The Draft Larry Kudlow Committee, a group working to recruit the CNBC commentator to run against liberal Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), announced today that Wall Street financier John Lakian will serve as the group's finance chairman.
"I am honored to lead fundraising efforts for the Draft Larry Kudlow Committee," said Mr. Lakian, a longtime friend of Mr. Kudlow. "The momentum of this movement is remarkable and I am hopeful and confident Larry will run."
"Our nation needs Larry's common sense approach to economic prosperity now more than ever," Mr. Lakian said. "But this will be a tough race. We must begin stockpiling campaign funds now so if Larry decides to run this spring we can compete financially with Chuck Schumer."
Consider yourself forgiven if his name doesn't ring a bell. The press release identifies him as "current board chairman of the Fort Hill Group, Inc., an investment banking and venture capital firm based in New York City. He is also CEO of Living Independently Group, a company that develops monitoring system to assist in the care of senior citizens." This is probably true. Although with Lakian, you never know. Let me explain.
In 1982, Lakian was a 39-year-old millionaire hot shot who'd been bitten by the political bug. So he decided to run for governor of Massachusetts. He was a Republican, but it wasn't a wild idea: the state's Democratic Party was at war, with Michael Dukakis (who'd been governor from 1974 to 1978) challenging Ed King (who'd defeated Dukakis in '78) in a bloodly primary re-match. So maybe there was room for a credible Republican.
The GOP establishment initially loved Lakian. He could run as a political outsider and finance his own campaign. At the spring '82 state GOP convention, he beat out Andy Card (then an ambitious state representative) and John Sears (a Boston city councilman) for the official party endorsement. He was well-positioned to win the September primary. And then....well, as the Boston Globe put it a few years later:
After winning the endorsement of the Republican state convention in 1982, Lakian's gubernatorial campaign ran aground when the Globe disclosed that he had falsely claimed to have attended graduate school at Harvard; had said in campaign literature that his father died of war-related injuries when in fact he was killed in an automobile accident; and that he had embellished his own military record, even though he had been cited for valorous action as an Army lieutenant in Vietnam. Lakian eventually came in a poor second in the GOP race in 1982.
It got worse, though. Lakian sued the Globe for libel. The case went to trial in 1985. Lakian took the stand and melted down under cross-examination. The jury ruled that the "gist of the article" had been true and that Lakian had not been defamed.
But that wasn't the end of it. Nine years later, with Ted Kennedy facing the worst poll numbers of his career, Lakian re-emerged and declared himself a candidate for the Senate. This time, the GOP establishment was horrified. They wanted nothing to do with Lakian, and anyway, they already had a millionaire businessman candidate: Mitt Romney, then an obscure venture capitalist. Somehow, Lakian cobbled together the 15 percent delegate support at the state GOP convention needed to make the primary ballot (he actually got 17 percent to Romney's 68).
He picked up right where he'd left off in '82. From the Globe in July 1994:
Republican GOP Senate candidate John Lakian, whose once-rising political career crashed 12 years ago because of false resume claims, yesterday found himself forced to retract a statement he recently made about his military background.
At a news conference on July 14, Lakian told reporters that during his military career he took part in Army intelligence operations that targeted and spied on Vietnam War protests.
Yesterday, Lakian, who won two Bronze Stars as a combat soldier in Vietnam, acknowledged that he never did participate in the Army's domestic spying scheme while stationed at its counterintelligence school at Fort Holibird in Maryland in 1968.
It wasn't much of a race. Lakian hurled big money into television ads and wrapped himself around a flat tax proposal (the same strategy Steve Forbes would use in the GOp presidential race two years later). But no one was listening. Romney mostly ignored him. The biggest headline of the race might have been Lakian's memorable Freudian slip, in which he referred to Romney as "Mr. Mormon." In the September '94 primary, Romney won by an 83 to 17 percent tally.
After that, Lakian dropped off the political map. And now, 16 years later, he wants to make Larry Kudlow a senator.