Panama has hired former presidential campaign aides of Sen. Barry Goldwater (R. Aria.) and Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey (D-Minn.) to plan and execute a nationwide public relations drive backing a new Panama Canal treaty.
The contract between Panama's United Nations Mission and Public Affairs Analysts, a New York firm, became effective in January. F. Clifton White, who was the architect of Goldwater's 1964 bid for the White House, is president of the firm. Joseph Napolitan, who was the Humphrey campaign's media director in 1968 and has worked on many other political drives, is chief executive officer. Former Democratic National Chairman Lawrence F. O'Brien is an owner of the firm, though not active on a day-to-day basis.
Napolitan, in a telephone interview, estimated that Public Affairs Analysts would charge Panama $150,000 to $200,000 for its services over the first six months. He said the firm will send pro-treaty information to some [WORD ILLEGIBLE] influential politicians, journalists, and business people [WORD ILLEGIBLE] of groups opposing a canal treaty.He said the firm will not engage in lobbying or "propaganda" activities.
Panama's new public relations advisers represent only one facet of growing activity by groups on all sides of the canal issue, which may well become one of the major political controversides of 1977. The Carter administrations is backing to conclude negotiations with Panama on a new treaty by [WORD ILLEGIBLE] summer, hoping for Senate ratification before 1978, a congressional election year in which the controvernial treaty could become an issue.
Senate Democratic Whip Alan Crenston (Calif.) has been quietly conducting a headcount since Carter identified the canal treaty as a high-priority matter in a talk with legislators before Inauguration Day, Cranston said yesterday that 22 to 25 senators are "apt to be negative" to a new treaty as [WORD ILLEGIBLE] are [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] treaty" [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] of a new treaty, with [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] of the rest unknown.
Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) last year mustered as senators on an anti-treaty resolution. This is more than the one-third of the Senate, which can block ratification of a treaty by a two-thirds vote. Craston's figures show approved chances [WORD ILLEGIBLE] treaty ratification, but a tough [WORD ILLEGIBLE] likely [WORD ILLEGIBLE]
Congressional sides prepared continuing heavy mail on the Panama Canal treaty issue, mostly from groups oppresing what they maintain is a U.S. "giveaway." Some of the mail is generated by conservative publications, such as headlined articles in the current issues of Liberty Lobby's "Spotlight" and National States Rights Party's Thunderbolt" attacking a new canal treaty.
The Council of the Americas, made up of 220 major U.S. corporations with investments in Latin. America, [WORD ILLEGIBLE] such [WORD ILLEGIBLE] jetter to project any [WORD ILLEGIBLE] that would block negotiations for a new canal treaty. The [WORD ILLEGIBLE] signed by council president Henry M Gegiella, said successful solution of U.S. Panamanian differences would have "a very positive impact" on U.S. relations with Latin America.
The council has established a "work group" senior executives from 45 corporations to counter opposition to a canal treaty. Officials said an initial budget of $31,000 for a year's work has been for exceeded by actual operations, including publication and distribution to 8,000 people of a 36-page pamphlet an the arguments for and against a new treaty.
The council's research arm has compiled a list of 20 organizations that have taken anti-treaty positions, ranging from the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars to the Canal Zone Police Lodge.
Among the active anti-treaty groups are:
Task Force on the Panam Canal, a project of the American Council for World [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Washington [WORD ILLEGIBLE] conservative groups. In a fund-raising letter to the project last September, council president Fred Schiafly claimed his organisation in 1975 "spent just under $100,000 to stop the surrender of the pPanama Canal."
Committee on Latin American Policy, a previously independent conservative group that last year because an "autonomous" division of the John Birch Society. It recently sent out an appeal for funds featuring a five-page pamphlet titled, "Who Owns the Panama Canal Anyhow?"
Canal Zone Non-Profit Public Information Corp. whose director of public information in Phillip Harman, a tireless anti-treaty figure who calls himself "the grandson-in-law of the founder of the Republic of Panama." Harman in 1953 married a grand-daughter of Jose Aranga, a member of the junta that setablished the first Panamanian government.
U.S. officials expect perhaps the most important sales campaign of all to be launched within a month or two if negotiations with Panama preceed favorably, President Carter has ommitted himself in private to a major drive backing the new treaty, insisting a televised "fireside chat" deveed to the issue.