A story about Ann Stone of Republicans for Choice in last Saturday's Style section incorrectly described the Legal Times's response to Stone's complaints about an article it published. Legal Times ran a correction and offered Stone an opportunity to write a rebuttal, but did not promise her a front-page article. (Published 4/11/ 92)

She was tromping around the Hill a while ago. Lo and behold, Bob Dornan came striding toward her down a long hallway in the Capitol. Oh no, she thought. Not Bob, the winger of wingers, the extra-chromosome conservative, the bellicose congressman from Orange County, Calif. Once upon a time, they'd been comrades. She'd had all the right credentials -- helping Jesse Helms with his '78 campaign, raising money for the contras. Why, she and Dornan met 16 years ago at a meeting at Richard Viguerie's! They had fought for SDI together too!

But things had gotten a bit uncomfortable. Since Ann Stone started Republicans for Choice a couple of years ago, well, ah, money for the PAC was coming in all right -- more than a million dollars -- but people were turning against her at the same time. One of the nasty letters that arrived in her Alexandria mailbox had been from Dornan: You just fell off the Republican bridge and the raging waters are sweeping you to the rocks to destroy you forever. ...

In the hallway, Dornan was engrossed in conversation. As he passed Stone, though, he stretched out his hand, offered a shake. She was stunned.

"He wasn't really focusing," Stone says now. "And after he shook my hand, I turned to a guy next to me and said: 'Obviously, Bob has no idea whose hand he just shook.' "

Dornan says this is "just totally wrong." He knew that was Ann Stone's hand, for goodness' sake, and he shook it in a gesture of genuine friendship. She's just being defensive, he says. Life hasn't been easy for Stone since the conservative world learned that she has been a "closet pro-choicer" all these years.

"She has gone against her own tribe, and she'll pay for that," says Dornan. "Now she's forced to be with people who only agree with her on this one issue, and they'll be welfare society types, giant government types. All that. And she's going to be very, very lonely."

But tomorrow she won't be lonely. She'll be marching.

Don't let the headband or the childhood nickname fool you: Ann "Bitsey" Stone is a little weird, a little controversial. She's a 39-year-old self-made direct-mail millionaire with blond hair hanging to her hips and ceramic sculptures of food (ice cream, Chinese noodles) all over her town house offices in Old Town. She's gregarious and apparently free of nagging self-doubt.

"You know the person who gets in the rowboat to go after Moby Dick and takes along the tartar sauce?" she says. "That's sorta me."

She almost seems to enjoy being despised, a trait she shares with her ex-husband, political consultant Roger Stone. In 1989, over dinner one night, old pal Lee Atwater gave her the idea of starting a pro-abortion-rights PAC for the Republican Party, and ever since, it seems, people have been taking exception.

Like she's been condemned by the College Republicans. She's been asked to leave the party by antiabortion activist Colleen Parro and ignored by Viguerie, the conservative direct-mail specialist who was her boss for six years. Phyllis Schlafly has organized a group -- the Republican National Coalition for Life -- partly to counter her efforts. Her old friends at Human Events, the conservative weekly where she worked from 1974 to 1976, have turned extremely critical. She kept her subscription just to read the nasty things printed about her. "They think that I've grown horns," she says.

Even people on the same side of the issue have been offended by Stone's presence in the abortion-rights landscape. People don't like her politics. People don't like direct-mail types either. Planned Parenthood has been pretty supportive, but the National Abortion Rights Action League people have seemed a little wary. She tried to share mailing lists of abortion-rights activists with NARAL, and NARAL refused. When she wanted to construct a massive data bank of antiabortion people's names in order to purge them from future mailing lists, it wouldn't comply either.

Oh, but that's to be expected from liberals and Democrats -- they've been marching down on the Mall in the cold weather and spending millions of dollars on abortion rights for a decade now. Why on earth should a member of the knee-jerk fringe be trusted? No, the strange thing is this: Even Stone's fellow abortion-rights Republicans don't seem to like her.

"I don't even know Ann Stone, and I don't want to hurt her," says Dorene Whitney -- Republican Eagle and board member of WISH, a newly formed group committed to getting pro-abortion-rights Republican women candidates elected -- "but she could NOT have been a pro-choicer and helping out Jesse Helms in 1978. I was already writing to him then, on this very issue. Perhaps this is why people don't trust her."

Stone says she has "always been pro-choice" and considers herself "almost a libertarian." Abortion rights are utterly compatible with her overall political ideology of maximum personal freedom, she says. "I've always had conservative friends who never bothered to ask my opinion," she says, "and probably assumed something different. And since it was not a position that I was comfortable with -- in the sense that it was so incongruent with a lot of the people I was working with at the time -- I kept a little quiet about it."

Why didn't she come forward sooner?

"I felt that there were so many people out there -- working on the abortion rights issue already -- that they didn't need my voice. And until the Supreme Court decision on Webster, I didn't feel abortion rights were being challenged."

Liberals hate hearing that argument, but it seems true of all the Republican abortion-rights groups. The National Republican Coalition for Choice, a grass-roots lobbying group with Barry Goldwater and Betty Ford on its board, was formed in 1989 after Webster v. Reproductive Health Services. Pro-Choice America, another PAC funding Republican candidates, was started in early 1990. So far, Stone's group has raised the most money -- probably more than all of them combined -- and caused the biggest fuss. Jealousy, suspicion, you name it.

"It's very hard for these people -- coming from two very different places in the Republican Party -- to forget the history, forget the past," says one Republican woman who sits on the boards of two abortion-rights groups. "It's especially hard for the moderates to forget the wounds inflicted by the conservatives."

Stone argues that her conservative credentials have helped her get meetings with Republican National Committee Chairman Rich Bond, and Clayton Yeutter before him. But it's just those credentials that bother everybody else. Dorene Whitney remembers complaining bitterly to the RNC about its antiabortion platform, and finally, "when my complaining got pretty loud, they recommended that I get in touch with Ann Stone." This troubled Whitney enormously.

"Abortion is a very sore subject over there at the RNC," says Whitney, "and this seemed a way for them to tap me on the head and think they'd made me happy. I couldn't help wondering if Ann Stone wasn't too close to them, an ally of theirs. Otherwise, why give me her name?"

Recently, a rather negative article about Stone appeared in Legal Times, filled with critical quotes by other Republican abortion-rights advocates. This caused a nice sonic boom among all the interested parties. Daniel Swillinger, who runs Pro-Choice America, supplied the most deadly remarks: "People say she was anointed by Lee Atwater to start this group as a way to siphon off money from other organizations that are more genuinely pro-choice."

"Swillinger?" asks Stone. "If he wants to go through life paranoid, that's fine with me."

Aside from this sort of fabulous sniper fire, the front-page Legal Times article focused mostly on Stone's financial success with her PAC -- and suggested that she cared more about making money than changing the GOP party platform, that she wasn't giving enough away to candidates, that her own companies were profiting. This was just the sort of thing everybody was hoping for. "We will welcome the full airing of the list {of candidates} to whom Republicans for Choice has given money," says Nancy Sternoff, executive director of the National Republican Coalition for Choice. "I think everybody is interested in where the money's going."

Stone's businesses -- a direct mail company called Ann E.W. Stone & Associates, a graphics company called Unique Graphics & Design, a list broker called Capstone Lists -- received 14.46 percent of the money raised by Republicans for Choice in 1990 and 1991, according to an expenditures breakdown provided by the PAC's executive director, Anita Benjamin.

As it happens, Stone is forced by law to charge Republicans for Choice standard rates for services rendered -- and start-up costs for direct mail are notoriously high. "I could have used somebody else's company to avoid even the appearance of looking weird," she says. "But I know my work is good."

Political fund-raising by direct mail has its admirers but also its critics, since typically -- and in the case of Stone's PAC -- much of the money raised is spent sending out more mail, more fund-raising. Overall, 10.6 percent of the money raised by Republicans for Choice during 1990 and 1991 was paid out to candidates. "Our primary existence is not handing out cash to candidates," says Stone. "Our first goal has always been to locate and mobilize pro-choice Republicans, and effect a sea change."

PACs often give very little money away the first few years, and after that, give rather inconsistent amounts year to year, based on need and numbers of desirable candidates. A newer PAC, Voters for Choice, gave 11 percent away last year. NARAL, one of the oldest and most established abortion-rights PACs, gave away 27 percent. Swillinger's group, Pro-Choice America, raised $47,725 in 1991 and gave nothing to federal candidates, according to its Federal Election Commission report.

"It wasn't an election year," says Swillinger. "A fair comparison cannot be made."

This week, Stone complained in person to Eric Effron, the editor and publisher of Legal Times. (Has it been mentioned that she gives seminars on "negotiating" or that she won some rather unconventional clauses in her divorce settlement: a week a year at the Golden Door and full dog support for her four miniature dachshunds -- Milhous, Taft, Dewey and Fritz?)

"I thought she was a ball of fire," says Effron, who admits the piece provided "an incomplete picture" of Stone's financial dealings. A front-page story correcting the misleading information in the first article has been promised, and space for a rebuttal written by Republicans for Choice.

"I don't mind taking a fair shot," Stone says, "but the stuff that's been going on between pro-choice groups is vicious and counterproductive. Our enemies in the White House must be laughing."

How Big Is the Tent?

They might be laughing, but probably not for long. Spring and summer should prove a busy time for everybody in the Republican abortion-rights movement. Roe v. Wade could be overturned at the end of April. The convention in August will provide an opportunity for the GOP party platform -- solidly antiabortion for 12 years now -- to be changed, either slightly or altogether. Polls are showing that from 50 to 70 percent of Republicans support abortion rights, depending how the question is asked. (The Washington Post/ABC poll taken last summer showed the party split 50-50.)

George Bush, who has shifted his position on abortion rather delicately, but often, over the last 15 years, now opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother's life. "There are no plans to change the platform language on abortion, period," says Jim Cicconi, senior issues adviser for the Bush campaign. "The president's position is very clear, and it hasn't changed one iota."

This decision was made after some indecision, it would seem. Last November, Vice President Dan Quayle publicly used the expression Big Tent -- the buzzword of all those interested in broadening the GOP position -- but soon met with great opposition from the antiabortion groups.

"It seems Quayle was sent out to see what got thrown at him," says Catharine Sibble, president of the Big Tent PAC in Massachusetts and a regional field director for Republicans for Choice. "And when things got thrown at him, he started talking about the Pro-Life Big Tent, which is an oxymoron."

Any indecision may have ended with Pat Buchanan's campaign, although a certain air of hedging continues if you read carefully. RNC Chairman Rich Bond, at a March 13 press conference in the Houston Astrodome, said: "The current Republican Party position is not going to change, and that is the way that President Bush wants it. However, I feel it is very important to note that the Republican Party is not a single issue cause. It is a diversity of opinion. ... There is no litmus test on this issue -- or any other issue within the Republican Party, and therefore it is a big tent and we want people to participate in it."

Big tent or pup tent or sleeping bag, Stone and the other abortion-rights Republicans are hunkering down for battle -- or at least hoping for the chance to cause some trouble and get some attention. "It's always tough to come up against the president's guys," says Nancy Sternoff. "They have to be worried about a floor fight on national TV."

"I think it is going to be a big issue in July and August," says Gary Bauer, former White House domestic policy adviser and now president of the Family Research Council, an antiabortion group in Washington. "Even more than economy, people are feeling worried about where we are headed. ... They want to know what we stand for, who we are, what we care about."

"It's obvious to me," says Phyllis Schlafly, "that Ann Stone has mailed a million letters already. She is, as they say in the trade, in the mail. "

Two or three million pieces of mail, actually. "It's like Poland hearing about Lithuania. Like Croatia hearing about Afghanistan," says Stone. "In our party, as long as everybody believed the myth that most Republicans were right-to-life, then people were kept quiet. But when they get our mail in Podunk City, Midwest ... they say, gosh! We thought we were the only ones who felt like that."

Anti-Communist From Way Back

In junior high school when other friends were worried about boys, Ann Elizabeth Wesche Stone says she worried about the recent decisions of the Supreme Court, about the welfare system hurting the poor. "I remember having conversations with myself about this walking home from school."

She's a clotheshorse now, she says, because she had to buy dollar dresses as a kid in Stratford, Conn. Her father died when she was 4, and she was raised "near the poverty level" by her mother. She can't remember if she got a 770 or 776 on her SAT math score, but it was up there.

Her brother, Robert Wesche, is the police chief of Monroe, Conn. Her sister, Edith Daubenspeck, is the church secretary at Trinity Episcopal in Southport.

She met Roger Stone at George Washington University, and he persuaded her to run for the secretary of the College Republicans, the group which now -- she's happy to tell you -- condemns her. They were married right out of college, in 1974, and it stuck for 16 years. "We both decided it was the right thing," she says. "You know you've grown apart when you go to the video store together and pick out separate videos and go to the house into separate rooms to watch them."

It was at 29, after learning the art of direct mail from Richard Viguerie, that she started her own company -- with $2,500. She had two employees then, and now has 30. Direct mail is just part of what they do. It's turned into a "direct response marketing and advertising firm," she says, "doing mail, 800-numbers, 900-numbers and public affairs." Last spring, she ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Alexandria, getting 40 percent of the vote.

She's been a conservative since she was 9, when she saw the Berlin Wall on television, she says. She watched a teenager trying to get over the wall, and then watched him getting shot.

"The East German guards just let him lie there and bleed to death rather than help him," says Stone. "That was so powerful. I had so many questions for my sister. Why aren't they helping that man? When she explained it to me, I became a fervent anti-communist... .

"Human freedom is the single thing that drives most of my philosophy," she says, "and particularly why choice needs to be the position for the party too. It's about human beings being able to determine their own destiny, and women having control over their lives... .

"I am the one who's consistent," says Stone, "not Phyllis Schlafly, not Gary Bauer, not Morton Blackwell {the conservative GOP leader from Virginia}. I am consistent. They aren't. And I'm able to make a very powerful statement to our party establishment. People think, if I'm willing to come out, then there must be a lot of other people like me, and there are."

But Bitsey -- all those years spent on the conservative fringe, all those days with "lifers," with Viguerie, with Dornan, with Helms?

"This is my penance," she says. "It's true. It's absolutely true. I was stupid and complacent. I thought this was never, never, never going to go away -- my rights. I was stupid and complacent not to make a bigger deal out of this."

Would you be stupid and complacent voting for George Bush?

"I don't know."