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Monday, October 04, 1999
Copyright Las Vegas Review-Journal

ALIEN ENCOUNTER

A business consultant starts a political action committee to lobby Congress to reveal any government information about the existence of extraterrestrials.

By Andrew DeMillo
Donrey Washington Bureau

      WASHINGTON -- Stephen Bassett doesn't look like an "X-Files" agent.
      His teal Polo shirt and wrinkled dark dress pants don't look like the attire of someone who wants to reveal the existence of extraterrestrials.
      But Bassett has undertaken what he calls the politics of UFOs and not by chasing flying saucers or walking through crop circles. Bassett's mission is taking him to what some would call a much more sinister place -- the halls of Congress.
      The 52-year-old business consultant and former physicist is a self-proclaimed pioneer, the nation's first UFO lobbyist. Working on a shoestring budget from his aunt's house in Bethesda, Md., Bassett is director of the Extraterrestrial Phenomena Political Action Committee.
      Many are calling his ideas a little out of this world. Bassett isn't letting that stop him from shooting for the stars.
      In a political town bustling with more than 4,500 PACs jockeying for congressional support, X-PPAC seemed to Bassett the best way to make progress in what he calls "one of the most significant issues of our time."
      "Our fundamental goal is formal disclosure by the government of the presence of extraterrestrials," Bassett said.
      Modestly launched over the summer, X-PPAC hasn't hit the ground running as fast as Bassett would have liked. The committee was announced on Nevadan Art Bell's Coast to Coast, a popular late-night radio show given to discussions about UFOs and things that go bump in the night.
      Bassett hopes to stir up more attention through a series of public appearances, interviews and lectures scheduled throughout the year.
      It's a daunting effort for a man who has spent most of his career developing corporate strategies, designing Web sites and advising research organizations. Since graduating from Eckerd College in Florida in 1970, Bassett has worked for the Environmental Protection Agency, worked in marketing and founded his own research group, Paradigm Research.
      His PAC, which consists of himself and an assistant director -- both unpaid -- doesn't compare with lobbying heavyweights like AARP or the National Rifle Association. So far, he has raised about $1,000 in contributions.
      In Bassett's plan, the culmination of his effort will be a Capitol Hill rally next spring calling for open congressional hearings about the existence of UFOs. He hopes to draw at least 100,000 people: enough believers to fill Washington's RFK Memorial Stadium -- twice.
      "A rally of one or two thousand is not enough to make a statement," Bassett said. "We need to have a rally that will reflect the importance and power of the issue."
      The group will focus more on lobbying for government disclosure rather than endorsing presidential or congressional candidates. Very few politicians are willing to "promote the politics of UFOs," Bassett concedes.
      Bassett eyes the Internet as his mail tool. With its foreboding black background and giant silver X's, his Web site, found at www.x-ppac.org, looks as dark as the conspiracy he seeks to uncover.
      During the Cold War, the United States built up a massive secrecy infrastructure regarding UFOs, Bassett contends. He hopes to get information released about those secrets, including information about Area 51, the secret Air Force base in Southern Nevada. The UFO movement contends the Groom Lake base is the center of extraterrestrial activity and may contain evidence of aliens.
      A lawyer familiar with the site said X-PPAC may hurt efforts for public disclosure about Area 51. Jonathan Turley -- who represented employees alleging they were exposed to harmful and toxic materials while working at the government base -- said he has tried to distance himself from such groups.
      "The government benefits from the distraction of the extraterrestrial debate. I don't want to be associated with that," said Turley, a law professor at George Washington University.
      Political experts find the idea of a UFO lobbyist a little hard to swallow. Once the novelty dies down, X-PPAC probably won't last too long, one University of Maryland professor predicts.
      "They'll maybe get a pittance or some cute stories from the media," said Paul Herrnson, who teaches politics and government. "Given the nature of their theme, it'll be difficult for them to get much further."
      Bassett and his allies admit a ridicule factor exists for supporters of the UFO movement. They maintain the media and the government have undermined the issue through misinformation.
      "When you say UFOs, people immediately think of the `X-Files' or `Independence Day,' " said Paul Nahay, X-PPAC's assistant director. "I'm trying to get people past that initial stage."
      The growing interest in UFOs and aliens is evidenced by the popularity of television shows and movies, Bassett said.
      "There is a lot of mainstream interest and belief in the existence of aliens," he said. "The support is out there."
      Others see X-PPAC as an indication of how frustrated Americans have become when dealing with the federal government.
      "Money talks in Washington. That's why so many groups set up PACs," said Gary Ruskin, executive director of the Congressional Accountability Project. "It just shows how deteriorated our democracy has become.


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Inside AREA 51








Stephen Bassett, the 52-year-old chief of the nation's first UFO lobby, the Extraterrestrial Phenomena Political Action Committee, hopes to reveal the existence of aliens through rallies and congressional hearings.
Photo by David Holloway/Special to the Review-Journal

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