|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (April 2012)|
Kenneth Lewis Kronberg (April 18, 1948 – April 11, 2007) was an American businessman and long-time member of the LaRouche movement, an organization founded by American political activist Lyndon LaRouche.
He was president of PMR Printing Co. and World Composition Services Inc., in Sterling, Virginia, printing businesses set up in 1978 to print material for the LaRouche movement, which received most of the money the LaRouche organisation spent on producing pamphlets; but the companies also worked for other clients including the United Nations and the Ford Foundation. He was also co-founder and editor of Fidelio, the magazine of the Schiller Institute, a LaRouche movement think-tank founded by Helga Zepp-LaRouche.
Kronberg died after jumping from a highway overpass on April 11, 2007, in what a spokesman for the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office said was an apparent suicide—the cause of death also recorded on the death certificate.
Education and career
Kronberg was born in the Bronx, New York. He graduated at the age of 16 from Bronx High School of Science, and graduated in 1968 with a bachelor's degree from St. John's College, Santa Fe, New Mexico; he then spent a year as a junior fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions with Robert M. Hutchins in Santa Barbara, California. In discussing his time at St. John's and the Center years later, Kronberg described himself as a "Socratic revolutionary."
He directed amateur theater, specializing in Shakespeare, and taught classes in poetry and drama.
Involvement with the LaRouche movement
Kronberg became involved with the LaRouche movement, regarded by critics as a political cult, in 1971 after reading a LaRouche newspaper (New Solidarity) at a friend's house. A friend told Avi Klein of Washington Monthly: "He was sold on the guy from the beginning."
In The Washington Monthly, Avi Klein writes that the relationship with LaRouche seemed to be a perfect fit for Kronberg with his publishing experience, because the LaRouche movement's growth was being driven by its publication of political pamphlets and newspapers, which members would hand out on campuses and on the streets. Klein's sources, including ex-members and Kronberg's wife, say Kronberg was "horrified" by the "dark side" of the LaRouche movement, and that in the early 1970s, LaRouche began to engage in "ego stripping" sessions with senior members in which the member's core beliefs and relationship with his family were attacked. During one such session, Kronberg was allegedly so disgusted that he threw a soda bottle across the room and walked out. Klein reports that Kronberg was also shocked by the so-called Chris White affair in 1974, when LaRouche became convinced that White, his ex-girlfriend's new husband, had been brainwashed and sent by British intelligence to assassinate him. LaRouche "deprogammed" White over a period of two weeks. The New York Times obtained a tape recording of the sessions, during which "weeping and vomiting" could be heard, as well as someone saying "Raise the voltage," though LaRouche later said this had to do with the bright lights used during the questioning, not an electric shock.
Despite his misgivings, Kronberg believed LaRouche was a genius. Klein writes that Kronberg "rationalized his leader's seemingly crackpot ideas," telling family members that LaRouche didn't really believe all the things he was saying. In 1974, Kronberg became a national committee member of the National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC), part of the LaRouche movement. He was the production editor of their newspaper, New Solidarity, edited their magazine, The Campaigner, and later co-founded and edited Fidelio, a publication of LaRouche's Schiller Institute. He was a founding board member of Caucus Distributors, one of the key LaRouche companies. In 1978, he founded World Composition Services, which typeset material for LaRouche; according to Klein, Kronberg's companies also worked for other clients such as the United Nations and the Ford Foundation, as "low-cost printing" for LaRouche in reality often meant "free printing".
According to a memorial posted on a LaRouche website, Kronberg also played a leading role in promoting the ideas of Heinrich Heine and the Yiddish Renaissance. He did research, wrote, and taught classes on the English scientist William Gilbert, and on the Roman Empire. His poem honoring Indira Gandhi was given to her son, Rajiv Gandhi, then the Prime Minister of India, who had it published in the April 1987 issue of Congress Varnika, the magazine of the then-ruling Congress Party.
Print shop's financial problems
Nicholas F. Benton, owner of the Falls Church News-Press and himself a former member of the LaRouche movement, writes that at the beginning of 2007, the LaRouche movement realized Kronberg's printing company (PMR) was on the verge of bankruptcy. He says that the financial problems stemmed from the movement's failure to pay the print shop for its services, as a consequence of which the company was in arrears with its tax payments, including employee withholding.
One ex-LaRouche supporter told Nicholas Benton: "There was never any money at PMR and members were paid only half their salaries, which were already pittances, and then Ken paid himself only once a month."
Klein writes that in March 2007, the LaRouche Political Action Committee told Kronberg that they had decided not to pay the money they owed him, and that they also asked that he return a $100,000 advance to the company, which Avi Klein writes Kronberg had already spent. Klein writes that Kronberg feared the movement would raid an escrow account that held $235,000 the company owed the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
So long as Kronberg was in control of the printing operation, Klein writes, he hoped he was safe from LaRouche movement attacks on his family, because the print shop was so central to the movement's existence. When he realized it was about to collapse, he reportedly told his wife, two days before his death: "I will be vilified. You and I will be vilified like nothing you've seen yet. It will be ugly; it will be brutal. This is going to be the worst week of my life."
At 10:17 a.m. on the morning of his death, after reportedly reading the "morning briefing" in his office, Kronberg instructed his accountant by e-mail to transfer to the IRS the $235,000 held in the escrow account. He drove to the Dulles Mail Facility where he mailed some family bills, then headed back toward PMR over the Waxpool Road overpass in Sterling. He pulled his car off the road on the overpass, left his emergency lights blinking, and jumped.
At his death, Kronberg left his wife of 36 years, Molly; their son, Max Isaac Thomas Kronberg, 22; a brother, Richard Kronberg; two nephews; and three cousins.
Avi Klein and Nicholas Benton have linked Kronberg's death to a daily internal document, the so-called "morning briefing," which is circulated among members of the LaRouche movement, and which Benton writes they regard as authoritative.
The briefing circulated on the morning of Kronberg's death appears to have been addressed to the movement's younger generation. It attacked the print shop, calling it among the worst of the failures of the "baby boomer" generation – referring to members who joined the movement in the 1960s and 1970s.
It continued: "the Boomers will be scared into becoming human, because you're in the real world, and they're not. Unless they want to commit suicide."
Molly Kronberg told Klein that her husband killed himself to draw public attention to the print shop's financial position and the reasons for it, and that it was "...as such ...the bravest political act of his life."
In an interview conducted by PRA, Molly Kronberg stated that she believes her husband's suicide was an attempt by him to escape the "terrible tension [in her opinion caused by LaRouche's alleged anti-semitism and megalomania], and his legal and financial entanglements on behalf of the organization."
Kronberg's wife, Marielle ("Molly") Hammett, was for years deeply involved with the movement, being elected to the National Committee in December 1982.
Kronberg and Hammett met in 1971. She joined the movement in 1973 so that they could marry, becoming pregnant shortly afterwards. According to Klein, Kronberg persuaded her to have an abortion, because LaRouche taught that families were a "dangerous distraction." The Kronbergs went on to have a son, Max, in 1984, "in defiance of LaRouche," Klein writes.
She helped to found the New Benjamin Franklin Publishing House in 1978, which published Dope Inc., a LaRouche book. Avi Klein writes that Molly had to take out personal loans to pay her husband's printing company for the publication costs, and when they proved insufficient, she traveled across the country trying to persuade LaRouche supporters to sign promissory notes to the movement.
As part of the LaRouche trials of the late 1980s, starting with LaRouche's own federal trial, conviction, and imprisonment, Molly Kronberg was tried with other LaRouche followers in 1989 in New York and convicted of one count of scheme to defraud. She was sentenced to five years probation; the other LaRouche followers convicted, Robert Primack and Lynne Speed, were sentenced to prison, although Lynne Speed was later able to argue successfully before the state Court of Appeals that the Judge's leniency towards Kronberg should extend to herself as well. According to Avi Klein, Molly Kronberg strenuously opposed having LaRouche testify in the New York trial.
In 2004 and 2005, Molly Kronberg made contributions of $1,501 to the Republican National Committee and the election campaign of George W. Bush. According to Klein, LaRouche felt that this "foreshadowed her treachery to the movement."
In October 2008, Molly Kronberg joined Erica Duggan, the mother of Jeremiah Duggan, and a number of former LaRouche members, journalist Chip Berlet, and Members of Parliament from Germany and the United Kingdom in a conference in Berlin, discussing the danger of the LaRouche movement.
On August 21, 2009, Molly Kronberg filed suit against LaRouche in Federal Court, Eastern District of Virginia, charging harassment and libel. The suit includes numerous references to the circumstances of Ken Kronberg's death. Co-counsel for Mrs. Kronberg was John Markham, who, as one of the Federal prosecutors against LaRouche in 1988, secured his conviction in the same Federal Court in which the Kronberg case is filed.
By spring 2010, however, the LaRouche legal team, including Ben DiMuro, Nina Ginsberg, and Edward McMahon—the latter two, Ginsberg and McMahon, having been members of the ACLU's John Adams Project—had succeeded in disqualifying Markham because of his role as a former prosecutor. For a while Mrs. Kronberg was represented by local counsel John Bond, who bowed out of the case in the fall of 2010 citing ill health. The case was dismissed without prejudice, and refiled by Mrs. Kronberg's third counsel, Jim DelSordo.
Meanwhile, the LaRouche team had gone to the appellate level, seeking to have the Kronberg lawsuit dismissed with prejudice, and seeking to have the case dismissed. Ultimately (January 2012) the appellate panel denied both LaRouche motions, and the case went back to the trial court—where the same judge denied the LaRouche motion to dismiss again, making a total of three times since the case was first filed. In July 2012, during the discovery phase, the case was withdrawn.
- "Kenneth L. Kronberg Sterling Businessman", The Washington Post, May 1, 2007.
- Nicholas F. Benton. Rt. 28 Suicide Jumper Was Long-Time Associate of LaRouche, Falls Church News-Press, April 19, 2007.
- Avi Klein. "Publish and Perish", The Washington Monthly, November 2007
- Erika Jacobson. "Man Jumps from Overpass", The Connection, April 18, 2007.
- Charles A. Nelson (2001): Radical Visions: Stringfellow Barr, Scott Buchanan, and Their Efforts on behalf of Education and Politics in the Twentieth Century. Bergin and Garvey, Westport, CT. ISBN 0-89789-804-4; Liberal Arts, Inc.
- Mark Townsend. "The student, the shadowy cult and a mother's fight for justice", The Observer, October 31, 2004.
- Frank Nordhausen. "A Mother's Investigations", Berliner Zeitung, April 4, 2007.
- Chip Berlet. "Lyndon LaRouche: Fascist Demagogue, LaRouche's Antisemitic Conspiracism, Public Eye.
- Paul L. Montgomery. "How a Radical-Left Group Moved Toward Savagery; Progression to Violence," The New York Times, January 20, 1974
- April Witt. "No Joke", The Washington Post, October 24, 2004
- "LaRoughe HQ seized government tries to collect fines". Philadelphia Daily News. April 21, 1987. p. 26.
- Spannaus, Nancy. "In Memoriam: Kenneth Lewis Kronberg," LaRouche PAC website
- Nicholas F. Benton. "How I Explain LaRouche", Falls Church News-Press, June 28, 2007
- "The death of Kenneth Kronberg," Publiceye.org, Accessed: 10-28-2007
- "Tod auf der Straße". Berliner Zeitung (in German) (Berlineonline.de). October 23, 2008. Archived from the original on October 29, 2008. Retrieved May 13, 2014. Article title in English is "Death on the Streets".
- Trotz Einschuechterungsversuchen diskutiert internationales Forum ueber Antisemitismus der LaRouche-Organisation und ihre Gefahren fuer Einzelne und die Gesellschaft Die Judische, Berlin, November 4, 2008, Accessed: February 22, 2009
- Weissmann, Jordan (August 24, 2009). "Former Supporter Sues Lyndon LaRouche for Libel". The Blog of Legal Times. Legal Times. Retrieved August 24, 2009.
- "Markham disqualified".
- "Appellate Panel denies LaRouche motions".