If Ralph Nader needed any further proof that he has gotten under the skin of Democratic activists, he got it by the thousands in the past few days, in e-mails sent to his campaign urging the Green Party candidate to drop out. And if he wanted even more proof, he got it Tuesday, after tracing the Democrats' sudden spam-handed tactics to a rogue California Democratic Party staffer.
In an e-mail to an undisclosed recipient list, Kristina Scott, a coordinator for the California Democratic Party, had a fairly simple request:
In 2 minutes, sitting at your computer, you can help the Gore Campaign by:
1). Email [the general Nader e-mail address] and tell Ralph to drop out. This part should take you 10 seconds, unless you feel like writing more to explain your feelings why you've written the email. Include your name and city.
2). Copy and forward this email to EVERYBODY on your mailing list. This part should take 1-1.5 minutes, depending on the length of your list. By tomorrow, the Nader campaign should receive anywhere from 250-1,000 emails as a result of this ... If it works, many more the next day.
Scott ended the e-mail by urging readers to participate in this "grass-roots effort."
Scott sent her e-mail Monday at 6:21 p.m., according to a copy of the e-mail forwarded to the Nader campaign. By Tuesday evening, according to Gore spokesman Tom Adkins, the campaign had received more than 1,000 e-mails that it blamed on the Ponzi spam. Adkins called it "a Page 1 dirty trick."
"It's not terribly sophisticated, but it works," Adkins says. "That's an e-mail box we use for general questions about the campaign." He says the campaign frequently gets general information requests and offers by people to volunteer and contribute through the e-mail address, as well as the all-important requests for media appearances for the camera-deprived Nader campaign.
The spam "hasn't had a crippling effect, but it's definitely hindered the effort," Adkins says.
When reached on her cellphone, Scott confirmed having sent the e-mail to "party activists" but would not comment further. California Democratic Party spokesman Bob Mulholland, however, said he knew nothing of the e-mail, and that it was not choreographed at a higher level. "I'm sure it was just an idea Kristina thought of," he said. "And it sounds like a good one."
He went on: "What does Ralph think it would be like in the White House? Doesn't he think people are going to e-mail him there?"
He went on some more: "Tell Ralph this is the Democrats he's talking about, not some fringe party. Boy, they sure have a lot of time on their hands over there. Well, I guess they're not working."
He just couldn't stop: "We've got more important things to worry about than Ralph Nader, like saving the Supreme Court from Jerry Falwell."
What's clear is that Nader has plenty of California Democrats -- not just Scott -- worried. On Monday, the Public Policy Institute of California poll showed Bush trailing Gore in the state by just five percentage points, down from nine points a month ago. Bush has put extreme pressure on Gore and his biggest surrogate to spend more time -- and attention -- on California. The closeness of the contest even prompted a major Nader backer to pull ads from California newspapers out of fear that Nader supporters could swing the state to Bush.