Americans for Democratic Action, deeply divided over how far to go in condemning Jimmy Carter, yesterday took the first step toward joining the draft-Kennedy-for-president movement.
In a session marked by bitter debate, ADA's political commission recommended that the organizations, long the voice of the liberal establishment, commit itself to creating "an irresistible national mandate" to make Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D.-Mass.) a candidate. The full organization will consider the recommendation Sunday.
Although acknowledge support of many of the president's foreign policies, the panel passed a resolution declaring that "Carter has given us conservative domestic policies and Republican Party economic programs.
"Jimmy Carter is a one-way ticket to defeat and a trip to a party bankrupt of principles and devoid of officeholders in 1980."
Meanwhile, there were reports that a draft-Kennedy group in New Hampshire may be able to match the Carter relection campaign dollar for dollar in the nation's first presidential primary next year.
Dudley Dudley, one of the organizers of the effort, was quoted as telling friends at the ADA convention that she has received pledges of $250,000 for a Kennedy write-in campaign in the state. Under federal election laws, spending for the primary will be limited to about $265,000.
Dudley, a member of the governor's executive council and the highest elected woman of officeholder in the state, refused to confirm or deny the reports. "All I can say is we've been to a lot of different places and we've been warmly received," she said.
Joanne Symons, another organizer of the group, said: "In politics, you've raised money when you put it in the bank. We don't have any money in the bank yet."
The New Hampshire reports were the first sign of any solid financial backing behind the draft-Kennedy drive. Fund-raising efforts have been slow and haphazard in the more than dozen states where such groups are active. One group in Minnesota, for example, is already $10,000 in debt; another in Florida has raised $14,000, sources said.
Much of the success of fund-raising efforts apparently hinges on how the Federal Election Commission interprets a gray area of federal election law. If the draft-Kennedy groups are allowed to go ahead with plans to form multi-candidate committees for "a Democratic alternative" in each state, they would be able to skirt normal limits on donations, a move that surely would be challenged by Carter forces. Under the multi-candidate committee proposal, an individual could contribute up to $5,000 in a state, to a maximum of $25,000. Otherwise, individuals could not give more than $1,000 in each state, or $5,000 for the entire national effort.
Before passing the harshly worded resolution yesterday, the ADA's political commission turned back a series of efforts to water it down amid protests that a draft-Kennedy drive would divide the Democratic Party.
Jo Pomerance, a longtim ADA board member, demanded that the organization's leadership be consured for tacitly endorsing such a move. "What's the use of dumping Carter when we don't know if Kennedy will be a candiate? I don't want to sponsor a fight within the Democratic Party," she said in a interview. She added that she thought the move would damage chances of the Senate approving the strategic arms limitation treaty.
Most of the arguments focused not on whether or not to condemn Carter but on what language to use in doing so, and whether or not to endorse a draft-Kennedy drive. "If you're going to force Teddy Kennedy to run this year, you've handicapped the best liberal figure on the scene," said Marvin Rosenburg, a delegate from New York.
The resolution approved, drafted by the International Association of Machinists, was the most strident one presented to the panel. It lambasted Carter's domestic programs and accused the president of ignoring the 1976 Democratic platform.
Kennedy, it said, "has spoken out forcefully and courageously on the important issues of the day, making it clear that he is the preeminent political leader for all progressive causes."
Th Kennedy-Carter controversy continued last night with a debate pitting Stuart E. Eixenstat, the president's chief domestic adviser, against Rep. Fortney H. Stark (D.-Calif.), a draft-Kennedy advocate; David Mixner, a spokeman for California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., and William W. Winpisinger, president of the machinist's union and an outspoken Carter critic.
The 32nd annual ADA convention is being held through tomorrow at the Mayflower Hotel. CAPTION: Picture, DUDLEY DUDLEY . . . "we've been warmly received"