BUENA PARK, Calif. -- Beginning a weekend -- across California aimed at winning a line on the California ballot for his proposed Reform Party, Ross Perot yesterday offered the first concrete evidence that he will provide the sort of money needed to make that idea real.
Mr. Perot spoke in Orange and Santa Clara counties, pushing his theme that several thousand California volunteers could "change the history of this country" by gathering signatures and registering voters in the new political party in time to meet the state-imposed deadline of Oct. 24.
California has the earliest qualifying date in the country for parties seeking a place on the November 1996 election ballot.
As he spoke, aides confirmed that Mr. Perot's organization was transferring 50 staff members from out of state to California to help coordinate the petition drive and would also pay to establish several toll-free 800 telephone lines and set up five regional headquarters around the state to handle the massive task of either collecting 890,064 valid petition signatures or 89,007 new party registrants in less than four weeks.
Mr. Perot's appearances coincide with the publication today in some 40 newspapers across the state of advertisements containing the petition to gain recognition for the party.
The advertisements cost some $360,000, Mr. Perot said, but would "put a petition in 6 million houses come Sunday morning."
"We will give them an October surprise," said the Texas businessman who ran a losing but powerful independent candidacy for president in 1992.
Nationally, some Republican leaders have reacted bitterly to his announcement of a planned third party, saying he is a spoiler who in 1992 elected President Clinton and who could well do so again in 1996.
A dozen of the United We Stand staff members were at the morning session yesterday in Buena Park, where about 400 volunteers heard Mr. Perot speak for 75 minutes. The volunteers also received detailed instructions at a workshop prior to the 11 a.m. address, learning how to gather signatures, register voters for the Reform Party and coordinate with local and regional headquarters by using the 800 numbers and through the mail.
Russ Verney, national executive director of United We Stand America, said he is certain the volunteers would get the job done.
The five headquarters that United We Stand America is opening are each in areas that gave Mr. Perot substantial votes in 1992. Statewide, he received 19 percent of the vote, the same as his nationwide percentage.
Political consultants believe the Perot organization can meet the deadline, especially because of his deep pockets, but had questioned whether Mr. Perot would, in fact, put into the state the resources necessary to conduct the petition campaign.
Both Mr. Verney and Mr. Perot extolled the passion of the volunteers, saying they, and not money, would make the difference.
Mr. Perot claimed that it was a California volunteer who came up with the idea to distribute the petitions through newspaper advertisements. "The unit cost is 6 cents a household," he crowed.
Volunteers will call an 800 number to turn in daily tallies and where they were solicited. Headquarters people will deploy volunteers based on those reports, sending additional workers to particularly fertile areas.