By TIM SANDLER CONCORD, N.H. (UPI) _ Lawrence Guay, a $100-a-year state legislator f
By TIM SANDLER
CONCORD, N.H. (UPI) _ Lawrence Guay, a $100-a-year state
legislator from the North Country, returned a changed man from an
anti-communism conference in Washington sponsored by the
political arm of the Unification Church.
The group, Causa International, has sent New Hampshire
legislators on all-expense-paid trips across the country for
years. Last week, at least one state representative attended a
similar four-day conference in Miami sponsored by the group.
All-expense-paid trips are not new to New Hampshire elected
officials. Last month, Rep. Robert Cushing, D-Seabrook, took a
guest trip to South America. Former Senate President Vesta Roy
accepted an invitation to Saudi Arabia last spring.
Other legislators have accepted trips to countries including
Germany, Japan, Israel and Norway. None of the legislators paid
their own expenses.
Even though no state funds are involved, the trips hold a
built-in paradox: Should legislators who accept expensive trips
be held accountable for them if they were invited because of
their government positions?
Rep. Donna Sytek, R-Salem, acknowledges the dilemma. She
returned in January from two weeks in South Africa. The trip was
paid for by the South African Forum, which calls the trips purely
"I don't know why anybody cares if there is no state money
involved," Sytek says. But at the same time, she adds, "It
certainly is their (voters') business if we're going in an
The new version of the financial disclosure law for elected
officials, enacted last Wednesday, has minimal provisions holding
legislators accountable for such trips. The form requires a
legislator to state the source of the gift, the address of the
donor, its estimated value, and the date it was received.
Critics, however, contend the law leaves the door open for
abuse by groups using the trips as high-financed lobbying
Sytek's trip, for example, could be construed as an attempt to
influence her opinion on state divestment from South Africa. The
issue was before legislators in 1986.
As the law stands, Secretary of State William Gardner says the
free trips should be listed by legislators as "gifts" if the
invitation was prompted by the official's position.
"It will at least provide information to the electorate that
they can judge from when they make their decisions on who to vote
for in the future," he says. Claire Ebel, director of the New
Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, says that information may not be
enough for voters to understand the purpose of the trip. She
says the law should be extended to include more information about
the organizations giving the gifts to dissuade gift givers from
using front groups to influence legislators.
"For example, most people in New Hampshire would not think of
Causa as being anything alarming," says Ebel. "But the
Unification Church is known ... by a great many people and would
illicit just that response.
"It's important that the information on the forms inform, not
cloud. The idea of financial disclosure is to open the process
to the average citizen," says Ebel.
Steve Hassen, a former assistant director of the Unification
Church headquarters in Washington, says the Causa conferences
indeed have a hidden agenda. He calls them veiled attempts by
the Rev. Sun Myung Moon to gain legitimacy for his church by
promoting one popular belief _ anti-communism _ without
mentioning his more controversial stances.
Since the late 1970s the U.S. government has closely watched
Moon, a self-proclaimed prophet who has been accused of
brainwashing followers. Moon spent part of 1985 in federal
prison for tax evasion.
Hassen says he was "deprogrammed" from the church 10 years ago
and is now a Boston psychoanalyst and a consultant to the Cult
Awareness Network. After hearing of a similar conference in
Washington attended by at least seven New Hampshire legislators
last December, Hassen warned of unwitting duplicity on the part
of the legisaltors.
"The legislators should know better than anyone that there is
no free lunch," says Hassen. "When people do these things they
want something in return. Moon's plans now are to try to get
access to leaders, get their pictures shaking hands with leaders,
and getting roads into any type of institution they can."
Guay, a Gorham Democrat, disputes Hassen's allegations. Guay
was on the invitational committee of the Miami Causa conference
and attended a similar conference in Washington last year. qxD
The conferences are nothing more than a means of educating
leaders about the strategic tactics of communist countries, says
"If you understand how the communists take control of other
countries you can spot the infiltration," says Guay. "If we (as
representatives) see anything wrong, we can bring it out in the
public so they can see it."
Whether or not such trips benefit a legislator's constituents
or have the intentions Hassen alleges for Causa is up for debate.
Regardless, says Ebel, legislators need to be careful.
"Public officials as a group need to be concerned not only
about the propriety of an action, but the appearance of
propriety. The appearance is as important as the reality of any
situation for a public official," says Ebel.
Meantime, Ebel says it is in a legislator's best interest to
detail such trips in an open letter to constituents to avoid
allegations of misconduct.
"It's very important that they make public what they learned,"
says Ebel. "After all, they conduct the people's business, not
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