Published on Sunday, September 10, 2000 in the Philadelphia Inquirer
Rumors Had Troopers Seeing Reds During The GOP Convention
State police based their suspicions of protesters on information supplied by a right-wing group.
by Craig R. McCoy and Linda K. Harris
The cold war is long over but Pennsylvania State Police were still on the lookout for communists and Soviet sympathizers among the demonstrators protesting last month's Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.
In state police affidavits justifying a raid on a West Philadelphia warehouse used by convention protesters, troopers alleged that communists were behind the demonstrations.
"Funds allegedly originate with Communist and leftist parties and from sympathetic trade unions," the state police declared in the affidavits. "Other funds reportedly come from the former Soviet-allied World Federation of Trade Unions."
The language left critics, including demonstrators and civil-liberties lawyers, both a little amused and a lot indignant. They said it seemed like something out of a musty red-baiting periodical of the 1950s - Red Channels and the like.
The allegations - passed to state police by a private group funded by conservative multimillionaire Richard Mellon Scaife - did not belong in government affidavits seeking judicial approval for a search warrant that led to 75 arrests, they said.
"It's McCarthyite. It's tarring people," said David Kairys, a law professor at Temple University. "It's reminiscent of the worst of the '50s."
The allegations of communist money made up only a small part of the 23-page affidavits in support of search warrants for three vehicles and the warehouse, at 4100 Haverford Ave. The affidavits, made public Wednesday after having been sealed for more than a month, relied most heavily on the direct observations of undercover troopers who infiltrated the warehouse.
Known as "the puppet warehouse," police called it a center of illegal activity; activists said it was a workshop in which they made more than 100 puppets and a large satirical float, "Corpzilla."
The documents were the first public acknowledgement that police had infiltrated groups planning to protest during last month's Republican National Convention.
Without elaboration, the affidavits stated that the allegations of communist funding had come from the little-known Maldon Institute.
Asked last week about the Maldon Institute, Jack Lewis, a state police spokesman, seemed a little unsure.
"Our people said they believed this institute is based in the United Kingdom," he said.
The Maldon Institute - named after an obscure battle in England in the 10th century - is based in Baltimore and has a mailing address in Washington, D.C.
Lewis added: "I'm told by our intelligence people that the Maldon Institute is a private organization that provides intelligence information to police departments.
"We have found in the past that the Maldon Institute generally presents reliable information."
Lewis said that state police and other police departments "routinely receive information from the Maldon Institute at no cost, via e-mail. The department did not solicit this information."
Asked whether state police had attended Maldon Institute conferences, Lewis responded: "State police personnel have had contact in the U.S. with representatives of the institute."
According to public records, the institute is funded, at least in part, by Scaife, the Pittsburgh political philanthropist best known for his financial support of several private investigations of President Clinton in recent years.
Financial forms for Scaife's Carthage Foundation show it provided Maldon with $250,000 in 1998.
Institute documents show that board members have included D. James Kennedy, a Florida televangelist who is cofounder of the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority; and Robert Moss, a journalist and novelist who in the 1980s wrote that the KGB used Western media to manipulate public opinion.
The institute's officials did not return repeated telephone calls seeking comment Friday.
In an interview last week, Chip Berlet, who studies conservative and far-right groups, said a key figure within the 15-year-old institute has been John H. Rees, a British-born contributor to the John Birch Society and publisher of a newsletter devoted to intelligence-gathering and distributed to police.
In the 1970s, Rees published the Information Digest, which gave details gathered after he infiltrated left-leaning groups under a false name, the Baltimore Sun reported in 1988.
Just this year, Rees, as director of the Maldon Institute, helped organize an invitation-only conference in New York City on terrorism that drew FBI agents and police, according to conference sponsors.
Berlet said state police erred in using the institute as a basis for police action.
"It issues monographs and monitors cults and terrorist groups and left-wing groups," said Berlet, senior analyst with the left-leaning Political Research Associates, based in Massachusetts. "It does so from an old-fashioned counter-subversion perspective that is obsessed with finding reds under every bed."
Berlet said police needed to distinguish protesters who were engaged in nonviolent and legal protest from those breaking the law.
"You're never going to draw those appropriate distinctions if you're relying on these kind of scurrilous, McCarthyite allegations," he said.
Lewis, the state police spokesman, noted that the affidavit drew from "a wide variety of sources" and did not rely solely on the Maldon Institute's work. The affidavits drew most heavily on information developed by troopers who had infiltrated the warehouse.
The affidavits, in alleging communist links to the protest, cited specifically a Maldon Institute research report dated April 7. Lewis said the state police would not release that report.
"The department does not believe it has an obligation to provide the public with all information it receives as part of its intelligence-gathering operation, whether or not the department pays for that information," he said.
The affidavit's specific allegation is that communist money flowed to a protest group called the Pennsylvania Consumer Action Network through its supposed ties to People's Global Action, an anti-capitalist group formed in Switzerland two years ago.
All of this astounded Mike Morrill, a leader of the Pennsylvania Consumer Action Network. His group organized a peaceful march for July 30 - one permitted by the city.
Morrill last week released his group's donor list. It showed that the group raised about $48,000 for the Republican convention protests, with the largest contributions coming from well-known city labor unions. Of the total, $200 came from the Communist Party of Eastern Pennsylvania, the only communist group listed.
Morrill said he took no part in the Aug. 1 street blockades that disrupted city traffic.
"Imagine my surprise when I found out my organization was awash in money, funded by Soviet-era organizations and communist-inspired groups from around the world," Morrill said.
"Were it so, I'd probably have a better wardrobe and live in a nicer house."
Copyright 2000 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc