Supporters of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader are angrily lining the streets on the way to a rally for Vice President Al Gore. They hold up Nader signs, looking scornfully at the motorcade that passes by.
Lefties like to bash Gore for being a tool of corporate America. More specifically, Gore incurs their wrath because the trust of his mother, Pauline, owns stock in Occidental Petroleum which, according to Nader running mate Winona LaDuke, "is working to exploit oil reserves under U'wa land in Colombia." The U'wa are an indigenous tribe in Colombia, and became the champions of an anti-Gore rally at the Democratic National Convention.
"As I listen to the vice president espouse his views on campaign finance reform, I look at his investment portfolio and have to ask how that might influence public policy," LaDuke has said, slamming Gore erroneously for "own[ing] substantial stock in Occidental Oil Co."
If LaDuke is looking for Occidental stockholders to criticize, she might want to look a little closer to home. In the financial disclosure form Nader filed on June 14, the Green Party presidential candidate revealed that he owns between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of shares in the Fidelity Magellan Fund. The fund controls 4,321,400 shares of Occidental Petroleum stock.
The Rainforest Action Network -- whose members no doubt include myriad Nader Raiders -- has slammed Fidelity for "investing in genocide," and called for the fund to divest its Occidental holdings.
"The Occidental projects are so beyond the pale about what's reasonable and moral in this modern era," says Patrick Reinsborough, grass-roots coordinator for the Rainforest Action Network. Reinsborough says that his group has been primarily targeting Gore and Fidelity Investments in general, Fidelity Magellan being part of the Fidelity Investments mutual funds network, as well as the one with the largest quantity of Occidental stock. "We have called upon Ralph Nader -- as we would call upon any citizen -- to either divest from Fidelity or to participate in shareholder activism," Reinsborough says. "Gore has much more long-standing links to Occidental Petroleum."
But even if Fidelity were to divest its holdings in Occidental, it holds shares in so many companies Nader has crusaded against, it's hard to escape the conclusion that Nader's participation in the fund is supremely hypocritical. The fund, for example, owns stock in the Halliburton Company, where George W. Bush's running mate, Dick Cheney, recently worked as president and COO. The fund has investments in supremely un-p.c. clothiers the Gap and the Limited, both of which have been the target of rocks by World Trade Organization protesters, as well as Wal-Mart, the slayer of mom-and-pop stores from coast to coast.
Nader spokeswoman Laura Jones says that only the candidate himself can answer questions about his personal investments. Nader could not be reached for comment.
In a June interview with the Washington Post about his millionaire earnings -- much of which he has donated to his public interest groups -- Nader said the stocks he chose were "the most neutral-type companies ... No. 1, they're not monopolists and No. 2, they don't produce land mines, napalm, weapons."
But this is not true. The Fidelity Magellan fund owns 777,080 shares of Raytheon, a major missile manufacturer. And this isn't the only example of his rhetoric not matching up with his financial investments.
"I'm quite aware of how the arms race is driven by corporate demands for contracts, whether it's General Dynamics or Lockheed Martin," Nader told the Progressive in April. "They drive it through Congress. They drive it by hiring Pentagon officials in the Washington military industrial complex, as Eisenhower phrased it." The Fidelity Magellan fund owns 2,041,800 shares of General Dynamics.
"Both parties are terrible on antitrust," Nader told CNN in August. "Look, we have Boeing now, one aircraft company, manufacturer after the McDonnell Douglas merger." In a June press release, Nader expressed disappointment in the Clinton administration's Justice Department to challenge the merger of British Petroleum with Amoco, or Exxon's merger with Mobil. The Fidelity Magellan fund owns 2,908,600 shares of Boeing, 24,753,870 shares of British Petroleum-Amoco and 28,751,268 shares of Exxon-Mobil. The fund also owns stock in Shell, Sunoco, Texaco and Chevron -- on whose board Bush advisor Condoleezza Rice serves.
Nader has slammed Gore for being too cautious in his healthcare proposals, and for deferring to big pharmaceuticals. Before the House Budget Committee in June 1999, Nader testified that "Bristol-Myers Squibb markets taxol at a wholesale price that is nearly 20 times its manufacturing cost. A single injection of taxol can cost patients considerably more than $2,000 and treatment requires multiple injections." The Fidelity Magellan fund owns 15,266,900 shares of Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Does this bother an activist like Reinsborough? "Sure," he says. "Absolutely." He lauds Nader for engaging in "shareholder activism," but says that such activities "aren't democracy. It's one dollar, one vote."
Corporate-bashing is in vogue on the American left, and Gore is certainly doing his fair share of it on the stump, railing against HMOs, insurance companies and big pharmaceuticals. Some have seen this as Gore trying to shore up support on the left, mimicking Nader disingenuously and unconvincingly.
After all, as Nader said to the Washington Post in June, "The corporations are planning our future. They are making sure [our children] grow up corporate. The kids are overmedicated, militarized, cosmetized, corporatized. They are raised by Kindercare, fed by McDonald's, educated by Channel One."
There is a difference between Gore and Nader on this point, at the very least: Nader has hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in a fund that owns 15,694,800 shares of McDonald's stock. Gore does not.
With additional reporting by Alicia Montgomery.