A prominent Democratic Party fund-raiser disclosed plans yesterday to form a committee that he hopes will be able to turn the Democratic National Convention away from President Carter and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and nominate Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.).
S. Harrison (Sonny) Dogole, a Philadelphia businessman long active in Democratic politics, said in a telephone interview that he expects to formally announce the creation of an exploratory Jackson for president committee Tuesday. "It's a long shot," Dogole said, "but the chances are getting better every day."
The effort in Jackson's behalf is undertaken against a backdrop of Carter's deteriorating status in the polls, the controversy surrounding his brother Billy's association with Libya and meetings of House Democrats seeking to turn the convention away from Carter and Kennedy.
Jackson said in a telephone interview yesterday that he had not given his consent to the effort to make him president, but neither is he seeking to discourage his patrons.
"I have not suggested this and I am not authorizing any committee," said the Washington Democrat. "But I can't stop anyone from acting independently."
Jackson said that he had not discussed the committee preparations with Dogole or anyone else. "I've heard the rumors from others," he said, "but I can't stop them."
Asked whether he would like to see the party turn its attention and nomination to him at the convention, Jackson said: "All politicians appreciate flattery, and I'm no exception."
Jackson said that he favors an open convention, in which delegates would not have to vote for the candidate they supported during their state primaries and caucuses. "So many things have changed since the primaries and caucuses as far as the Democratic Party's prospects are concerned," he said.
Asked if he thought it was likely that the convention could still turn to him, Jackson said: "Anything is possible, but it's not probable. One has to look at the realities. He [Carter] has an enormous surplus in delegates."
Dogole had been working with other figures active in party financial circles in recent weeks in a last-minute effort to form a committee for an open convention. But as of now, he said, he is divorcing himself from that to work solely and openly in behalf of Jackson.
"It makes sense to do this now," Dogole said. "The impetus created by this open convention effort has been tremendous, but it is important to do this now."
Dogole, chairman of the board of Security Systems Inc. in Philadelphia, has been active in presidential campaigns of Jackson and the late Hubert H. Humphrey. He has also, in times past, been actively courted by the Carter White House. At a recent party fund-raising dinner at the Washington-Hilton, Dogole sat at the president's table.
"I just feel that Carter can't win now and Kennedy can't win either," Dogole said. "And what's more, the Senate and the House could go down the tube," in the Nov. 4 elections.
Dogole said he began making calls to form his Jackson committee only yesterday morning. So far, he said, he has lined up as members Zmira Goodman, a vice president of Colonial Life Insurance, who was cochairman of the Jackson presidential campaign in 1976; Arthur Marshall, a Nevada businessman, and Joseph Cole, a Cleveland businessman and former
Dogole said his committee will work to contact Democratic Party delegates before the convention urging them to vote against the Carter efforts to bind delegates to first-ballot support of the candidate they backed during their state primary or caucus. He then will urge the delegates to switch their allegiance to Jackson.
The committee also will raise funds for a staff to operate at the convention and to pay for telephones, rooms and other equipment important to political conventioneering.
Meanwhile, Rep. Michael D. Barnes (D-Md.) said yesterday that a "giant momentum" is building to deny Carter renomination.
In a "just-you-wait-and-see" message delivered on "Meet the Press" (NBC, WRC), Barnes, a freshman representative from Montgomery County, said scores of Democrats are teaming up to push for an open convention next month that could lead to Carter's political demise.
Carter virtually is a no-win candidate who could drag the Democratic Party and the nation into "potential disaster" by handing the government over to Republicans in November, Barnes said. So, he said, groups of Democratic House members have been meeting the past few days to discuss what can be done.
"The discussions have been very serious," said Barnes, one of two spokesmen for the rebellious House Democrats, who he said numbered "30 to 40 to 50 people" at a meeting last Friday.
"We are assessing what actions ought to be taken as elected officials of our party," he said.
Reports about the dissidents' push for an open convention have triggered a groundswell of support, Barnes said.
"My phone has not stopped ringing with Democrats calling from all over the United States -- Democratic elected and nonelected officials saying: "Let's do it. Let's open up this process. Let's turn this thing around. Let's beat Ronald Reagan.'"
However, in a telephone interview yesterday, Barnes declined to say who the callers were, what their positions in the party were or how many there were. Nor could he say how many were delegates empowered to vote at the convention.
"I'm not in a position to speak for other people at this time," Barnes said.
Barnes has often supported Carter administration's policies in congressional voting. But he said yesterday that he supports neither Carter nor Kennedy in their bids for the Democratic nomination.
"I prefer to see this as a 'beat Ronald Reagan move' as opposed to a 'dump Carter move,'" Barnes said.
He said Carter campaign officials, including campaign chairman Robert S. Strauss, have warned him that he could be doing himself political harm by siding with open-convention forces.
"They're not pleased," Barnes said. "They've suggested that this is a bad idea in a whole lot of ways."
Barnes said he did not know who the Democrats would, if they could, choose over Carter or Kennedy. But, for his part, Kennedy said yesterday on "Issues and Answers" (ABC, WJA) that he has "no fear of an open convention."
"I'm not interested in blocking anyone's candidacy," said Kennedy, who declined comment on the possibility of who, besides himself or Carter, could win the Democratic nomination.