Reform Party Seen as Option, and Bankroll, for Buchanan

Patrick J. Buchanan, increasingly frustrated in his third presidential bid, has been advised to abandon the Republican Party and instead try to win the nomination of Ross Perot's Reform Party.

The Reform nomination would provide the populist and protectionist Buchanan with $12.6 million in federal money for the general election against what are likely to be decidedly nonpopulist free traders as GOP and Democratic nominees.

"This is really an enormous idea," said Don Devine, an adviser to Malcolm S. "Steve" Forbes.

Officials of the Buchanan campaign clammed up Friday when asked about it. Bob Adams, Buchanan's spokesman, said he was instructed to say that Angela "Bay" Buchanan, the candidate's sister and principal adviser, had "no response." Pat Buchanan was unavailable.

Buchanan, who has been operating on a shoestring budget, recently sent out a fund-raising letter charging that the "Republican Party Establishment is attempting to put the fix in and rig the 2000 nomination in favor of its anointed candidate, George W. Bush."

The idea of going for the Reform Party nomination was suggested to Bay Buchanan and Lyn Nofziger, a conservative adviser to Buchanan, by GOP consultant Roger Stone. Stone's last foray into presidential politics was on behalf of a candidate on the other end of the ideological spectrum from Buchanan, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), a moderate abortion rights supporter.

Nofziger said, "It would be up to Pat to make his own decision." He said he has been a lifelong Republican, but did not rule out the possibility of staying with Buchanan if he went for the Reform Party nomination. The GOP "doesn't seem to stand for a hell of a lot anymore," Nofziger said.

Because Perot won more than 5 percent of the vote in 1996, his party is eligible for federal money.

Business Group Promoting Military Cuts

As the presidential candidates gear up their campaigns for the Iowa caucuses, so will a group of business executives who are promoting the out-of-fashion idea that $40 billion should be shifted from the Pentagon budget to domestic programs.

Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities was started by Ben Cohen, a co-founder of Ben & Jerry's ice cream makers, and claims 500 CEO sponsors. It has launched a grass-roots organizing campaign in Iowa aimed at pressuring the presidential candidates to reexamine the plans many of them have put forward to boost defense spending.

A staff of nine, headed by Peggy Hupper, co-chair of the Polk County (Des Moines) Democrats, is lining up grass-roots activists to question the contenders about the relative merits of an additional nuclear submarine versus repairing rundown schools in Iowa.

Next winter, as caucus time draws nearer, the television and radio ads will increase -- thanks to an $800,000 allocation for Iowa from a national campaign Cohen said is budgeted for $3 million this year and $6 million in 2000. That figure is substantially more than the candidates who accept federal matching funds can legally spend in the state.

Cohen told reporters that "we are pro-defense," but believe that Pentagon spending can be cut 15 percent without risk. So far, he conceded, none of the presidential hopefuls in either party has endorsed that view.

McCain Announces Education Agenda

For the past few months, the war in Kosovo has given Arizona Sen. John McCain an effective platform. But now the GOP presidential candidate is staking out domestic territory, last week announcing an education agenda that calls for a "broad national test" of school vouchers, merit pay for teachers and Internet access for every school.

"If America is to lead the technological revolution and use it as a great force for good, we must turn our hands to the most fundamental work of a successful society -- educating our children," McCain told the National Cable Television Association at its annual convention in Chicago.

It was an audience sure to pay attention to whatever McCain said. He is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which pays a lot of attention to the association's issues.

McCain said figuring out how to use the Internet as an educational tool while protecting children from some of its more insidious aspects is a serious challenge facing the country. He called on Congress to pass legislation promoting the use of filtering technology in public school and library computers as a first step.

McCain got some positive news out of New Hampshire: An RKM Research and Communications poll has him moving up to even with Elizabeth Dole at 11 percent among GOP and independent primary voters. Bush led the pack with 45 percent.

Staff writers David S. Broder and Terry M. Neal contributed to this report.