TWO hundred people were gathered at Georgetown University recently to hear Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm talk about immigration reform. Suddenly, a well-dressed man in the third row of the auditorium stood up and began shouting: ``You're just spreading neo-Nazi ideology!''
The governor tried to restore order, but the hullabaloo continued. Finally, as a uniformed guard dragged the protester from the room, the man yelled one final message: ``Lyndon LaRouche has the answers!''
Lyndon LaRouche. It's a name that has hovered on the fringes of American politics for more than 20 years. Now, after scoring a startling political upset in Illinois, the LaRouche forces are suddenly front and center in the 1986 elections (Democrats' plans in Illinois: Page 5).
Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., who calls himself a Democrat, has run several times for the White House and is already officially in the race for 1988. But he remains a mysterious figure to most Americans.
The news media have trouble placing him. He's been called everything from an ``arch conservative'' to a ``far leftist.'' Opponents hurl inflammatory charges at him: ``anti-Semite,'' ``conspiracy monger,'' ``oddball,'' ``brown shirt.''
Mr. LaRouche throws the names right back at his critics. But his primary focus amid the rumble of charge and countercharge has been on economic and defense issues. He is a champion of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). He favors a Franklin D. Roosevelt-style, low-interest economic program to bolster American industry and agriculture. He wants an all-out war on drug pushers. And he demands nationwide screening to counteract the dis-ease AIDS (Acquired Immune Difficiency Syndrome).
His supporters complain that newspapers and television have conducted a blackout against LaRouche and his ideas. Melvin Klenetsky, a LaRouche aide, says this is one reason many of his supporters resort to disruptive tactics, as they have on occasion with Governor Lamm, to get attention.
``Our concern is that the population hear the truth,'' Mr. Klenetsky says. ``The media have . . . not presented any of LaRouche's views. They've kept the population in a state of ignorance on purpose. They've done it in a way that our country and Western civilization face a major strategic crisis, and doesn't know what to do about it.''
Klenetsky calls the charges against LaRouche slander. Some of LaRouche's political enemies ``hate the kind of war he's conducting against drugs because they are tied into the international drug lobby,'' he charges.
Another LaRouche aide scoffs at the anti-Semite charge: ``Half of us in the organization are Jewish,'' she says.
Millions of Americans who travel frequently through United States airports have seen at least one phase of the LaRouche operation. LaRouche supporters, under the aegis of the ``Fusion Energy Foundation,'' solicit support for laser-beam weapons for national defense. The LaRouche cause is also trumpeted in his publications -- the weekly Executive Intelligence Review, the twice-a-week newspaper New Solidarity, and pamphlets and books such as one entitled ``LaRouche: Will this man become President?''
While LaRouche churns out public-policy studies, and sometimes meets with intelligence, drug-enforcement, and defense officials in the Reagan administration to discuss policy, his reputation for eccentricity springs from his own words.
He has charged, for example, that the British royal family, along with international bankers (many of whom, he says, are Jewish), is deeply immersed in the world drug trade. He has called the late pacifist Bertrand Russell ``the most evil man of the 20th century.'' He dubs former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger ``one of the leading Soviet moles.'' And he charged Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale with being a Soviet ``agent of influence.''
Klenetsky insists that ``every characterization'' can be backed up. And he complains that it is the media, and politicians like Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan (D) of New York, who are engaged in a ``smear campaign to keep the truth from getting out.''
LaRouche aides say that this smear campaign has been somewhat effective. A number of their contacts in the Reagan administration have been less willing to meet with LaRouche recently because of fears that they will be linked with his movement.
Senator Moynihan, who spoke out this week against local LaRouche candidates in a Manhattan neighborhood, called LaRouche a ``fascist'' and termed his organization a significant threat to the Democratic Party.
More than 750 LaRouche candidates are running nationwide this year, mostly as Democrats, in 29 states. Few people paid much attention, however, until last week's shocker in Illinois. Two candidates, Mark J. Fairchild and Janice Hart, backed by LaRouche's National Democratic Policy Committee, won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor and secretary of state. The situation has greatly embarrassed the Democratic nominee for governor, Adlai E. Stevenson III, and could send all of the party's major candidates for state office down to defeat in November.
The LaRouche upset in Illinois could also hurt Democratic Sen. Alan J. Dixon, who is up for reelection, and thereby damage national Democratic prospects for seizing control of the Senate in November. The Democratic National Committee (DNC), which had high hopes for Mr. Stevenson to win the governorship in Illinois, is scrambling to confine the fallout to one state.
In Washington, the DNC has launched a 50-state alert against the LaRouche forces. Terry Michael, press secretary for the DNC, said:
``We told them to examine all primary election filings for all offices and to alert legitimate Democratic candidates and voters when they discover LaRouche supporters or other extremists on the ticket.''
Packets of information about LaRouche are being rushed to party offices across the country this week. In some states, including California, stunned party officials realized that some LaRouche candidates were running unopposed for the party's nominations for Congress. Write-in campaigns for regular Democrats are being hastily organized.
Klenetsky, interviewed by phone at LaRouche's headquarters in Leesburg, Va., says there are 135 LaRouche candidates running this year for the US House of Representatives. Fifteen others are running for the US Senate, and seven for governorships. The rest of the 750 LaRouche candidates are seeking lesser positions. Almost all of them are running as Democrats. About 20 are running as Republicans, he estimates.
All this activity signals a high-water mark for LaRouche, a man who has been responsible for such works as ``Hitler: Runaway British Agent'' and bumper stickers like ``Feed Jane Fonda to the Whales.''
Born to Quaker parents, LaRouche got his political start in the 1940s, when he was a member of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party. At the time he took the name Lyn Marcus, after Lenin and Marx. In the 1960s he was the leader of a group within the radical, antiwar Students for a Democratic Society, which led a student strike at Columbia University.
Klenetsky says LaRouche's left-wing ties were the result of his concerns about the spread of right-wing McCarthyism in the United States. Analysts say that after the 1960s, LaRouche began to move toward the right (a conclusion denied by LaRouche supporters, who say his policies have been consistent).
Last week's LaRouche victories in Illinois have caused particular uneasiness because no one is certain why they happened.
The victories, however, are expected to cause voters in Illinois, and perhaps elsewhere, to look more seriously at LaRouche proposals. His organization's candidates are championing at least five key issues. They include:
Opposition to the Gramm-Rudman balanced-budget law. Klenetsky calls it ``unconstitutional.'' The law takes defense and general welfare categories out of the hands of the President and Congress, where the Constitution puts them and holds other areas, such as interest on the debt, sacrosanct, says Klenetsky. This is a law written by international bankers and a surrender of national sovereignty, LaRouche forces charge.
Support for SDI, including advocacy of fusion power and laser research. A strategic defense plan is essential to counter growing Soviet military power, Klenetsky says. He adds: ``The Soviets have more than 10,000 scientists who have been working on this project since the end of the 1960s.''
Opposition to ``decoupling'' with Europe. A number of leading defense thinkers, LaRouche charges, are trying to split the US from its European allies by pulling American troops out of Europe. ``The Soviets are also for this,'' Klenetsky notes.
Support for a major war on drugs. LaRouche candidate Janice Hart in Illinois says it's time to roll out the tanks in an all-out effort against drug pushers, drug smugglers, and also banks that are laundering drug money. Communists are using drugs as a ``weapon against the West,'' Klenetsky says. LaRouche forces claim drugs have become a $400 million-to-$800 million-a-year business which could not survive without complicity from major US banks.
Drastic action against the disease AIDS. LaRouche would require universal testing for AIDS, and quarantine those who have it. ``There is a cover-up on the AIDS issue,'' says Klenetsky.
The immediate concern of old-line Democrats is that LaRouche men and women on their tickets around the country could wreak havoc on the party's carefully laid nationwide plans for the 1986 elections.
The seriousness of the situation was shown this week by Illinois Sen. Paul Simon, himself a Democrat. The senator said he told Stevenson, the Democratic nominee for governor: ``I cannot vote for you if you're on a ticket with two neo-Nazis.''