After seven years of work, one ultraconservative lawmaker's dream here has suddenly been transformed into reality and is making liberals uneasy all over California and, to some extent, across the nation.
The lawmaker is state Sen. H.L. Richardson, a personable, skeetshooting former southern California advertising executive, whom almost everyone knows as "Bill." His dream is an umbrella of right-wing campaign funding organizations dedicated to electing conservatives.
These organizations include Gun Owners of California, Gun Owners of America, the Law and Order campaign Committee, and the Free Market Political Action Commnittee. Together, they contributed as much as $1 million to politicians in California and across the country in the Nov. 4 elections.
A firm wholly owned by Richardson -- the Computer Caging Corp. -- received, recorded, deposited and reported the thousands of contributions received by the committees and provided computer services to the committees as they went after politicians perceived to be too liberal.
Richardson money is credited with electing seven members of the 40-member California Senate over the past two years, including two on Nov. 4. Richardson money is credited directly with winning at least two state Assembly seats. And at least $400,000 in Gun Owners of America money was put into state, local and national races in other parts of the country.
Until Nov. 4, Conventional politicians did not take Richardson very seriously. He is so far to the right of most California Senate Republicans that he was turned out as caucus chairman in 1976.
That does not bother Richardson.
"I am not enarmored of a lot of guys in the Republican Party in the [state] Senate and I think if you get enough good people elected, you get the kind of direction you want without telling everybody what to do," he said. "You don't have to be elected to be a leader."
Last week, after the stunning ouster, for instance, of Senate finance chairman Albert Rodda (D-Sacramento), the dean of the state legislature, by a former Richrdson aide, and the election of former Los Angeles police chief Ed Davis, a colorful and controversial conservative who has been called "Hang 'em at the Airport Davis" for his views on how skyjackers should be punished, to the upper house, his colleagues are taking Richardson very seriously indeed.
He poured money into races as far away as South Dakota, where James Abdnor beat Democratic Sen. George McGovern, and in New York, where Alfonse D'Amato won the seat held by liberal Republican Sen. Jacob Javits.
The money comes from an estimated 250,000 gun owners and members of right-wing groups across the nation who contribute to the two gun-owner organizations. There are 65,000 members of the Law and Order Campaign Committee and, Richardson says, a small number of businessmen in the Free Market Political Action Committee.
Richardson quickly acknowledges he obviously was not the sole reason many of the races were won. But he says he played a part:
"I just think the conservative impact is going to be felt all the way across the nation. Nationally, this movement to the right, if you want to call it the New Right, is not by accident," he said.
"It wasn't a change in public opinion. We helped to make it happen. I am one of the particles that is making it happen."
Richardson's various conservative organizations have been involved in controversial races for the last couple of years. He was primarily responsible for the bitter campaign waged and lost against California Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird when she came up for confirmation on the state Supreme Court by the voters in 1978. In the early part of this year, a group called the Judicial Research Prject sent out questionnaires to 200 Superior Court judges asking their opinions on whether the death penalty is "barbaric and should be abolished," whether there is "no such thing as a victimless crime," and other questions.
Later, the Judicial Research Project turned out to be totally funded by Richardson's Law and Order Campaign Committee, although it was never identified as such on the questionnaires, and several judges complained. The ratings of judges were intended to be used in political campaigns if those judges did not measure up to Richardson's standards.
In June, according to director John Feliz, the Law and Order Campaign Committee involved itself in 25 campaigns against superior Court judges who were deemed to be soft on crime. It won 19 of those races, Feliz says.
Along with Richardson in what liberals disparagingly called the "looney caucus" in Sacramento are former congressman John G. SChmitz, a former John Birch Society member who ran for president in 1972 on the American Independent Party ticket, and John V. Briggs, who gained nationwide attention for his antihomosexual crusades two years ago with Anita Bryant.
According to Richardson's philosophy, he wants people in the legislature who are independent.
"If I could get away with it," he recently told reporters, "I would carve this government up like you wouldn't believe into much, much smaller pieces than are out there now.
"I am talking about putting [criminals] away in insititutions for a long period of time. I mean it. I talk about cutting back on social welfare services. I'm not kidding."