Not Nader: Don't waste your vote
The Imaginary Campaign Resources
NotNader.com
June 22, 2004

Nader supporters argue that their candidate is a man of principle -- someone who won't stoop to the pragmatism of compromise (by implication "like the other candidates."). "We should all be held to account, we should all be held to levels of specificity," Nader has said. That idealized image was challenged recently by revelations that the Nader campaign may have been aided by a public charity he created, which is prohibited by tax law. In Arizona critics have charged that his petition drive is funded by a Republican consultant. Meanwhile the candidate continues his unsubstantiated claim that he is drawing more support from Republicans than Democrats.

Charity Case?

Since October the Nader campaign has operated from the offices of Citizen Works, a " tax-exempt organization founded by Ralph Nader in April 2001 to advance justice by strengthening citizen participation in power," according to its web site. The charity's president, Theresa Amato, is also Nader's campaign manager. The Nader campaign told the Washington Post recently that Amato had resigned from the charity in October 2003, but she is listed as its president and registered agent in the January 2004 corporate filing, which she signed, and is identified as president in information on the group's web site.

Amato, who also managed Nader's campaign in 2000, was paid $3,225 on March 1, 2002 as a consultant, according to an Federal Election Commission (FEC) report; the campaign wrote a rent check to Citizen Works for $4,000 on the same day. Records obtained by the Post show that, at the time, Amato served as the campaign's treasurer, and Citizen Works' executive director.

The lobby directory in the building on 16th Street NW does not list the Nader campaign. When asked for directions to the Nader campaign, however, a security guard pointed a visitor to Suite 225. The directory lists Citizen Works as the occupant of Suite 225.

Shared phone numbers provide other evidence of an overlap between Citizen Works and the Nader campaign. Dialing a cell phone number used by a media staffer in Nader's 2000 campaign currently finds Citizen Works' spokesman Lee Drutman. The phone number previously listed for Education Allies, a Citizen Works subtenant, was answered in mid-June by someone announcing "Nader for president."

According to real estate brokers contacted by the Post, the market value of the Nader campaign's office space is about $12,500 per month. From November through February the campaign paid about $6,700 per month. Campaign spokesman Zeese said that the campaign paid only a portion of the rent because it did not need all the space.

Zeese also said that the campaign signed a sublease agreement with Citizen Works, and a second agreement for subsequent assignment of the lease. But Nader refused to release any documentation of the accounting for office space and resources shared between his campaign and Citizen Works. An email response to the Post's inquiries stated that the campaign had its own employees, receptionist, office manager, and communications facilities, but the paper's repeated phone inquiries went unanswered.

The campaign also said that Amato had taken "an unpaid leave of absence from Citizen Works in October and was terminated as an employee at the end of December. She resigned as president of the Board effective February 22."

"We should all be held to account...."

Campaign law requires accounting for contributions including shared office space, and facilities such as copying machines and telephones. The charity, the campaign and other sub-tenants share a common receptionist at the 16th Street NW office in Washington. The Post found that the Nader campaign had paid rent to Citizen Works and its landlord. On June 11 Nader claimed that the arrangement was legal because the campaign paid fair market value for rent and to purchase furniture. Clearly sensitive to accusations of supporting a political campaign, Citizen Works issued an email statement saying, "Citizen Works has provided no assistance, direct or indirect, to the Nader for President Campaign."

Campaign finance expert Fred Wertheimer questioned the propriety of the arrangement. "Candidates should not be running a campaign for public office out of a nonprofit organization. It makes a lot more sense to keep them separate and apart to avoid any sense of appearance of interrelationship or problem of intermingling."

"Even Pat Robertson didn't have his campaign organization at the Christian Broadcasting Network," observed Jan W. Baran, a campaign finance lawyer who represented Robertson when his campaign was audited by the FEC. "His campaign headquarters were down the street in Chesapeake." Robertson was cleared of wrongdoing after an intensive investigation of the role of charities in his campaign, but in 1997 Newt Gingrich was reprimanded and fined by the House after he was found to have used a nonprofit college course and charity for political purposes.

The IRS warned political parties on June 10 that charities "are prohibited from directly or indirectly participating or intervening in any political campaign." While some observers said that Nader's arrangement might pass a narrow test of legality if political and nonprofit finances were carefully segregated and accounted for carefully, others warned that the required segregation extended to routine office tasks such as faxing, copying, answering a phone, or sorting mail.

Frances R. Hill, a tax and campaign finance law specialist at the University of Miami School of Law suggested that legal questions were raised simply by Citizen Works providing the campaign with rental space that it could not otherwise have obtained. "Because we cannot foresee a scenario where it [the office space] would have been available to the Bush or Kerry campaigns, it is the availability of space not on the open market that leads to the only conclusion that Citizen Works is providing support for the Nader campaign," Hill told the Post. "This suggests that Citizen Works is supporting Nader for president," he continued. "It can't do this. It isn't just the rent. It is the things like the copiers, the telephones, the light bill, the heating, the furniture, the computers. At the hyper-technical level, all those questions matter."

Two foundations who donate to Citizen Works told the Post that they were unaware of the cooperative arrangement with the Nader campaign. "It doesn't sound like it would be something we would have supported,"Anne K. Smith-Holmes, executive director of the Chicago-based Benjamin J. Rosenthal Foundation said. "We do not get involved in political situations." The Rosenthal foundation donated $2,500 to Citizen Works in 2002.

And with good reason. "The FEC wants bright-line distinctions between campaign-related and charitable activities," said Stanley M. Brand, a DC lawyer specializing in campaign-finance and political law. "And so does the IRS. A 501(c)(3) [public charity] is not supposed to underwrite or engage in political activity. If it is lending or forgiving expenses for use of its facilities, it may be creating its own problems with the IRS."

Russell Mokhiber, editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter, was until recently a member of the Citizen Works board. A source familiar with the situation who "declined to be identified for fear of retaliation," told the Post that the questionable arrangement with the Nader campaign had been a factor in Mokhiber's recent decision to resign his board position. (Mokhiber's newsletter promotes corporate transparency and accountability.)

Pots of Gold and Unicorn Voters

On the heels of the Dallas Morning News' revelation that 10 percent of Nader's contributions in amounts over $250 were from people who historically supported Republicans, in Arizona critics have charged that Nader's petition drive is being funded by Republican consultant Nathan Sproul. "Over the last several days, we have received information that strongly suggests a coordinated, highly funded secret effort by the Bush campaign, Christian right and others (to put Nader on the ballot)," Democratic state chairman Jim Pederson stated in a press release. Sproul, Pederson said, "is the primary source of money" for the campaign to put Nader on the ballot in Arizona. Although paying people to obtain signatures is a common technique, Pederson charged that "amounts far exceed" contribution limits for a federal campaign. Sproul dismissed the accusation, but added, "I do think Ralph Nader has a right to be on the ballot."

Yet while his campaign denies collusion with Republicans in Arizona and splits legal hairs in Washington, Nader is firm about at least one thing on the campaign trail. He's going to draw more votes from Republicans than Democrats. Unlike the evidence of support from his charity, however, there's no evidence that this claim is true.

Salon.com's Peter Dizikes spent several weeks in New England recently looking for anyone who voted for Bush in 2000 who is planning to vote for Nader this year. He did not find a single one. Even Nader supporters pooh-poohed the idea. "That's a pretty big leap,"Greg Stott, a schoolteacher from Goshen, NH told Dizikes. "I haven't met anybody yet. I have met a lot of Democrats who have switched over. I mean, a lot."

At a press conference in Concord, NH, Nader proclaimed that more Republicans than Democrats supported him in New Hampshire, in 2000. But later in an interview he could only cite a handful, and those from the Sun Belt. "Three of them came up at a volunteer gathering [in Georgia]." he told Dizikes, "and said 'I'm fed up, my Republican friends are fed up.' At a retirement village in Arizona, the same thing happened."

Republican support, Nader says, will come from people "furious with [Bush] over the huge deficit, over corporate subsidies, the sovereignty of trade, NAFTA, the big-government Patriot Act, the federal regulation of schools." Yet in his recent tour through New England, his rhetoric seemed directed at Kerry. In a speech in Boston Nader said corporate subsidies "should be a high priority for any presidential candidate, especially one such as Sen. Kerry, who has uttered the magic words, 'ending corporate welfare as we know it'." Nader went on to say that "Senator Kerry has to have an exit strategy dealing with the war in Iraq."

"Right now, if you'll notice, I am urging things on John Kerry," Nader told Dizikes. "If weeks go by, two months go by and there's no response, the urging will turn to criticism."

Not surprisingly, some of Nader's supporters have a view of the world that has a tenuous relationship with fact. Dizikes found a Connecticut supporter who advocated a fusion ticket with Kerry: Nader for president, Kerry for vice president. "John Kerry has a great deal of respect for Ralph, as he should, because Ralph, after all, went to Harvard Law School and Princeton, and knows a lot more than Kerry ever will about corporations, the rule of law, the history of our government, and how things work in Washington, in the Beltway," the Naderite said confidently.

So far, however, few voters seem ready to undergo the mental gyrations needed to support a Nader candidacy. One New England rally was attended by 60 people, most of them from a school across the street. In Concord a meeting of volunteers at a local eatery drew ten people. As the meeting broke up, one volunteer asked Nader to sign a copy of "The Bathroom Book," a consumer advocacy tract from the 60s that warned of dangerous toilets.

Citizen Works

Center for Responsive Politics

Federal Election Commission

References:
Grimaldi, James V. "Nader Had Campaign Office at Charity: Situation Raises Ethical Questions" Washington Post 13 Jun. 2004
Kamman, Jon "GOP Aids Nader, Dem says" The Arizona Republic 8 Jun. 2004
Dizikes, Peter "Nader's Republican pipe dream" Salon.com. 10 Jun. 2004

 

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