T Nation

Dems Abusing Posts to Block Nader?


#1

From today's Wall Street Journal -- I've been meaning to comment on this since the Oregon incident in which Democratic activists packed a hall in which Nader was trying to gather supporters to sign his election petitions and blocked people from entering to sign. What do people think about this?


Nader's Complaint
September 14, 2004; Page A20

We don't agree with Ralph Nader on much, and in July we defended Democrats for barring him from their Boston convention. But now some elected Democrats seem to be taking it too far by abusing their offices in order to keep Mr. Nader off the November ballot.

It's no surprise that Democrats are fighting to stymie their former ideological soul mate. Many blame Mr. Nader for defeating Al Gore in 2000 -- never mind the Bill Clinton baggage that Mr. Gore had to tote -- and they don't want a repeat. Party activists are running ads against Mr. Nader in swing states and have set up teams of lawyers to challenge his signature petitions in more than a dozen states. In Nevada, Democrats have contested 11,571 of the 11,888 Nader names. This is brass-knuckle politics for sure, but also perfectly legal.

The question, however, is whether some Democrats are misusing their official power as well. That's the charge leveled in a recent federal lawsuit filed in New York by several independent voters and the Committee for a Unified Independent Party -- a nonprofit established in 1994 to encourage an independent political movement. The lawsuit names Democrats in West Virginia, Oregon, Illinois and Connecticut.

The fishiest situation involves West Virginia, where a state judge recently slapped down an unprecedented case brought by the state itself (rather than outside Democratic lawyers) to keep Mr. Nader off the ballot. President Bush won West Virginia with 51.9% of the vote in 2000, with Mr. Nader at 1.65%. Democrats have high hopes of winning back the state this year, so when the Nader campaign started gathering signatures it was no surprise they howled. What was curious was that those objecting were the very state officials charged with instituting fair elections.

That includes Secretary of State Joe Manchin, who's running for governor, as well as his fellow Democrat, Attorney General Darrell McGraw. After the Nader campaign submitted 23,000 signatures to get on the ballot -- 10,000 more than necessary -- Mr. Manchin's office validated at least 15,000, more than enough to put Mr. Nader in the race. But then a local lawyer filed a lawsuit challenging the petition, accompanied by intense political pressure from the Democratic Party.

Mr. Manchin ultimately reversed himself, saying he had "doubt" as to the "validity" of the petition. He handed it to Mr. McGraw, who promptly filed a lawsuit demanding that all the Nader signatures be tossed. What would require such extreme action? The AG's office argued that petition workers didn't show appropriate credentials, that they gave "inconsistent" answers to questions, and that they didn't display the petition appropriately.

The Nader lawyer in the case, Harold Kresky, explained to the local judge that of the 23,000 signatures obtained, only 32 people had actually complained about how they were gathered, and of those, only four signed the petition. He noted that the AG's lawsuit was unprecedented and the judge ultimately seemed to agree, calling the AG's writ "extraordinary" and ruling "the testimony of a half dozen citizens" wasn't enough to invalidate an entire petition.

We don't buy Mr. Nader's argument that a two-party system is by nature corrupt. But these Democratic tactics are only bolstering Mr. Nader's complaint -- not to mention giving him more incentive to campaign not just against the incumbent Mr. Bush, but also against Mr. Kerry.


#2

Good post, BB, and good to see you around.

It's quite a pickle for the Dems: rage against Nader and lose the left-wing of the party, or embrace Nader and lose moderates/centrists.

Notice how the Kerry campaign has made sure to avoid being entangled with left-wingers. Looks like they've opted to go for the center. Not to drag Michael Moore's name back into the mix, but I had a debate with a friend of mine who claimed Moore and his film would have a profound effect on independent voters. I say if that were true, how come Kerry hasn't had Moore at his side every step of the way since the film came out?

The Democrats are avoiding left-wing lightning rods like the plague. Keeping Nader at arm's length - and manically trying to keep his votes from leeching off theirs by excluding him from - is about the only coherent strategy the Democrats have left.

The Democratic identity crisis continues apace.

Frankly, I'm surprised Nader has so much support in a year where the "anybody but Bush" theme is the only theme. I thought Nader would barely be statistical blip in this election - and of, course, when it's time to cast the actual vote, he may be nothing but a blip. But I believe Nader's polling strength is a reflection of a weak Democratic candidate - weak in attitude, weak in gumption, weak in providing a credible alternative to Bush.

I say let him on the ballot if he meets the threshold. No more, no less.


#3

Nader's own views on the subject of the Democrats trying to keep him off the ballot:

Parties to Injustice
Democrats Will Do Anything To Keep Me Off the Ballot

By Ralph Nader
Sunday, September 5, 2004; Page B03

This summer, swarms of Democratic Party lawyers, propagandists, harassers and assorted operatives have been conducting an unsavory war against my campaign's effort to secure a spot on the presidential ballots in various states. It is not enough that both major parties, in state after state, have used the legislatures to erect huge barriers, unique among Western democracies, to third party and independent candidacies. Now they are engaging in what can only be called dirty tricks and frivolous lawsuits to keep me and my running mate, Peter Miguel Camejo, off the ballot while draining precious dollars from our campaign chest.

This contemptuous drive is fueled with large amounts of unregulated money, much of it funneled through the National Progress Fund, an ostensibly independent group led by Toby Moffett, a former Democratic congressman who is currently a partner in a largely Republican lobbying firm called the Livingston Group. By contrast, to defend ourselves from the assault, we have to draw on funds that are limited and regulated by the Federal Election Commission.

News reports show that the National Progress Fund and other so-called independent 527 organizations (named for the section of the tax code under which they incorporate) were operating openly at the Democratic National Convention. They held meetings to discuss the best strategies and tactics to push the Nader-Camejo ticket off the ballot and they raised money from Democratic fat cats to accomplish their goals. It is evident that these "independent" groups are actually not independent but working closely with the Democratic Party.

In addition, chair of the Democratic Party of Maine, Dorothy Melanson, testified under oath in a public hearing before Maine's secretary of state last Monday that the national Democratic Party is funding efforts throughout the country to stop Nader-Camejo from appearing on ballots.

These ties with Democrats don't prevent the 527s from accepting help from entrenched corporate interests, or even Republican quarters, to finance challenges of the signatures we have collected to meet the requirements of ballot access. According to reports filed with the Internal Revenue Service, Robert Savoie, president of Louisiana-based Science & Engineering Associates, donated $25,000 to the National Progress Fund in June. A month before, Savoie gave $25,000 to the Republican National Committee.

In Pennsylvania, where a court last Monday barred us from appearing on the ballot, signature challenges have been mounted by Reed Smith, a law firm whose political action committee primarily gives to Republicans. A lawyer from the firm boasted to the New York Times that "8 to 10 lawyers in his firm were working pro bono on the case, 80 hours each a week for two weeks, and could end up working six more weeks." The firm is counsel to 29 of the top 30 U.S. banks, 26 of the Fortune 50 companies, nine of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies, and 50 of the world's leading drug and medical device manufacturers.

The melding of these interests demonstrates that it is the corporate-political duopoly that is working to limit voters' choices for this November. For all their talk about free markets, the major parties do not tolerate competition very well. They don't want voters to be able to consider a candidate who advocates health care for all; a crackdown on corporate crime, fraud and abuse; a shrinking of the military-industrial complex and corporate welfare; a living wage for all full-time workers; and a responsible withdrawal from Iraq.

The zeal of these ballot access sentries comes from a refusal to respect the rights of millions of voters to have the opportunity to vote for candidates of their choice. With their organized obstruction of our campaign's efforts just to get a place on the ballots, these authoritarians want to deny Americans more voices, choices and agendas. The voters are the losers.

Watching their bullying maneuvers and harassing lawsuits around the country, I marvel at the absence of condemnation by Sen. John F. Kerry or Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic National Committee chairman.

Sen. Kerry told us that he would look into this situation seven weeks ago but we have not heard back from him yet. Around the same time, McAuliffe told me in a phone conversation that he actively approved of these organized efforts, one of which is ironically called the Ballot Project. He urged me to run only in the 31 states considered to be locked up by one of the two candidates.

Challenging the signatures of your rivals is an old political tactic, and when you're collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures, there are bound to be some that don't withstand scrutiny. But the Democrats are not just seeking compliance with harsh election laws. They are using dirty tricks to intimidate citizens.

That's the way it seemed to a 58-year-old supporter of ours in Oregon. On Aug. 12, 2004, she was at home with her two grandchildren when she answered a knock on her door and found a man and woman who she said began threatening her with jail if there was any false information on the petitions she was collecting for our ballot access. These people, who called themselves "investigators," were dispatched by a law firm that has worked extensively with Oregon trade unions that have supported Democratic candidates. In many states our signature gatherers have been subjected to similar treatment in what is clearly an orchestrated campaign.

And some people who merely signed Nader-Camejo petitions have also been pressured. One person in Nevada got a call from someone who urged him to admit that he was tricked into signing our petition. When the petition signer said he had signed voluntarily, the caller continued to try to persuade him to claim that he had not signed the petition. After numerous requests, the caller identified himself and admitted he was from the Democratic National Committee in Las Vegas. A call to the number on the caller ID was answered, "Hello, DNC." We have similar reports from around the country.

Ballot access laws are so arbitrary and complex that they leave small parties open to legal pestering. In Arizona, large Democratic donors hired three corporate law firms to file frivolous challenges to our clearly ample number of signatures. For example, 1,349 signatures of registered voters were invalidated because the person who collected them had given his or her correct full address but had neglected to include the correct name of the county. The purpose of these exercises are, in lobbyist Moffett's words, "to neutralize [Nader's] campaign by forcing him to spend money and resources defending these things."

A covey of Democratic operatives in Illinois convinced the election board to disqualify signatures because the registered voters had moved since registering to vote even though they still lived in Illinois. The Democratic speaker of the state House of Representatives sent state employees, contractors and interns to review and challenge our ballot access petitions. The speaker wouldn't say -- when asked either by reporters or in a Freedom of Information Act request my campaign filed in July -- whether these state employees took leave from their taxpayer-paid jobs.

In other states, Democratic operatives are using a grace period after the filing date and directly calling voters who signed, pressing them to withdraw their signatures or say that they were misled so that the Democrats could allege fraud later in court.

The Democratic Party's machine is operating in many other ways, too. Its apparatchiks were waiting at the Virginia secretary of state's office on Aug. 20 to say that our signature gatherers did not arrive in time, when in fact they arrived with 25 minutes to spare. The head of the state Elections Division, who happens to be the former executive director of the Virginia Democratic Party, refused even to accept our petitions until she was ordered to do so by the state attorney general.

To excuse and distract from this accumulation of organized misdeeds, the Democrats are feeding the press the Big Lie that the Republicans are bankrolling and supporting us. If the Republicans were to spend one-quarter as much to support us as the Democrats are spending to obstruct our access to ballots and our supporters' civil liberties, we would be on all 50 state ballots by now.

We have not been accepting signatures obtained through organized Republican Party efforts in the three or four states where we have learned of such activity.

We are trying, of course, to win over some Republican and independent voters who voted for George Bush in 2000 but are furious with him over endless deficits, federal regulation of local education, corporate subsidies and handouts, the sovereignty-shredding World Trade Organization and North American Free Trade Agreement, the big-government- snooping Patriot Act and, lately, the Iraq quagmire.

In 2000 about 25 percent of our vote came from people who told exit pollsters they otherwise would have voted for Bush. Yet the most recent independent review of our current campaign found that only 4 percent of our donations came from people who have also given to the Republican Party. The Center for Responsive Politics found that this group of 51 people gave $406,000 to the Republicans and $53,000 to Nader-Camejo. Amusingly, however, the center found that our Republican backers gave even more, $63,000, to the Democrats.

When I talked to Kerry, I cautioned him that if he did not order a stop to the dirty tricks of his Democratic underlings and allies, he may face a mini-Watergate type of scandal. For Democrats and Republicans who care about civil liberties, free speech and an equal right to run for elective office, this festering situation should invite their very focused demands to cease and desist.

Hand it to the Democrats to keep some costs down, though. A contractor they hired in Michigan to make phone calls to check the validity of our tens of thousands of signatures outsourced the work to India.

Author's e-mail: kzeese@votenader.org

Ralph Nader is an independent candidate for president and author of "The Good Fight: Declare Your Independence and Close the Democracy Gap" (Regan Books/HarperCollins).


#4

Nader has excellent intensions. He is the only one out of the three that has the intension of making life better average American better. Bush and Kerry are both funded largly by corporations and therefore owe something to these corporations. Bush for one loves helping these corporations send jobs overseas and this way they won't pay taxes on the money made overseas. Kerry will not be much better. The public is fed information through the media and therefore a majority think Nader is a joke. Nader, unlike Bush or Kerry has actually done things in his past to help this country, like the clean air act, ect. (you can see his website if you want a nice long list of credentials -www.votenader.org). It's just a matter of time before he gains ground, it's just a matter of how bad things have to get before people wake up. Oh, and to not highjack the thread... it is rediculous that in a democratic country people will go to such extremes just to keep opponents of the ballots and unknown to the public as much as possbile. What happened to a fair race? Fair as in allowing people to vote for what they believe in, as opposed to voting for an asshole or bigger asshole. Our forefathers would be ashamed.


#5

Arnld:

I think it would be fair to say I don't agree precisely with your takes on Kerry and Bush, but I do think Nader should be allowed on the ballot if he plays by the rules and qualifies. I am disturbed by the allegations that intimidation and cheating seem to be the favored tactics to keep Nader off the ballot. Nader, of course, has some rather obvious motivations to make these charges, but I haven't seen any denials -- blanket or specific -- from the Democrats.


#6

The Associated Press
Originally published September 20, 2004, 2:25 PM EDT
ANNAPOLIS -- Maryland's highest court ordered state elections officials today to accept 542 voters' signatures gathered by Ralph Nader supporters, a ruling that would force Nader's name onto the Nov. 2 presidential election ballot.

"That's what we'll do," said Linda Lamone, state election laws administrator. "We were waiting for directions from the court and we got it, and obviously we'll be complying."

The ruling came two hours after the Court of Appeals heard Stephen Scavuzzo, an attorney for the Nader campaign, argue against the state's rejection of the signatures.

The Nader campaign decided to set up a new Populist Party to get on the Maryland ballot because that required just 10,000 signatures of registered voters instead of the 30,000 needed to qualify as an independent candidate for president.

His supporters turned in petitions with more than 15,000 signatures, but when the petitions were checked against voter rolls, the state board ruled the campaign was 537 signatures short of the required 10,000 signatures of registered voters.

The case turned on a state law specifying that each petition include a county name and that only signatures of voters registered in the county specified on the petition could be counted.

Copyright ? 2004, The Associated Press


#7

No spot on Oregon ballot for Nader
State Supreme Court confirms petition signatures fell short

By CHARLES E. BEGGS
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

SALEM, Ore. -- The Oregon Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Ralph Nader will not appear on the Oregon presidential ballot, reversing a lower court.

The Supreme Court upheld a ruling by Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, who determined that flawed petition sheets left the independent presidential candidate 218 signatures short of the 15,306 needed to put him on the ballot Nov. 2.

Marion County Judge Paul Lipscomb faulted Bradbury, a Democrat, for using unwritten rules to decide the validity of the petitions. But the high court said Bradbury acted within his authority and Lipscomb's concerns "were not well taken."

Though Bradbury's office used some unwritten procedures, "that does not render them unlawful," the Supreme Court said.

The court said the procedures "are nothing more than the "step-by-step process by which the secretary of state carried out legal authority."

Bradbury spokeswoman Anne Martens said there is no further appeal available and county officials would be told to go ahead with the printing of ballots.

The ruling came on the day that counties have said was the practical deadline to start printing almost 2 million ballots for the mail election.

The Supreme Court decision ends a long struggle by Nader to get on the ballot in the state where he drew 5 percent of the vote, as the Green Party nominee, in 2000.

He held two mini-conventions in Portland earlier this year but failed at each to draw the necessary 1,000 voter signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Backers then turned to the statewide petitioning option and turned in more than 18,000 signatures. Bradbury disqualified thousands of signatures on grounds they didn't conform to technical rules, such as circulators having properly signed each sheet.

Nader backers accused Bradbury, a supporter of Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president, of acting from partisanship and using trivial concerns to keep Nader off the ballot. They said Democrats fear that Nader could draw votes from Kerry.

Recent polls indicate that fewer than 2 percent of Oregon voters support Nader.


#8

BB,

"The Supreme Court upheld a ruling by Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, who determined that flawed petition sheets left the independent presidential candidate 218 signatures short of the 15,306 needed to put him on the ballot Nov. 2."

Shouldn't the Democrats be marching in the streets protesting this injustice?

Mere technicalities shouldn't thwart the will of the people - a pitiful 218 singatures prevented Nader from being on the ballot?

I suspect nothing less than a full-scale protest on the Supreme Court building by the Democrats.


#9

Thunderbolt:

Precisely. I can't believe they are willing to sit idly by as so many voters are "disenfranchised." =-)


#10

Al Hunt has these thoughts on Nader -- a good motivation for the Dems to try to keep him off the ballot...

Ralph Nader Could Prove
Deadly Threat to Kerry Bid
Hurdles Facing Democrats
In Taking Back the House
September 22, 2004 12:13 p.m.

The thorn in the Democrats' side, Ralph Nader, may not be quite as deep as four years ago. But it won't go away and still could prove deadly.

After months of legal maneuvering over ballot access -- with Democrats generally trying to keep the independent candidate off and Republicans often working to aid the long-time liberal crusader ? Mr. Nader likely will be on the ballot in at least three dozen states, including most of the genuinely competitive ones.

In 2000, Mr. Nader's candidacy hurt Al Gore, especially in Florida and New Hampshire; if the Democrat had won either of those states he would have been president.

How do I get to three dozen? Mr. Nader probably is guaranteed a spot on some 30 ballots ? he was on almost all last time. There are eight others, including battlegrounds Ohio and Pennsylvania, where he's on but Democrats are trying to knock him off; there are seven more where he's adjudicating to get on, including Arizona and North Carolina.

There are only seven states where Mr. Nader will definitely not be listed: California, Maryland, Indiana, Georgia, Rhode Island, Oklahoma and Virginia. Among these, only Virginia conceivably could be a contested state by late October.

Mr. Nader has been aided immensely by Republican donors in a number of those states, though the Nader campaign downplays the GOP assistance. But he doesn't downplay his anger at the Democrats for forcing him to spend time and resources on these ballot issues. Yesterday he declared that he held John Kerry and party chairman Terry McAuliffe "directly responsible."

The crucial question is how he will do on those ballots where his name appears. Democrats say he'll get only a fraction of the 2.7% vote he received last time. Mr. Nader thinks he'll do better, and his supporters cite several surveys. But even if he's wrong and gets only half the vote he received in 2000 in Florida and New Hampshire, it still would exceed the Bush victory margin in those two states.


#11

Seems Nader will be on the ballot in New Mexico:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uslatest/story/0,1282,-4520885,00.html

N.M. Court Orders Nader's Name on Ballot

Tuesday September 28, 2004 8:31 PM

By BARRY MASSEY

Associated Press Writer

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The New Mexico Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered Ralph Nader's name to be placed on New Mexico's Nov. 2 ballot as an independent presidential candidate, turning back a Democratic challenge to his candidacy.

The court announced its decision after deliberating for about 90 minutes following oral arguments in the case earlier Tuesday.

The New Mexico Democratic Party brought a lawsuit against Nader after he was certified as a candidate by Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron. Nader filed nominating petitions Sept. 7 with signatures of about 31,000 voters - more than twice the required amount - to secure a spot on the ballot.

The ruling overturns a decision last week by state District Judge Theresa Baca, who said that Nader didn't qualify as an independent candidate in New Mexico because he's running in other states as the nominee for minor parties, including the Reform Party in Florida and Colorado.

Nader is on the ballot in more than 30 states, but faces court challenges in some of those and is suing for ballot access in several others.

Also on Tuesday, a state judge in Maine ruled that Nader could remain on the ballot there, rejecting a challenge by the state Democratic Party.

Democrats worry that Nader will take some support from John Kerry, potentially giving President Bush the edge in New Mexico and other swing states considered critical by both parties in this year's election.

Bush lost the state in 2000 by 366 votes. Nader ran as the Green Party nominee four years ago and received about 4 percent of the vote in New Mexico.