A draft committee was formed yesterday to promote the presidential candidacy of retired Gen. Alexander M. Haig Jr., Richard Nixon's former White House chief of staff.
The Washington-based founders of the group said they "have every reason to believe" that Haig will seek the Republication presidential nomination "once the depth of his support is seen."
Haig who retired as commander of NATO July 1, has informally expressed an interest in running for either the presidency or a U.S. Senate seat from Pennsylvania. But his presidential overtures have generally been disregarded by most key GOP leaders.
In announing formation of the Draft Haig committee, Charles A. McManus Jr., the group's national director, said, that a "vast majority of Republicans throughout the country are still seeking a candidate for president who reflects their beliefs" and they would enthusiastically support Haig's candidacy.
The group filed its statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission as an unauthorized draft committee.
This would enable it to take advantage of a recent FEC ruling that such committees, like the movements to draft Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) did not have to abide by normal spending and contribution limits imposed on announced candidates.
In the decision, the FEC ruled that a Florida draft-Kennedy group could accept up to $5,000 per contributor. Individuals who give to announced candidates are limited to $1,000 donations.
Haig was not available for comment yesterday. Vicki Sherm, a Haig spokesman, said the retired general had been informed of the draft effort. "It didn't come as a great surprise to him.
"He's not denying any interest in politics," she said. "It's safe to say he is considering all options."
Haig, who rose from a colonel in 1969 to NATO chief in 1974, was Nixon's chief of staff during his last months in the White House and reportedly had a major role in engineering Nixon's resignation and subsequent pardon.
Since his retirement, Haig, 55, has spent much of his time giving speeches around the country. He is also affiliated with the Foreign Policy Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is preparing a study on "The Crisis of Western Security."
McManus, who is heading the Draft Haig group, is a longtime Republican organizer who has served as the chief executive officer of the Americans for Constitutional Action, a nonpartisan conservative group.