Perot had run for President as an independent candidate in 1992 and got 19% of the popular vote. Perot's main issues were a balanced budget, paying down the national debt, enacting term limits and campaign finance reform, and opposition to free trade agreements such as NAFTA. Following his 1992 run, he founded the organization United We Stand America to continue lobbying on these issues. In 1995 he founded the Reform Party in preparation for another run for the Presidency in 1996.
1996 Presidential race
Perot at first didn't announce he was running and instead called for other contenders to seek the Reform Party nomination, but when former Colorado governor Richard Lamm actually did so, Perot opposed him. There was some bad blood during the primary process for the party's nomination when Lamm supporters claimed they didn't receive ballots. Perot won the primary and went on to win 8% of the popular vote in the 2006 Presidential vote, significantly less than his 1992 showing. Following the 1996 elections, a small group of Lamm supporters left to form the American Reform Party, believing Perot had too much control over the Reform Party.
1998 midterm election
Former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura won an upset victory for governor of Minnesota in 1998 running on the Reform Party ticket, the only victory by the Reform Party in a three-way contest, garnering a plurality of 34%. The Reform Party held no seats in either legislative chamber, or any other statewide elected cabinet office. In the stalemate, people from both major parties, Republican and Democrat, filled appointed positions by the governor requiring legislative approval because of a lack of qualified personal from the Reform Party moreso than partisan opposition.
2000 Presidential race
The 2000 primary season was marked by splits in the party. Two-time Republican primary hopeful Patrick Buchanan announced he was leaving the Republican Party to seek the Presidential nomination of the Reform Party. Ross Perot did not seek the 2000 nomination. Buchanan's main opponent in the 2000 Reform primaries was John Hagelin, who had twice run for President on the Natural Law Party ticket, which advocated transcendental meditation (TM). Despite Hagelin's background in TM, opponents of Buchanan rallied around him as their best hope to stop Buchanan from winning the nomination. An unrelated split in the party occurred when a faction, including Jesse Ventura and term limits activist Jack Gargan, believed Perot had too much say over the party. Ventura's Minnesota chapter of the Reform Party left the party to become the Independence Party of Minnesota. Buchanan would go on to win the nomination at which point Hagelin's supporters walked out of the convention, held their own rump convention and named Hagelin the Reform Party nominee. The states recognized Buchanan as the legitimate nominee. Buchanan would win about 1/4 of 1% of the popular vote in the 2000 general election. Perot himself washed his hands of the Reform Party in 2000 and refused to endorse Buchanan.
Additionally, an unknown number of votes, possibly in the thousands, were mistakenly cast for Buchanan instead of Democratic candidate Al Gore in Florida. Due to voter confusion on the now-infamous butterfly ballot, voters cast votes for Buchanan believing they were voting for Gore. As a result, Buchanan got far more votes in Florida than the Reform Party had in 1996. Buchanan himself acknowledged that most of those votes were meant for Gore.
With the withdrawal of Ross Perot's leadership and financial support, the Reform Party fell on hard times. Many of Buchanan's supporters also left the Reform Party immediately after the 2000 election to form the short-lived America First Party. By 2004 what was left of the Reform Party chose to endorse the independent campaign of Ralph Nader rather than nominate their own candidate. An additional split occurred in 2006 with two separate conventions each claiming to be the official Reform Party convention.
2008 Presidential race
The national party nominated Ted Weill at their convention in Dallas July 18–20, 2008. Ted Weill is the founder and longtime chairman of the Mississippi chapter of the Reform Party, and is also a frequent donor to the Lyndon LaRouche organization.