Monday, October 6, 2003

Wesley Clark officially became a Democrat yesterday, nearly three weeks after announcing his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The campaign of Mr. Clark, whose fealty was questioned by some party members, filed the candidate’s signed affidavit at the Pulaski County, Ark., elections office to change his voter registration from unaffiliated to Democrat.

“We’ve had the papers on his desk, filled out and ready to go, for some time,” campaign spokeswoman Kym Spell said yesterday. “But he has been busy, and he hadn’t even been to town for some time until this weekend.”

Last week it was discovered that Mr. Clark had declared no party affiliation in his December 2001 renewal for his voter registration, despite saying in a Sept. 27 interview that he had filed the paperwork to become a Democrat.

Mr. Clark told a political reporter for the Union Leader newspaper in Manchester, N.H., that he registered as a Democrat about two weeks before announcing for the presidency. He declared his candidacy on Sept. 17.

The reporter quoted Mr. Clark as saying that as far as political affiliation, “I wasn’t anything. In Arkansas, you don’t have to register for parties. You vote in primaries, and, of course, I voted in Democratic primaries.”

Mr. Clark, a retired four-star Army general, has said unabashedly that throughout much of his military career he voted Republican, supporting Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Richard M. Nixon in 1972. The candidate has also taken shots for his lobbyist status, a role he has relinquished.

Mr. Clark was a lobbyist for Acxiom Corp., a Little Rock, Ark.-based data management company. A company spokesman said Mr. Clark was paid $300,000 for his work in 2002 and a prorated portion of $150,000 this year.

Mr. Clark is also an Acxiom board member, having joined in December 2001.

Acxiom was named in a federal complaint from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which asserted that the company sold the demographic information of nearly 2 million airline passengers. It denied any wrongdoing. Also named in the complaint was JetBlue Airways Corp.

During a campaign stop in Little Rock during the weekend, Mr. Clark told a local television station that he was the one Democrat among the 10 seeking the presidential nomination who had distinguished himself from the pack.

“I’m the newest Democrat,” Mr. Clark was quoted as saying by KATV in Little Rock. “I’ve got experience in foreign policy, experience in executive leadership that none of the others quite have.”

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