The Democratic Party’s desperate desire to take control of the White House has led Ralph Nader to charge that the party of John Kerry is using “dirty tricks” that amount to “a mini-Watergate scandal.” It’s no secret that the Democrats want Nader off state ballots because they fear he will siphon votes from Kerry. But at a press conference in Washington, D.C., the Nader campaign went into substantial detail about this campaign. It’s not just a matter of making sure that Nader has enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. No one could dispute that he should follow the law and the rules and regulations in that regard. But the Nader campaign produced evidence of Democratic Party misconduct that may cross the line into illegal activity.
In Oregon, Nader supporters have been subjected to “smears, sabotage, and intimidation by Democratic front groups.” Nader Oregon spokesman Greg Kafoury referred to “gangster-style tactics of the Democrats, which ranged from sabotaging our nominating convention to visiting petitioners in their homes at night, falsely telling them they were under criminal investigation.”
Signature gatherers for Nader in Oregon were told that they faced a felony, five years in jail, or a $100,000 fine if some of the names on their petitions were invalid. But that’s only the case if there is deliberate fraud. A voter misspelling an address could be termed questionable or even “fraudulent” but the petitioner could not face criminal charges over such an error. Nader said the Democrats are waging “a direct attack on the right to petition protected by the Constitution.”
At the Washington news conference, the Nader campaign played a tape of sworn testimony by the head of the Democratic Party in Maine, Dorothy Malanson, in which she admitted that the Democratic National Committee is paying for her time, her lawyers, and other expenses related to the campaign to keep Nader off the ballot. A press release from the Nader campaign added. “All this is just the tip of the iceberg. The rest of the iceberg, under the surface, is for the media to investigate and uncover?”
The Nader campaign cited evidence that a so-called “independent 527” group, United Progressives for Victory, met with Democrats at the Democratic Convention in Boston and worked on a strategy to keep Nader off the ballot in several states. “This coordination appears to be illegal and should be investigated by the Federal Elections Commission and the media,” said the Nader campaign.
Barry Sheppard, a Green Party activist, said that, “Initially, the Democrats, their liberal and left-wing apologists, including the Nation magazine and the Communist Party, argued that Nader should not run in ‘swing’ states, where his vote might be larger than the difference between Kerry and Bush?” But he says that the Democratic Party campaign against ballot status for Nader in so-called “safe” states for Kerry “gives the lie to this argument.” This “mini-Watergate” looks like a story for Bob Woodward, who broke open the original Watergate scandal. But we doubt that the media will pursue a story that makes John Kerry and the Democrats look bad.