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Chris Rouhier Interviews Charles Foster

This interview with Reform Party chairman Charles Foster was conducted by Chris Rouhier of behalf of Third Party Watch.

Foster is one of several people who claim to be the “true” Chairman of the Reform Party. This interview should not be taken to mean that this site “endorses” any one faction of the party over another.

— Chris Rouhier interviews Charles Foster ————————

Charles Foster is the chairman of the Reform Party, a party that has over the years been damaged by division and feuding. Yet, the party is re-building and features strong candidates around the country. Read on as Mr. Foster discusses issues that affect the Reform Party and politics and general.

Chris Rouhier: What are the reasons for the split between the Reform parties? Do you believe this split can be repaired, and if so, what steps are you willing to take to bring back together the Reform Parties?

Foster: I have to answer this carefully; and with that, the question probably won’t get the treatment you expect nor include all that I might want to say in response.

The reason for that position is that the Reform Party of the U.S.A. is Plaintiff in an active Federal lawsuit - a Trademark Infringement action. Suit is against a number of individuals who have (allegedly) attempted to appropriate or otherwise abuse the name and/or logos of the National Convention of the State Reform Parties, which makes up the National entity. Defendants in the suit are individuals that number less than a dozen nationwide. They are not all of a single association or of the same point of view. The action was long overdue and taking it was unavoidable. Outcome is still pending at this time.

As far as I’m concerned there is no split. There is only one National Reform Party entity. I serve that entity’s National Committee, and it is the bedrock decision of that National Committee to pursue this action to a favorable conclusion. I’m sorry, but that’s all I can say about it.

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Chris Rouhier: There are Reform candidates running all over the nation, many, such as Eric Eidsness in Colorado, are very credible. Which candidates do you believe can win in 2006?

Foster: RP-Florida already has a re-election victory in the bag for this cycle. Janice Miller was re-elected to her City Council seat in Oldsmar (Tampa) Florida, and is now in the Mayor-Pro Tem slot. RPFL also has a solid candidate for Governor in Max Linn. Check out his website - www.Floridatermlimits.org.

We are quite pleased with Eric Eidsness. His candidacy has breathed new life into the Colorado Reform Party. His race for Congress is being watched with great interest by friend and foe alike.

Both these guys can win. The main thing about them is that they are fully capable of taking on the duties of the offices they seek.

We had a good candidate out in Nevada in Bruce Westcott, who has been working to revitalize RP-Nevada AND run for office, but he had to bow out of his contest. Trying to do both things at once was a real trial. Had he not encountered quite so many obstacles, he’d have made that Congressional contest a real horserace. He’ll be back, and there will be a solid organization behind him when he returns.

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Chris Rouhier: Continuing the 2006 theme, are any other Reform Party candidates planning announcements of candidacy?

Foster: Not that I know of at the present time. We will soon reach a point on the calendar when all deadlines have passed, and since any serious candidacy needs to be considered and planned well in advance of the applicable deadline, I’m not expecting any surprises.

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Chris Rouhier: The 2006 Texas Gubernatorial race is one of the most watched in the country. Who do you support in the Texas Gubernatorial race, Kinky Friedman or Carole Keeton Strayhorn, or a major party candidate (and why?)?

Foster: RP-Texas doesn’t have a dog in this fight (or any other Texas race during this cycle), so I’m not uncomfortable with this question. I like Strayhorn. Her own views (those held by her personally and apart from previous party affiliations) are quite consistent with what’s found within RP. She is a known quantity to a lot of other Reformers in Texas, and she has their support, also. If it weren’t for her candidacy, I’d just say “no comment” and let it go at that.

A little context wouldn’t hurt things, here: The filing deadline in Texas is an early date: January 2nd, ’06, 5p.m. Long before that, RPTX approached Friedman’s people to recruit him as a Reform candidate and we basically got snubbed for our trouble and little else. There is some long-standing animosity toward RP on the part of at least one of Friedman’s advisors that may have had something to do with that outcome, but I can’t say I’m fully convinced of it.

All I can say for sure is that Friedman would have had an easier time getting past the petition hurdle had he opted to “go party”, had the legal protections of party nomination, RPTX would have obtained ballot access, and the people of Texas would have been better off in the future as a result. Argument for that position is partly this: There is no lasting benefit to Independent campaigns. The petition work that gets Independent office-seekers their ballot lines is good only for their individual races and for them alone during the duration of their campaigns. Win or lose, all that work means nothing after Election Day in terms of the ballot line earned - it goes away. The only way I’d have supported Friedman was as an RPTX candidate.

Strayhorn started out firmly on track to fight it out with Rick Perry in the March Republican Primary. I don’t think it occurred to anyone that it would play out any other way at first. But, her move to Independent status was a smart one. She skipped the head-on collision with the Bush machine at the Primary level, and her presence on the General Election ballot gives us a solid possibility that Texas will be rid of Rick Perry very soon. That’s a good thing, in my estimation. But that’s not all. Strayhorn may win. She is actually very popular and is widely respected. I don’t believe we could have recruited her within the law during this cycle, even if we’d known about her departure from the GOP at the instant the decision was made. The timing was all wrong and we were already K.O.’Ed by other circumstances.

I’ll just say this: If she ever decided to join RPTX in the future, she’d be welcomed.

One footnote: RPTX actually had a statewide candidate recruited and in-waiting who had name I.D. and experience. That person would have run for another office besides Governor, but became unavailable to us. The loss of this individual finished us for the ‘06 cycle. I can’t reveal the name.

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Chris Rouhier: There has been much speculation over who the Reform Party will nominate, or who the party should nominate. Some of the names being thrown about include billionaire Tom Golisano, Virginia State Senator Russ Potts, CNN anchor Lou Dobbs, Eric Eidsness, and former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm. Which of these would you support if they ran, and do you feel any are possible candidates? Does the party plan to search for a high-profile nominee, or will the candidate be “home-grown”?

Foster: I suppose you’re talking Presidential politics here. The only things I know for sure are these:

RPUSA will have a ’08 Presidential candidate and I don’t have the slightest idea who it’s going to be.

It is considered improper under RP’s Rules for officers of the National Convention entity to advance opinions or premature positions of support; we can’t and won’t play Kingmaker.

The eventual nominee will be selected by vote of Convention Delegates at the ’08 Convention. Those Delegates will come out of the State-Party organizations for that specific purpose, and that’s where the process lives and breathes.

In past times, “front-loading” of our nominee appeared to be the method used for selection. We are past all that nonsense now, I assure you. There will be a nominations process, and it will be strictly adhered to. Likewise, the nomination will be a nomination ONLY - NOT an “endorsement”. Parties nominate, membership organizations endorse, and never the ‘twain shall meet……

At least on my watch.

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Chris Rouhier: Unity08 has received much attention early on for their efforts to nominate a moderate ticket in 2008. How will these efforts affect the Reform Party presidential campaign in 2008?

Foster: I hope not at all. “Unity ‘08” will affect RPUSA’s Presidential efforts only after it steps over my dead body. Let me get straight to the point with this one: Unity ’08 is a phony-baloney storefront operation, hoisted up by the Democratic Party, that has been designed to (first) get the attention of people who aren’t firmly in the camp of either of the two so-called major parties and (second) to distract them from legitimate alternative (3rd) parties and steer them down a rabbit trail instead.

The promise of using a supposed non-partisan vehicle to rescue partisan organizations gone-wrong through the force of mass outside opinion, and effect positive change within them, isn’t just improbable - It is Prima Facie absurd. The only thing Unity ’08 can actually do is gather the substance of Public Opinion in the run-up to ’08, and then fire it back at the electorate in a way that helps the 2MP, particularly Democrats, in their efforts to remain viable or stay in power come election time. That end of their operation will culminate in their proposed “on-line convention” - a Theatre Of The Pathetic.

The prey in this little game are young folks or other now-frustrated 2MP (two major party) voters who are unacquainted with the nuts-and-bolts of electoral politics. If those who might otherwise discover and turn to Reform or the Libertarians or the Greens or (?), learn about how the process actually works, and get directly involved in their new parties’ affairs on a mass scale, they might just use their new-found skills and motivation to help in the obliteration of major party nominees at the polls. The other side of that coin is the election of persons who can’t be controlled by the 2MP or their Bagmen. Don’t believe for an instant that such prospects don’t bother the 2MP Fixers, and maybe even keep the SOB’s awake at night.

Those who are fed-up with the two so-called major parties are now legion, and I think the Unity ‘08 operation is designed to blunt the damage these angry voters could do to the interests of the 2MP if left uncontrolled. Think about it: Those who simply wait around for Election Day, drag themselves to the polls, cast votes, and then go home are no threat to the entrenched scum who are ruining this Country. Those interested in evicting said entrenched scum from public life will succeed in landing one knock-out blow after another after they re-discover how it’s done. The way they’ll make this re-discovery is through DIRECT PARTICIPATION in political parties other than the 2MP. If they are diverted into an energy-wasting Side Show like Unity ’08, they won’t and they will be effectively neutralized.

For those who doubt my conclusions, I invite them to visit the Unity ’08 website and then find any realistic explanation as to how the proponent-operators intend to accomplish their supposed aims.

They are telling the truth when they say they’re going to Make It All Up as They Go Along. The structures and mechanics of political activity in this Country are very well defined. Unity ’08 has no revealed plan to integrate itself into those structures. If they were a serious enterprise they’d come out with it. It is all thin-air-and-imagination - a scam to waste the time and energy of people who are tired of being treated like cattle, but can’t quite bring themselves to make the transition to alternative parties.

We will see more stuff like “Unity ‘08” as the Presidential cycle draws near. They’re not the end of it.

One last thing: Do you get the idea that I’m annoyed with all this? You bet.

Read their mission statement section. The subtle use of the word ‘reform’ and term ‘twenty percent of the electorate’ is a stick-in-the-eye jab at the Reform Party on top of everything else. I noticed.

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Chris Rouhier: Some people have suggested that the Reform Party’s platform is very limited in foreign policy. How do you respond to this?

Foster: They’re right. Foreign policy is a fast moving target, and the Party’s Platform is decided by Convention Delegates when at Convention. Those events don’t happen very often. Conventions are now scheduled only for Presidential years now that the RPUSA Constitution has been straightened out.

The best way to answer foreign policy concerns is to have office-holders in the U.S. Congress. Absent that, the National Committee can and should issue position statements but shouldn’t be satisfied with just that alone.

We’ll be better about all that in the future, I’m sure.

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Chris Rouhier: It has been suggested that the Reform party should cross-endorse candidates in order to maintain ballot access, like the Ralph Nader efforts in 2004. What is the Reform Party’s official position on this?

Foster: That concept is complete, utter nonsense. Ballot lines reside within the various states singularly and only. There is no such thing as a ‘national’ ballot line and I know of no state election code that determines a given party’s ballot access, even in part, on the basis of Presidential votes cast. Methods required for a party to obtain a ballot line will vary widely, but the retention of any ballot line is generally tied to how well that ballot line is supported by voters in contests for statewide offices. In Texas, a party with a ballot line which fails to get at least 5% of the vote total in any statewide race loses their ballot access. So it is with many other states. Cross-endorsement schemes are possible only INSIDE states where the election codes allow for “fusion” of parties’ existing ballot lines through common nomination. Implementation of that sort of model is pointless beyond the confines of any state, whether fusion is possible there or not. State-parties with ballot lines meeting in national Convention take care of the real business at hand. There are no short-cuts, and I think those who advance these sky-arching cross endorsement proposals don’t understand how things actually work.

The Nader campaign was an unqualified disaster and we shouldn’t have been part of it. The story of how we came to be associated with Nader is a Comedy of Errors, and none of it very damn funny. Ralph Nader doesn’t like parties and his coalition approach in 2004 was very nearly ruinous to us, too. His campaign went around the country trying to cobble together coalitions of non-party groups and parties as if there were no difference between them, and running strictly independent where it was expedient. RP thought it was safe, since in theory, any two or more state-party organizations with ballot lines can get together in Convention and nominate a Presidential candidate even though they’re obviously mathematically out of the picture. The Democratic Party had other ideas, and they had a plausible legal case, albeit meretricious, effectively handed to them by our actions. In the process of attempting to sue Nader off the ballot in Florida in the summer of ’04, the Democrats also attacked the Florida Reform Party and RPUSA, and we almost lost RPFL for good as a result. Their very existence was at stake. Had we not won that suit, RP might not exist at all now, either. We had to answer to about thirty contentions and a legal team headed up by Lawrence Tribe to survive that episode. We won hands down, but obviously we don’t care to revisit this territory in any way, shape or form. Why should we take the chance for the sake of the illusion of some short-term gain?

As far as official position by RPUSA is concerned, the Executive Committee of RPUSA has voted specifically and unanimously to NOT get involved in any Third Party Coalition schemes. In terms of official policy, that is as close to a direct answer to your question as I can get.

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Chris Rouhier: At what rate is the Reform Party growing? Why should voters, as well as those looking for a political party to join, become RP members/supporters?

Foster: As a practical matter, voters are the only people who can join, and voters join every day. I can’t keep up with it. There isn’t a single, fixed rate of growth I can point to. Some of our established state-parties that are lucky enough to be operating within Register-By-Party models are noting that people are changing registration to Reform, and some of those folks are then volunteering to help within the state organization. This is exactly what we want to see and what is needed to assure eventual success.

In places that are less organized or dormant, we (all membership, either in-state or through the National Committee’s Regional Rep setup) answer inquiries as they come to us, and we get people connected with existing networks or help them re-organize from scratch. I’ve had a direct hand in getting some people together and organized in completely dormant states when they have contacted me through the website, but 99% of that work is done by the Regional Representatives. That’s their principal job, to assist the states of their Region when needed.

A lot of the growth that is taking place is within state-party activity that I don’t know about. I’m very interested in it, of course. But it isn’t exactly my business to know everything about it. When a voter joins RP, they do that through his or her state-party organization; no exceptions. That means me too. There are no separate classes of participation. Understanding of this is essential, but a lot of folks still think individuals join the RPUSA. Wrong.

This is the way it works: Individuals register or otherwise affiliate with RP at the state level. The states are, in turn, the membership of the National Convention, which is in fact the National entity, RPUSA. The National Committee (3 individuals from within each state), looks after the interests of the Convention between the Presidential-election years when the Convention comes together. The National Committee elects the National Officers. That’s the condensed version. See the National Rules (Constitution) on our website for further details.

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Chris Rouhier: Do you have any closing thoughts?

Foster: I have visited the 3rdparty.org website, and it pains me to see people talk in exchange about “starting” a major third party as if it has never been attempted before. It’s like watching a group of people attempt to re-invent the wheel. Some of them admit to having a need to study and learn about the how-to’s of starting a state-party organization. Why they don’t just contact someone within the leadership of RP with a commitment to start or join a Reform Party in their state is something I don’t understand. RP survives, exists and works. We are rebuilding at a robust pace, the infighting is over, and there are experienced people within RP leadership who can help them be effective and avoid trouble.

I am accessible by way of my webmail address on the reformparty.org website. I’ll refer or help people who contact me in good faith.

One word of caution: If people are sincere about helping or joining RP, we’ll know. If not, we’ll know that too. We have practice at that sort of thing. Those who come to us who are bone-headed, or combative, or crazed, or too lazy to learn or do anything new - or some combination of those deficiencies - won’t get much help.

This is a serious enterprise and we don’t have a minute to waste.

5 Responses to “Chris Rouhier Interviews Charles Foster”

  1. Citizens For A Better Veterans Home Says:

    Will the Charles Foster Faction

    (A) Be cranking out a print or e-based news letter (since the ‘June’ print news letter of the Arid Zona Reform Mafia communications efforts seem to be the captive of former lovers John Blare (CA) and Darth Shene’ Hoffpauir)?

    (B) As Mister and Mrs Foster keep stating their national status, are they going to stop being so Texas partisan, especially with suspect characters Sandra Madison and/ or Beverly Kennedy?

    (C) Will the law suit continue to list nonsence ‘Name Party Defendents’ such as www.reformparty-ag.org and (1995!) Jesse Ventura orientated American Reform Party? And why were ARP’s kissing cousins, the various ‘Indendence Party’ groups, including Donald Trump leaning New York State Integrity Party (heavy in Long Island) not sued?

    (D) The Yuma gang (AZ - CA - MS, ‘Sons of Shawn O’Hara’) has semi embraced the Bull Moose. ARP and ‘Independence’ parties all have American Bison (Buffalo) as mascot. Given Don Lake’s two year effort to promote TR (and California direct democracy guru Governor Hiram W. Johnson), the Theodore Bear and the Bull Moose AND TIME MAGAZINE’s cover story of July 1st, 2006——Is the TX - MI - FL faction going to continue with the common, ubiquidous H. Ross Perot inspired Eagle/ Eagle - Head?

    (E) Not in love with CUIP and or Unity08,——-what are your group’s opinion on Lou Dobbs, Donald Trump, and or Mike Bloomberg?

    (F) Maine’s so-called reform candidates?

    (G) Lack of critism by RP of California per faux reformer Arnold Schwarzenegger?

    (H) Lack of action to ‘fusion’ the abandoned state shells of Natural Law Party as early as April 2004? The People’s Party of Idaho has been real sucessful with three folks from Boise, little or no media, and seven weeks in spring 2006! Remember, Richard Winger, Philip Sawyer, and Citizens For A Better Veterans Home (all California) were all independent preachers of the NLP strategy as early as 2004!

  2. Will Says:

    Don Lake, why are you so out of your fucking mind?

  3. Citizens For A Better Veterans Home Says:

    And why do you thing?

    I stand by all these statement(s) and question(s)!

    Why are you not demanding these replies of Foster and other reformers?

    Coward, call me at 619.420.0209!

  4. Phil Sawyer Says:

    It is nice to read that the Reform Party USA is still alive and kicking. Of course, the establishment news media doesn’t want people to know about that.

    As a former (and founding) member of United We Stand America; the Patriot Party; the Reform Party; and the New Frontier Coalition - and as a former member of the Committee for a Constitutional Presidency/McCarthy ‘76; the Peace and Freedom Party (People’s Party); the Citizens Party; the National Unity Party; the California Party (Independence Party); the American Independent Party (Constitution Party); and the Natural Law Party - I believe that I have a pretty good idea of where this movement (for peace and reform) has been and where it might go to in the near future. The Reform Party of California is on its last legs. Without drastically altering their approach to regaining ballot access (by migrating to the empty shell of the Natural Law Party), it will take a miracle for success. Even if they come up with someone like C.T. Weber of the Peace and Freedom Party (who, with a little help from friends) was able to bring PFP back from near death, what then? The Peace and Freedom Party of Califonia is a Party that is dying on the vine due to lack of creativity and imagination on the part of the Old Guard Leadership (they are still not even asking the correct questions). Can the California Reform Party make any different claim? I am still waiting to see (out of academic interest, of course).

    It is time to move on. My plea is for all people in Calfirnia who are truly interested in “third party politics” to follow me into the Green Party of California. In 2008, that is where the action is going to be!

    PS: Don and Will - please stop fighting.

  5. Donald Raymond Lake Says:

    I am just making statements——statements that I stand by! I am not the one swearing and fighting. Will never calls me (like you do/ did)! I am more than happy to consider ANY QUESTION he has to ask! Who is ‘Will’ any way, what is his fax, voice phone, mailing address, or email addie? It is not my fault that he is a coward and blow hard. All I am doing is standing up for abused veterans and disrespected reformist!