This is a messy little political industry story with no overriding social significance, the kind that embarrasses everyone involved.
If there is any message, it is that conservatives' fights can be just as bloody as anyone else's.
It began rather simply in the late afternoon of Jan. 5 when Ralph Galiano, an ambitious young political operative, was fired as executive director of the Fund for a Conservative Majority, a group that last year donated more than $3 million to conservative candidates around the country, including Ronald Reagan.
Depending on whose account one accepts, the firing was the result of: (a) petty jealousy and personal conflicts, including an unenthusiastic letter of recommendation Galliano wrote for the wife of the FCM chairman, or (b) displeasure with Galliano's inability to bring the organization's budget under control, and a desire to hire someone who could. returned to the FCM offices at 1022 Wilson Blvd., the Wall Street of the conservative movement, in Arlington. The following morning, according to a complaint filed in Arlington Circuit Court, FCM officials found that a valuable mailing list of 25,500 FCM contributors was missing.
Galliano, the complaint alleges, "prepared and executed" two checks on FCM accounts for $1,213 made out to himself. There was also the matter of his refusing to return a $1,000 salary advance, and the office telephone number file.
All this was bad enough. But then FCM's board of directors learned that Galliano, one month earlier, had formed a new, competing group with a strikingly similar name, the Conservative Majority Committee, with an Arlington mailing address.
Galliano and his new political action committee, the FCM complaint charged, "have recently undertaken a campaign to discredit FMC and interfere with its activities and operation." This, the complaint alleged, included attempts "to convince members of the public" that CMC is "a successor organization to FCM."
This, the complaint added, was a try "to cause confusion in the minds of the public" between the two groups and "trade on FCM's past good name and business reputation." On Jan. 21, a temporary restraining order was granted to keep Galliano from continuing his activities. A week later, FCM asked for a permanent injunction. A hearing is scheduled today in Arlington Circuit Court.
Meanwhile, everyone involved is reluctant to talk about the affair. "It's sort of a stinky, embarrassing thing," FCM treasurer Kenneth A. Boehm said. "It's a messy situation, and we'd prefer to settle the whole thing out of court," FCM chairman Robert Heckman said.
Galliano refers all questions to his attorney, Joseph D. murphy, who says his client will deny all charges. He claims the 25,500 names belonged to Galliano, not FCM, and the checks his client received were for salary, expenses and vacation time.
"There is more to this than meets the eye," he adds. "Jealousy plays a large part in this."
He claims one element leading up to a falling-out between Galliano and Heckman was a letter of recommendation the former executive director wrote that did not express proper enthusiasm for a favored job seeker. Heckman, he adds, was so upset with the letter that he wrote a blistering note to Galliano saying: "I was disappointed, and frankly embarrassed by your Nov. 19 letter of recommendation for my wife, Connie."
Heckman confirms the language of the letter, but denies it had anything to do with Galliano's firing. FCM directors, he says, were simply "frustrated with Ralph's inability to bring our budget under control," and decided to hire a replacement.
Galliano's actions, he says, could do grave damage to FCM, a group that has gone under several names since being founded in 1969 by Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), an ultraconservative organization, to funnel campaign money to candidates. FCM, like many political groups, raises most of its money through direct-mail appeals, and the missing list of 25,500 contributors is worth tens of thousands of dollars to the organization.