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UTAH BACKERS HOPE TO PUT PEROT ON BALLOT

Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot may well run for president of the United States as an independent candidate, and supporters in Utah are working to gather 300 signatures of registered voters to get Perot on the Utah ballot this fall.

Bob Campbell Sr., a retired engineer living in Salt Lake City, said Tuesday that for several weeks Perot has been considering the race. Campbell said he heard Perot on the Larry King Live show, where Perot talked about running for president as an independent."I called his Dallas office, and his secretary told me people had been calling from all across the country encouraging him to run." Campbell was given the go-ahead to work toward placing Perot on the ballot in Utah.

"He'll run as an independent - not as a Republican or Democrat. Merrill Cook's Independent Party people heard about it, called me and asked if Perot would run on their ballot with Cook (who is running for governor this year). I asked, but Perot's people said no. It's independent or nothing. Others are trying to get Perot on the ballots in their states. Perot will not take more than $5 from anyone; he has enough money to finance his own campaign," says Campbell.

He certainly does.

Perot became a multimillionaire in the 1950s and 1960s after founding Electronic Data Systems Corp. After taking the company public in the 1960s, Perot's personal wealth grew to more than a billion dollars.

After becoming the major stockholder in General Motors, Perot saw GM buy control of EDS for $2.5 billion. In the mid-1980s, Perot was kicked off the GM board and paid $700 million for his GM stock after continued arguments with former GM boss Roger Smith about the poor quality of their cars.

But it's not Perot's wealth that has made him famous. For years he has championed various causes, from the Boy Scouts to schools in city ghettos, and along the way he has inserted himself in foreign affairs.

In 1969, Perot attempted to fly to Hanoi, North Vietnam, to deliver Christmas presents to American POWs. He worked steadily for their release until POWs were returned.

In 1979, Perot financed a daring raid on an Iranian prison to rescue two of his EDS employees who were wrongfully held. The commandos, with Perot present, broke in and freed Perot's men.

In the mid-1980s, Perot was prepared to give Oliver North "millions of dollars" to ransom the American hostages held in Lebanon. A Perot courier with $2 million waited for several days in Cyprus to make the deal. For unknown reasons, it fell through, Perot told reporters in 1986.

Perot has long been a supporter of the Nicaraguan Contras, providing money to the guerrilla fighters.

On the home front, Perot drove many of his native Texans nuts in the early 1980s when, at the request of the governor, he headed an education reform study that concluded that Texas high schools place too much emphasis on football and other extracurricular activities and too little on basic education.