the CNP meets three times a year to strategize about how to advance a right-wing agenda. Its elite roster of heavy-hitters reads like a Who's Who of the hard right in the United States.
Past and present CNP members include financiers Nelson Bunker Hunt and Joseph Coors; religious right leaders Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Phyllis Schlafly and the late R.J. Rushdoony; public officials like Sen. Jesse Helms, then-Sen. John Ashcroft and former Attorney General Edwin Meese; militia booster and Gun Owners of America chief Larry Pratt, Catholic reactionary Paul Weyrich (see Mainstreaming Hate), black conservative Alan Keyes, and Iran-contra scandal operatives Maj. Gen. John Singlaub and Lt. Col. Oliver North.
A seasoned Republican campaign manager, Gemma was instrumental in raising money for Oliver North's unsuccessful Senate bid in 1994. He later helped Arizona Republican Tom Liddy (the son of Watergate felon G. Gordon Liddy) run a feisty campaign for Congress in another losing effort.
Increasingly friendly with fringe groups, Gemma has written articles for The New American, the magazine of the John Birch Society, which listed him as its spokesperson in a February 2000 press release demanding that the U.S government take back the Panama Canal. (Buchanan has praised the magazine for standing up "bravely and unapologetically in defense of values we hold dear.")
Although he still admires a few individual Republican politicians, Gemma has grown deeply disenchanted with the GOP as a whole, which he sees as the party of "big oil and big government."
When Buchanan switched to the Reform Party, so did Peter Gemma. During the 2000 presidential campaign, Gemma collaborated with the American Friends of the British National Party (AFBNP), a Virginia-based white nationalist organization, in an attempt to drum up support for Buchanan. (Led by British neofascist Mark Cotterill, the AFBNP may have violated U.S. law when it staged fundraising events in the United States and channeled money to a whites-only extremist party in Great Britain).
In a recent interview, Gemma tried to downplay his contacts with Cotterill, claiming that he merely "dropped off some Buchanan petitions" at an AFBNP function in Arlington, Va.
But a report in Heritage and Destiny, the AFBNP newsletter, indicates that Gemma was among a handful of speakers who addressed the gathering on March 30, 2000. U.S. neo-Nazi David Duke also spoke at this event, along with white-power Webmeister Don Black, proprietor of Stormfront (the first neo-Nazi outpost in cyberspace), which directed prospective volunteers to the Buchanan campaign Web site.
All in all, it must have been a worthwhile experience for Gemma, who appeared as a spokesman for the Virginia Reform Party at another AFBNP powwow a few weeks later.
Beyond the Paleocons
Mark Cotterill fraternized with the hardest of the neo-Nazi hard-core. He was a political hot potato, and Gemma knew it.
When the Washington Post reported that Cotterill was volunteering at the Virginia Reform Party offices, the negative publicity was too much to take — the British white supremacist was summarily tossed out the door by the Buchanan campaign.
The housecleaning, however, did not extend to Gemma or Edward Cassidy, another extremist Virginia Reform Party officer who hobnobbed with Cotterill. Cassidy, by his own account, served as one of the Buchanan campaign's official photographers.
Known as "Fisheye" in white nationalist circles, Cassidy also led a local chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist hate group that equates interracial marriage with genocide and lambastes "black militants, alien parasites, queer activists ... Christ haters" and, since Sept. 11, "Dirty Rotten Arabs and Muslims."
Cassidy also was a photographer for the CCC as late as this June. CCC leaders and activists were active in several Reform Party chapters around the country.
Additional support for Buchanan came from the Illinois-based Rockford Institute, a "paleo-conservative" think tank with links to two hate groups, the League of the South and the CCC.
Thomas Fleming, the institute's president, was a founding member of the League of the South, a racist neo-Confederate group. Sam Francis, editor of the CCC's Citizens Informer newsletter, is a regular contributor to the Rockford Institute's slick monthly magazine Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. (Adm. James Stockdale, a former Rockford Institute board member, was Perot's vice-presidential running mate in 1992.)
Described by Buchanan as "the toughest, best-written, and most profoundly insightful journal in America," Chronicles is geared toward a brainier white nationalist constituency than the racist Skinhead rabble who take their cues from hate rock music and neo-Nazi Web pages.
While mainstream neo-conservatives are tight with the GOP, so-called paleocon intellectuals have carved a niche for themselves as staunch, old-right traditionalists who romanticize the pre-civil rights era South. Fleming, who is Chronicles' editor, has gone so far as to describe the 19th century Ku Klux Klan as a "national liberation army."