Democrats are infuriated by recent reports of a vast conspiracy by Republicans to help Ralph Nader. After trying every tactic in the book to keep Nader off state ballots, including harassing signature gathers, hiring corporate law firms to scrutinize ballot access efforts and find legal technicalities, and sending threatening letters to volunteer petitioners, the Democratic Party is now accusing Republicans of covertly working to bolster the Nader campaign.
Such accusations have lead to cries of foul by Kerry supporters and are causing "Anyone But Bush" voters to go ballistic. Yet are the Republicans really engaged in a full out effort to help Nader or is there some other hidden agenda behind this so-called Republican plot?
Before trying to answer this question, it is instructive to examine the evidence behind these allegations of Republican support put forth by the Democratic Party.
A cornerstone of this alleged conspiracy is that Republican donors are contributing massive amounts of funds to the Nader/Camejo campaign. Some media outlets have reported that as much as 1/3 of the money Ralph Nader has raised comes from people who also have given to President Bush, the Republican Party, or both. However, a recent report by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) shows these charges are completely baseless and that Republican donors who are funding Bush are giving more money to the Democrats than to the Nader/Camejo Campaign.
The CRP investigation found that a total of 4% of campaign funds for Nader have come from Republicans donors, or about $54,000. These same donors have also given $66,000 to the Democrats and $415,000 to the Republicans. The CRP also acknowledged that if they looked at the total amount of money given to Kerry by Republican donors, the donations would run into the tens of millions of dollars. (See "Egg on Their Faces The Democrats Big Lie Exposed")
Unfortunately, the CRP did not report how much money the Nader/Camejo campaign has received from registered Democrats, however, it undoubtedly accounts for a large proportion of their funding, with the remaining contributions coming from Independents, Greens, and other third party members.
It should be noted, that Republicans accounted for 25% of Nader's vote in 2000 and that many Republicans who have made individual contributions to Nader, have done so because they support him on some issues. Some of these Republicans are former classmates and colleagues of Nader. One donor mentioned by CRP, Jeno Paulucci, the Florida frozen pizza roll magnate, worked with Nader on public interest issues regarding the Mesabi Iron Range, in Minnesota. Other Republicans in this category include Robert Monks (corporate governance) and Ben Stein (investors' rights). Others are Muslim Americans who agree with Nader's views about ending the American occupation in Iraq but agree with Bush's conservative family values.
Even if the Republican Party had ulterior motives, there is "not" much incentive for individual Republicans to freely give their own money to Nader. Donations to the Bush campaign are rewarded with invitations to parties, photographs with the president, and promises of future favors. But when a Republican gives to Mr. Nader, the only thing they can expect is a thank you note of appreciation and a spot on the mailing list.
A corollary to Democratic claims of an alleged Republican plot to help Nader is that the Republican Party is spearheading the signature drive to put Nader/Camejo on state ballots. This story continues to make headline news in every major media outlet in the country. However, the "organized" Republican contribution to signature gathering reported by the media is highly antidotal and has played no role in helping Nader get on state ballots.
For example in Michigan, where the Republican Party supposedly gathered over 40,000 signatures, the Nader/Camejo campaign is seeking the Reform Party ballot line, which requires no signatures at all. The right to this ballot line reiterated at the Reform Party convention in Irving Texas on August 27 29 by a unanimous vote, and the Nader campaign is currently in litigation seeking a court order requiring Michigan to honor this decision.
In other states, the efforts by Republicans have been minuscule (or made up) and where there has been evidence of Republican involvement, those signatures have been rejected outright. For instance, in Pennsylvania the campaign rejected approximately ten thousand signatures (26,000 are required to get on the ballot) because the campaign was suspicious they may have been paid for by Republicans. In Iowa the campaign rejected 700 signatures for the same reasons (only 1,500 signatures are required in Iowa). In Nevada, press reports about alleged support of a Republican operative named Steve Wurk were a complete fabrication and there is no evidence he turned in any signatures for the campaign or donated any money to the campaign. Finally, in New Mexico media reports of a hired Republican firm helping out the Nader campaign are completely untrue. This firm is in fact an independent organization that works for a range of political organizations, from ACORN and unions to conservative groups, and has hired signature gatherers from across the political spectrum.
What most Democratic Party supporters don't seem to understand is that if the Republicans really wanted to help Nader/Camejo, the ticket would easily be on the ballot in all 50 states. As an example of their power, California Republicans in 2003 hired petition gatherers to recall Governor Gray Davis (D) and collected over 1.3 million valid signatures in a few months. To think they couldn't duplicate this effort anywhere in the U.S. is absurd.
The Republican/Democratic connection
The Democratic Party’s Nader bashers have been swift to use allegations of Republican financial support to torpedo the Nader campaign. For example, one of their primary means of attack in battle ground states such as New Mexico and Wisconsin has been a television ad denouncing Nader-Camejo that ends with a Bush-Cheney campaign logo morphing into a Bush-Nader logo.
This ad campaign is funded by the National Progress Fund (NPF) through its main project The Nader Factor. The NPF is one of several 527 organizations connected to the Democratic Party to help them avoid funding restrictions mandated by the McCain-Feingold campaign reform laws.
NPF claims to engage in election-related activities to support progressive issues. However, the only thing the NPF has done is to attack Ralph Nader—who has been a champion of progressive causes for four decades focusing on corporate abuse of power and political corruption—with absolutely false claims that he is conspiring with right-wing Republicans to help Bush win.
The NPF’s largest donor is Bobby Savoie, vice chairman of Apogen Technologies, a firm that has major federal contracts with the Department of Energy, the IRS, the Pentagon, and the Department of Homeland Security. He and his wife each donated $25,000 to the Republican National Committee and $2,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee just prior to donating $25,000 to the NPF.
Savoie’s behavior is not unique among wealthy Republicans who are willing to work through both parties to silence alternative voices. For instance, in Pennsylvania the Democrats are using Reed Smith as their primary litigator to remove Nader from the ballot. Smith is counsel to 29 of the top 30 United States banks, 26 of the Fortune 50 companies, 9 of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies, and 50 of the world's leading drug and device manufacturers. They are also a large contributor to Republican PACs. Reed Smith has taken time off from defending the commercialization of children’s programs to make an unholy alliance with the Democrats to keep Nader off the ballot. He recently boasted in the New York Times that “8 to 10 lawyers in his firm were working pro bono on the case [for the Democrats], 80 hours each a week for two weeks, and could end up working six more weeks.”
Even Toby Moffet, the head of the anti-Nader efforts, is a Washington lobbyist employed at the Livingston Group, a powerful lobby firm begun by former Republican representative Robert Livingston, which represents corporate interests in the military, telecommunications, and other fields. Moffet, a former vice-president at Monsanto, is raising funds for an organization called United Progressives for Victory that is dedicated to weakening Nader's standing through community organizing, media outreach and Internet marketing.
Not surprisingly, no major media outlets have inquired into why the Democrats are using Republican firms to spread lies and innuendos about the Nader campaign. The truth is that the Democrat/Republican alliance to oust the Nader/Camejo campaign exposes the complicity of the two corporate parties’ crusade to keep any serious voice from challenging them in the political area. This is an alliance that is completely ignored by the mainstream media.
Baiting The Democrats
So if the Republicans are not really helping the Nader/Camejo ticket in any significant way, and are in fact helping the Democrats to discredit the campaign, why are they trying to make the public believe they are somehow involved in supporting Nader?
The answer is quite simple, they are baiting the Democrats! Their goal is to get the Democratic rank and file so riled up that they spend inordinate amounts of time worrying about Nader instead of working on electing Kerry. This tactic worked marvelously in Florida during the 2000 elections, where the Democrats spent enormous amounts of energy and resources trying to court the Nader vote, and ended up losing the absentee vote to the Republicans by an 8 to 1 margin.
For a major party to loose the absentee vote by this amount is almost unprecedented. If we include the fact that 250,000 Democrats voted for Bush in Florida and only 38% of the 97,000 of those voting for Nader would have voted for Gore as their second choice, it is evident that the baiting tactics of the Republicans were quite successful.
The Republican Party of course has no interest in seeing Nader do well on Election Day. They, like the Democrats, are dedicated to preserving the two party system. What they do want, however, is for Democrats to waste inordinate amounts of time worrying about Nader instead of focusing on issues that are of concern to millions of moderate and progressive voters who will actually decide the election outcome.
Given the continued hostile attacks by Democrats over the supposed Republican/Nader connection, it is possible the Republican strategy will succeed again.
Forrest Hill is a staff member of the west coast office of the Nader-Camejo campaign (www.votenader.org)