PRESIDENTIAL contender Ross Perot is gone, but his troops march on at the 15th Street Perot Petition Committee.
The office is decked with magazine covers of the smiling Perot, Perot for President T-shirts, pins, and other souvenirs. But the Washington Perot petition storefront is going through a transformation, turning quickly into the D.C. base of United We Stand, an offshoot of the Perot campaign determined that his ideology will live on.
Gloria Borland, a member of the national steering committee for United We Stand and Washington coordinator of the group, sat with its Washington press secretary, James Pope, on a lumpy gold couch in its front office and talked about what's happening.
When Mr. Perot pulled out of the campaign, Miss Borland said, "All 50 state coordinators and the D.C. coordinator were invited to Dallas to meet and talk about what to do next. We unanimously agreed to stay together because we are all formal entities of the Perot Petition Committee. So we decided to come up with a name and a preliminary organizational structure.
By next week, she says, it will also have Perot's new book for sale, a paperback named for the United We Stand movement. It will be in all 50 national offices. The book contains Perot's issues platform and his economic plan. "At United We Stand we have unanimously endorsed the book as our platform, and we are going forward with that platform."
She points out that "the stores in all 50 states and D.C. are still going strong. What we're gearing up for now is the book. We're going to become information centers for United We Stand." Perot reportedly is continuing to back the movement in this form, spending half a million dollars a month to publicize it nationally.
Press secretary Pope joins in: "Our push now will be to get people energized again. In the petition campaign where we tried to get signatures, the message was Perot. But now the message is the plan, the book. And he's part of that, but the emphasis will be on the book. I remember several years ago, the actor Ossie David spoke at a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus and made a statement that really stuck in my mind.... `It's not the man, it's the plan.' And ... that is the important thing...."
Borland explains that "the Perot Petition Committee is our entity in all 50 states and D.C. United We Stand is the name of our new movement, but it is not a separate corporation, it is not a foundation ... it's still part of the petition committee until after November. Then we can separate it."
It has a philosophy, she says, and points to the United We Stand preamble which includes the pledge "to restore the integrity of our political and economic system ... to hold our public servants accountable ... rebuild our country, renew its economic, moral, and social strength, and return the sovereignty of America to its people."
United We Stand, she points out, retains the financial structure the Federal Elections Commission mandated of all presidential petition committees. Borland says that in spite of Perot's leaving the campaign, the 50 state petition committees have gone right on collecting signatures and that his name is on the ballot in 42 states now. Perot committees have gone on collecting thousands of signatures in states like New York, she adds, even through Perot is no longer in the race. They're still hoping he will be on 50 state ballots before the election, with Perot's financial support.
Borland and Pope say it's possible that Perot could win just by being on the ballot in every state. Pope says: "It's quite possible that Mr. Perot can garner enough votes to still become president. I believe so, there's enough dissatisfaction out there and if people read this plan [his book, "United We Stand"] I think a lot of people will go in the direction of Perot on the ballot."