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A Bitter Pill

Vitamin crusaders burned out of a right-wing radio station find the official version of events tough to swallow.

What prompted the couple to take the radical action of dropping lucrative careers in favor of crusading was the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, a bill first introduced in 1992 by Senator Orrin Hatch that set up a separate category to classify dietary supplements. Harris says she was scared by the original draft. "I was reading it and said, 'You know, something about this isn't quite right,'" she remembers. "I felt that consumers were being told that it would benefit them, and on the surface it seemed like what we were looking for ourselves, but the actual language of that version I saw was far from beneficial to consumers."

The bill that passed turned out to be different from--and, says Harris, slightly better than--the early draft she had seen, but it was too late to change course. By then, she and Ludwell had already decided to dedicate their lives to the health of others.

As for their health, they say it's improved since they changed paths. "We take vitamins, yes," says Ludwell, who tends to stay in the background and let Harris run the show. "But what we're even more serious about is eating healthy foods, like meat without hormones and organic produce. Which was rather difficult to find in the tiny town of Johnstown, I might add."

It was no problem in L.A., however, where in 1992 the two began researching the formation of a think tank--the Law Loft--that would concentrate on publicizing any threat to global health freedom. Soon after, they began broadcasting the Law Loft Report on KHNC from California.

Ludwell and Harris moved to Colorado in 1995. Harris says Weideman offered Ludwell a job as news director and promised not only to pay for the move, but also to give them a place to live at the station. Ludwell did work as news director for a time, Harris notes, but the station "never paid a dime toward the $20,000 it cost to move us out here." And, she adds, they did get a place to live, but "we didn't realize we were going to be put in two rooms with no shower or kitchen."

Resnick, who does most of the talking for KHNC (Weideman did not return Westword's phone calls), says that Harris and Ludwell begged the station for a job and that Weideman made no promises beyond offering to help them until they found a place to live.

The two sides may disagree on how the Law Loft wound up housed at KHNC, but they certainly agree that by the fall of 1996, the station wanted to dump the Law Loft Report and oust Harris and Ludwell, for reasons neither party will disclose. Listeners, however, raised such a stink that Weideman had no choice but to let them stay.

And they wanted to: Harris says they liked Colorado. "We'd love to come back," she adds. "The people in Johnstown were nice, and we enjoyed going into Denver when we could afford it. There definitely are not the resources available here that there are in bigger cities like L.A., though."

And research takes up the bulk of their time and energy. That's what makes them so valuable to consumers, Harris says, because the average vitamin-pill popper doesn't have the time or the wherewithal to read all of the information that's out there. "I started doing research on vitamins," she adds, "and I realized that everyone thinks that the objective of mainstream medicine is to disavow alternative approaches as being too experimental, because they don't want the consumer to be hurt. But as I looked at patent filings and read the business pages closely to see who was buying whom, a clearer picture started to emerge. It became obvious that the name of the game is 'stealing from the alternatives.' The mainstream medical companies want the phytopharmaceutical market for themselves because there is so much potential there."

As they researched the field, Harris and Ludwell decided they didn't want the Law Loft to be like other think tanks "that turn out propaganda to make money rather than freely sharing their thoughts," Harris says. Proving they could not be bought, Harris claims they turned down offers to work with both the Democrats and the Republicans. And while the Law Loft is set up as a business venture--it's not a nonprofit, because the political topics Harris and Ludwell occasionally write about make them ineligible for that status--the couple has lived almost solely on donations from people around the world who are sympathetic to their cause. And that seems to be a healthy number, judging from the many Web sites linking to their work.

John Hammell, who runs International Advocates for Health Freedom and has worked with Ludwell and Harris on some of the legislative changes made in Canada and the U.S., says the worth of the vitamin and supplement industry is in the billions but that no one seems to know the exact amount. "There's just been no one collecting that kind of data, and I would know, because I would be using it," says Hammell from his headquarters in Hollywood, Florida.

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