The Veterans of Foreign Wars, disgusted by domestic and foreign policies of the Carter administration, voted today to create a committee to endorse candidates and contribute to their campaigns.
The voice vote, which was not unanimous, was taken at the 80th convention of the 1.8 million-member organization. Until today, the VFW had remained largely apolitical.
During debate on the resolution, several delegates feared that the committee would divide the organization and dilute its strength as a powerful lobby for veterans' benefits and a strong national defense.
But Howard Vander Clute of New Jersey, who will be installed Friday as the VFW'S commander-in-chief, disagreed, saying, "We've been engaged in politics for years. What we need, in addition to the testimony we bring [before congressional committees], is to put our money where our mouth is."
Money for the Political Action Committee will come from members' voluntary contributions, not from dues, said Vander Clute.
The committee will be led by a director, treasurer and six board members.
"Those candidates that share our philosophy of a strengthened national defense and an appreciation of the veteran will get our support," said Vander Clute, and those decisions will be made very carefully."
Although the VFW has not yet formed the committee, the group has indicated its unhappiness with such Carter administration moves as the recognition of the People's Republic of China, the Panama Canal treaties, the SALT agreement, and the closing and reduction of some facilities for veterans.
Yesterday Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.) received a warm response during his speech to the VFW, in which he expressed reservations about SALT.
Saying that the United States had been "outbargained," the senator said, "The only way to have peace and tranquility is to demand that we stay strong."