Sen. LeRay McAllister, R-Orem, has signed a petition proclaiming the innocence of five-time presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche, recently paroled after serving five years for mail fraud and conspiracy.
The petition was published as a full-page ad Aug. 11, in The Washington Post. It calls for President Clinton to clear LaRouche's name and says failure to do so stains "the honor of the U.S. justice system and the Constitution.""I don't feel imprisonment was fair," McAllister, co-chairman of the Executive Appropriations Committee, said Wednesday. "My concern about it was (the punishment) just seemed extreme and excessive. But I'm not going to go out and wave banners and march up and down the street about it."
McAllister, a retired Brigham Young University accounting professor, said he shares none of LaRouche's fringe political philosophies.
Among other things, LaRouche has accused Queen Elizabeth II of being a drug trafficker, dismissed the Holocaust as a hoax and fingered the AIDS epidemic as part of an international conspiracy.
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Dave Jones said LaRouche organizations have called him at least 10 times in the past month trying to enlist his support.
"They're crackpots," said Jones. "I'm disappointed that an otherwise straight-shooting legislator would allow his name to be associated with that kind of an organization."
State Republican Party Director Mark Emerson said he received just one call last June from LaRouche supporters.
"I told them I didn't know enough about it," Emerson said.
McAllister was persuaded to sign the petition by LaRouche followers in New Orleans during a National Conference of State Legislatures convention last month.
"As I reviewed the circumstances, it appeared to me it was a little bit extreme to take the action they did" in imprisoning LaRouche, he said. "He went beyond what was reasonable, but there may have been some political motives as well."
LaRouche was paroled after serving one-third of his 15-year sentence on 11 charges of mail fraud and one count of conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service by deliberately defaulting on more than $30 million in loans from supporters.