Operation Baghdad

A Senate hopeful on the lam is busy tracking Saddam

Martin never won a race, but he made some headlines. In 1994, he was found to have broken election laws when he accepted a $50,000 campaign loan from Mom. While Martin is cagey about his finances, I think that loan, plus a courtroom admission that Mom pays his rent and telephone bills, gives a clue about who finances his many far-flung ventures. When I asked him about his net worth, he said it's about zero.

His most high-profile campaign came in 1996, when it was alleged that he'd run anti-Semitic campaigns in the past, including authorization of a committee in 1986 called "The Anthony R. Martin-Trigona Congressional Campaign to Exterminate Jew Power in America."

Martin denies involvement, though he allegedly made anti-Semitic remarks in a bankruptcy case in 1983. While he touts a two-state solution for the Middle East in his "Andy Martin Peace Plan," says he's close to the peace movement in Israel, and has proposed increased compensation for Holocaust victims, the candidate also called for the Bush administration to attack Israel instead of Iraq. He has compared Ariel Sharon to Adolf Hitler and has written in defense of Hamas suicide bombers. He's skating the edge, but then, someone needs to offset the neocon hawks in the Bush administration.

The 1996 allegations led the Republican Party to renounce him, and the negative publicity may have gotten to him: Just before the election, he went after two WPTV-Channel 5 cameramen in West Palm Beach, knocking one camera to the floor and breaking a microphone off the other. He didn't feel like being interviewed, apparently.

Awaiting trial on charges of criminal mischief related to his outburst, he spent two months in jail, where he staged a hunger strike and often refused to wear clothes. He was convicted in 1997 and sentenced to a year in jail -- another stiff penalty (hell, some Hollywood stars break a camera or two every time they leave the house). "Judges just love to demonize me," Martin says.

He was freed pending an appeal but was ordered right back to jail -- this time for seven months -- for contempt of court when he turned to television cameras inside a civil courtroom to say that the sitting judge was "bought and paid for" and a "psychiatric case."

After Martin served the first month, deputies released him prematurely by accident. Martin didn't look back, so a warrant was put out for his arrest. After losing his appeal on the criminal charges, he owes Palm Beach County about 16 months in jail. "The warrant is active," Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Det. Clayton Ginn told me. "Do you have any information on him?"

Though I'd go to jail myself before turning him in, Martin always found an excuse never to meet with me face to face. He uses a toll-free number and, when he's not in Iraq, spends his time in New York City (where he occasionally gives street-corner "press conferences"), Washington, D.C., and Florida. "I'm not avoiding the police -- I think they are avoiding me," Martin says before alleging that deputies are conspiring with a local law firm to kidnap him. He promised that a future multimillion-dollar lawsuit would explain the entire mess.

As a fugitive, Martin still managed to run for Senate in 1998, do a regular radio show on WPBR-1300 AM in West Palm Beach, and make a quick fling in the 2000 presidential race, during which he ran a controversial television ad in Connecticut accusing George W. Bush of using cocaine. Martin, needless to say, is no party loyalist.

In fact, he has no business in either party. During the early days, he was a Democrat running on a pro-life agenda. Today, he's a Republican running on a pro-choice stance. Martin has called himself the "anti-Bush." He says he's anti-death penalty, pro-gay rights, anti-Patriot Act, and anti-Bush tax cut. He also opposed the Iraq War. "I'm a progressive Republican," he says. "I'm really a traditional conservative. I'll stay out of your bedroom if you stay out of mine. I tend toward the Libertarian. If you said I was a McCain Republican, I wouldn't argue. Neither one of us can stand the hypocrisy or the bullshit. But where I've been putting my mental energy for the past six months is foreign policy."

Back to Iraq. During his three visits since April, he has written columns for a West Palm Beach-based Internet media site called Out2.com., where he serves as the unpaid "Baghdad Bureau Chief."

"We need to get Paul Bremer off his ass and on the street talking to normal Iraqis," Martin says. American soldiers and civilian administrators "need to take off their bullet-proof vests like they want to be friends instead of acting like enemies. Bremer doesn't know what he's doing. He's isolated in the old Saddam palace complex. We should call it the Emerald City, because that's about as much substance as it has."

While staying in the Palestine Hotel, Martin became enamored of a couple of wild dogs, whom he named Lucy and Jake. He says he had a special "code" he used to call the dogs. Jake, sadly, was killed by a car while Martin was out of Baghdad. Lucy, however, is now a fixture with U.S. armed forces in the city and can be found happily guarding tanks. "I became the unofficial veterinarian for the First Armored Division," Martin says. "I brought medicines with me and gave neighborhood dogs shots."

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