Nader: Now openly embracing GOP help

Published July 20, 2004 1:47PM (EDT)

When two right-wing interest groups in Oregon assisted Ralph Nader in collecting signatures for the ballot, they did so basically on their own. Nader hadn't asked for or formally accepted their get-out-the-signatures drive, so he was able to keep his conservative helpers at arms-length. But in Michigan yesterday, Nader stripped himself of even that last shred of an excuse for accepting GOP aid when he embraced the efforts of the Michigan Republican Party to get him on the ballot in a state flush with swing voters. The Republicans had gathered a whopping 43,000 signatures for Nader -- well above the 30,000 required -- and all Nader had to do was accede to using them instead of waiting around for the Reform Party's nomination.

Like in Arizona, Florida and Oregon, Michigan state Democrats are preparing to scour the signature list looking for irregularities. The Dems also claim that the signatures amount to an illegal campaign donation, because gathering them must have gone over the $5,000 limit state parties can give to candidates. Strategies like these worked in Arizona and Oregon, but a 13,000-signature surplus will be harder to overcome than the smaller numbers Democrats have had to sift through in other states.

Adding more evidence to the impression that Nader will get in bed with anyone to get onto the ballot, the Nader campaign also hired a less-than-credible signature-gathering firm to help him in West Virginia. The Associated Press reports: "Campaign officials for Ralph Nader have acknowledged they hired a controversial Florida firm to gather signatures to get the independent presidential candidate on the November ballot in West Virginia.

"'You have to do what you have to do to get on the ballot,' Kevin Zeese, Nader's campaign spokesman in Washington, D.C., said of JSM Inc. employees. The firm has 49 petitioners registered with the Kanawha County circuit clerk's office."

"Kanawha County Prosecutor Mike Clifford launched an investigation earlier this month into whether people gathering signatures to get Nader's name on ballot were doing so legally. His office had received a number of reports that signature gatherers at a Charleston grocery asked people to sign a petition to 'get a minority on the ballot.' The men would not identify the candidate. A reporter talked to one of the men who denied the petitions were for Nader.

"Clifford, a Democrat, said state law requires them to show their credentials and clearly state what the petition is for.

"Clifford questioned the validity of possible signatures collected by the firm's employees when they possibly did not legally display their credentials prior to his intervention. 'I feel fairly confident in saying from the affidavits that they didn't exhibit credentials to anyone,' he said.

"Nader has used JSM Inc. in several states, including Arizona, where his petition drive came up short on signatures after officials discovered the firm had used a convicted felon to collect signatures, something illegal there."

By Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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