HANOVER, N.H., JAN. 16 -- Former Delaware governor Pierre S. (Pete) du Pont IV announced today he has asked to be removed from the Texas primary ballot and that he has fired a receptionist in his campaign office for her involvement in alleged forgeries on qualifying petitions filed there.
At a news conference before the Republican presidential debate here, du Pont said he telephoned Texas GOP Chairman George Strake and asked to be taken off the ballot because "I cannot condone some of the practices used to gather the signatures."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Texas Attorney General are investigating allegations that petitions required to get Republican presidential candidates on the ballot in Texas contained forgeries. Newspaper investigations have found alleged forgeries on petitions filed by du Pont, Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole, former secretary of state Alexander M. Haig Jr. and Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.).
Du Pont said he is turning over to the authorities information about the forgeries obtained by his staff in their own investigation and said he plans to take legal action against Southern Political Consultants, a Houston-based firm hired to help him qualify for the ballot.
The candidate said his campaign was "a victim of a nasty fraud" undertaken by the firm. Du Pont said his campaign hired the company in December to provide temporary employees to gather signatures for the ballot petitions. He said "it now appears" the firm "induced teen-agers to fraudulently fill out petitions."
Du Pont campaign officials said they had fired Rosanne Robertson, a receptionist in his Texas office, after an internal investigation showed she may have forged names on his filing petitions there. The Dallas Times Herald reported today that Robertson instructed two volunteers to help her forge 136 names in Houston Jan. 2.
Du Pont said no one in the "management" of his campaign was aware of the scheme. He said he was "outraged" by the actions of the consulting firm and hoped that the authorities would successfully prosecute them and put the firm out of business.
Du Pont said the company was initially hired when his campaign workers were proving unsuccessful in getting the 5,000 required signatures. He said the Texas process is complex because voter identification numbers are required with the signatures and few people carry such information with them. He also said the firm had earlier offered to provide "pre-printed" signatures but the campaign had rejected this procedure as unethical.
"We are going to keep this campaign straight up from start to finish," he said. Du Pont is running far behind the other Republicans. The impact of his withdrawal from Texas, whose 111 delegates are a big "Super Tuesday" prize, may be negligible.
The state GOP has completed a random sample of signatures submitted by Vice President Bush and former television evangelist Pat Robertson and found them to have enough names. The party checked about 500 signatures submitted by Bush and Robertson but is checking all those submitted by the others. The Houston Chronicle reported today that the GOP check of 6,000 signatures submitted by Kemp had turned up a high rate of apparent forgeries and could leave him ineligible.