Attorneys for Rep. John B. Anderson (R.Ill.) charged today that the Democratic National Commiteee is paying for and managing an effort to knock the independent presidential candidate off the ballot in Massachusetts.
The state ballot law commission, hearing a technical challenge to Anderson's candidacy filed by a local pro-life advocate, today waved off Anderson's attorneys' arguments as irrelevant. The commission is considering the challenge, which must be decided by Friday.
Mitchell Rogovin, general counsel to the Anderson campaign, said a DNC-orchestrated attempt to block Anderson's access to the ballot here constitutes "collusion" and possibly a violation of federal civil rights election law provisions.
The technical challenge to Anderson's candidacy was filed 64 minutes before the June 6 deadline by Mary Grennon. She said she was angry with Anderson's positon on abortion and also feared he might throw the election to the House of Representatives.
However, Rogovin told the five-member ballot law commission, composed of three Democrats and two Republicans, that Grennon is merely a "straw".
"The DNC is running around with a false beard and a rubber nose trying to disguise its challenges," Rogovin said. "From now on they'll think twice about being devious in other states. I don't mind a fight as long as it's out in the open."
DNC Chairman John C. White said in a June 11 letter to Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton (D-Mo.) that the national committee had refrained from individual state ballot contests. Rogovin responded: "That will be like cotton in his mouth when we finish."
Telephone company records subpoenaed as evidence show numerous calls between the DNC's general counsel, Ronald Eastman, and William A. McDermott Jr., Grennon's attorney. McDermott acknowledged in a hearing recently that the DNC had retianed him about a week before Grennon contacted him about filing a challenge.
Anderson's attorneys allege that John Rendon, who began his political career in Massachusetts, acted as matchmaker, pairing McDermott with Gernnon for the benefit of the Carter campaign.
McDermott said today he as received several dispatches from the DNC relating to the litigation here. And in a charge that DNC denies, Rogovin said the national committee sent three investigators to Massachusetts to bolster McDermott's case.
"We agree with the Massachusetts ballot law commission that all that is irrelevent to the issue at hand, which is, 'should John Anderson be on the ballot?" said DNC spokesman Robert Neuman.
Arguments today were reduced to a confrontation over technical interpretations of Massachusetts' cloudy election laws, which McDermott maintains require all electors for Anderson's independent candidacy to renounce their Democratic affiliation.
Thirteen of Anderson's electors changed their enrollment to independent on the day of the March 4 primary here. However, Margaret P. Gilvar, the 14th elector, did not change her enrollment until June 19, after the 90-day period stipulated under state law.
Anderson campaign officials contend that they followed the advice of the Massachusetts secretary of state, who shrugged off the enrollment requirement as well as an obligation to file financial disclosure forms -- another point in the challenge brought by Grennon.
"It seems incongruous to me that a candidate like John Anderson who talks about fresh air and new politics, would go about hiding his electors behind a screen," McDermott said in his closing argument.
"When they realized they made an error they should have made an effort to comply with the law . . . but the fact is they've completely gone out of their way to make an excuse for a flagrant violation of state statutes."