Perot paid for investigation of his state volunteers

October 01, 1992|By Steven A. Holmes | Steven A. Holmes,New York Times News Service

DALLAS -- Ross Perot, whose original candidacy for the presidency was dogged by allegations that he hired private detectives to investigate business competitors, hired a California private investigator to conduct investigations of some of the volunteers in his campaign.

An official with the Perot campaign acknowledged yesterday that the Dallas billionaire paid more than $76,000 in August and September to the Callahan & Gibbons Group, a San Francisco company that does private investigations.

Clayton Mulford, general counsel for the Perot campaign, said that most of the money was paid to the private security firm to provide guards at a number of state offices of the Perot campaign. But Mr. Mulford said some of the funds were used to investigate allegations that campaign workers had misappropriated funds or had criminal records.

"There were constant complaints from volunteers about this person doing this, this person doing that, this person stealing money," Mr. Mulford said. "We didn't know what to believe. Our people, in certain isolated instances, would have Callhaan & Gibbons run checks."

Mr. Mulford added, "This was not done as a matter of course on volunteers. It was done as a result of requests by volunteers or accusations by volunteers that were forwarded to Dallas about misappropriation of funds or criminal records."

The issue of using private investigators to run checks on business and political rivals was raised several times during Mr. Perot's original campaign through the spring.

On June 24, at a press conference in Annapolis, Mr. Perot said he had employed private investigators only on rare occasions when there was evidence that an employee of his computer-service companies might be stealing money. He said the charges against him were the result of a smear campaign conducted by the Republican Party.

Mr. Mulford said the use of private investigators to check on campaign volunteers was authorized by Mark Blahnik, who was head of field operations for the Perot campaign. Mr. Blahnik, a former employee of the Perot Group, a Perot company, was criticized by some volunteers as attempting to impose the will of the campaign headquarters in Dallas on state operations.

Lawrence Way, the former Perot coordinator in Frederick County, Md., said he had been removed from his job after a run-in with Joan Vinson, the state chairman.

After his ouster, Mr. Way said accusations were leveled against him by Maryland Perot officials that he was once an official with the Ku Klux Klan, a charge he denies. Mr. Way said that at one point he was visited by two individuals he said identified themselves as "Perot security people."

Mr. Way said he was later told by a person he would not identify that the two were employees of the Callahan & Gibbons Group and had been dispatched from New York. Mr. Way has a $10 million slander suit filed against Perot.

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