Nader's Dubious Raiders

After four decades of tireless crusading for
consumer's rights and against corporate influence over
government, Ralph Nader has developed an unblemished
luster of integrity. However, as Nader forges ahead
with his long-shot, independent presidential candidacy
in an especially heated election season, he appears to
be shedding the conviction that has formed the core of
his politics for so long in favor of political
expediency.

In its effort to get on the ballot in the key
battleground state of Arizona, the Prospect has
learned, the Nader campaign hired a petition company
that is also gathering signatures for a draconian
anti-immigrant initiative pushed by
right-wing elements in the state. The initiative, called Protect Arizona Now (PAN), would
restrict access to public services by undocumented immigrants.

In addition, according to several sources, the Nader campaign was assisted in its petition drive by an unlikely figure: the ultra-conservative former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party, Nathan Sproul. Sources say Sproul -- who is also spearheading an initiative to block public funding from political campaigns in the state -- made payments to the petition contractors working on his public-funding initiative to gather signatures for Nader as well.

Moreover, according to several sources, the signature-gathering drive for PAN is
mostly funded by the href=http://www.fairus.org target=outlink>Federation for American
Immigration Reform (FAIR), a Washington-based
anti-immigrant group that has spent tens of millions
in the last two decades to roll back the rights of
both legal and illegal immigrants living in the United States.

The Arizona ballot drive was
never the grassroots effort that Nader characterizes his campaign as. In trying to garner the 14,694 signatures
necessary to get on the Arizona ballot, the Nader
campaign first unsuccessfully solicited a Republican
consulting firm to handle its ballot-qualification
bid. This spring, as droves of professional
petitioners descended on Arizona like traveling
carnival folk to gather signatures for PAN -- and to collect the $2–4 that a petitioner is
awarded for each signature delivered -- they also
presented signatories with the Nader petition, according to several sources. This
petition piggybacking helped Nader get more than the
amount of signatures he needed to qualify for the
ballot -- most of them from Republicans. In fact,
according to a volunteer for the Arizona Democratic
Party who has reviewed Nader's signatures, of the more
than 21,000 signatures Nader garnered, a whopping 65 percent
percent came from Republicans, compared to 18 percent from
Democrats.

Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese said, "We only heard of Sproul a week ago from media reports. We received 20,000 signatures, and we paid for 20,000 signatures, so I'd be surprised if any of this is true."

"As people make their decision on who they're
going to vote for based on candidates' ideals and how
they present themselves, the methods by which Ralph
Nader tried to get on the ballot in Arizona should make
voters question what his real motives are in running
for president," said Sarah Rosen, press secretary for
the Arizona Democratic Party, which is challenging
Nader's petitions in the state and trying to knock him
off the ballot.

Nader's bid for the Arizona ballot began this
spring when members of his campaign sought a contract
with Arno Political
Consultants
, a California-based Republican
consulting firm that has handled past
ballot-qualification efforts for GOP icons like Ronald
Reagan and George H. W. Bush, as well as anti-immigrant
groups like U.S. English.

Arno's client list also
comprises a virtual Who's Who of the corporate cartels Nader
routinely rails against, including Occidental
Petroleum, Phillip Morris, and Wal-Mart. Arno Political
Consultants rebuffed the Nader campaign's request. "I
thought it would be bad for us to go in with anyone
like Nader," said the company's co-director, Michael
Arno. "And even though I don't know [George W.] Bush
personally, I have a relationship with some of the
people close to him, so I didn't want to be part of
anything that could be seen as nefarious. I have too
much respect for the process." Despite the rejection,
Arno says, he has been repeatedly approached by members
of Nader's campaign this month to handle their
ballot qualification effort in New Mexico. He
has refused these appeals as well.

Arno referred Nader's campaign to Jenny
Breslyn, owner of the Florida-based petition
contractor JSM Inc., who promptly accepted a contract
with the Nader
campaign. Breslyn was already in Arizona at the time,
subcontracted by Arno to oversee PAN's
ballot-qualification effort. Breslyn's signature
gatherers bundled Nader's petitions with the PAN petitions; as a result, signatures from
Republicans, whom href=http://www.pan2004.com/about.htm target=outlink>polls show
are far more likely than Democrats to support PAN,
came pouring in for Nader.

Not only did the bundling of Nader's petitions
with PAN apparently help Nader's ballot-qualification
effort, but by pumping more prize money into an
already lucrative signature-hunting season for
professional petitioners, the Nader campaign may have
inadvertently helped PAN. "Petitioners are carrying
bunches of petitions out there. So one way or another,
the petitions benefit from each other," explained
Arno. "The more petitions you put in their hands, the
more chance you give [petitioners] of making money. In
general terms, everybody benefits when there's more
money around."

Nader's Arizona campaign coordinator, Cheryl
Rohrick, claimed she was unaware Nader petitions were
bundled with PAN petitions. "I didn't know if they
[Breslyn's petitioners] were gathering signatures for
other initiatives and neither did [Nader campaign
manager] Theresa Amato," Rohrick said. Though Rohrick
stated her personal opposition to PAN, Nader has yet
to publicly denounce the initiative.

Nor has Nader denounced the covert assistance
his Arizona ballot-qualification effort received from
Sproul, who is currently running the href=http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/0624notaxpayer24.html target=outlink>No
Taxpayer Money For Politicians" initiative, a
right-wing effort to ban candidates from receiving
public financing. According to several sources, two of
the contractors Sproul hired to oversee petition gathering for No
Taxpayer Money For Politicians -- Aaron "A.J." James,
who directs Voters' Outreach of America, and Diane
Burns -- were also paid by Sproul to get as many
signatures as possible for Nader.

"Aaron [James] told me he was out there
getting signatures for Nader. So I can only assume
that Diane [Burns] was too," said Derek Lee, who, as
owner of Lee Petitions, was part of the traveling
petition carnival that descended on Arizona this
spring. "The only thing I can tell you for sure is that Aaron was
working with Nathan [Sproul] on this Nader thing. I've
heard that from a number of people but they put the
hush-hush on it real quick."

Reached by phone, Burns and James were clearly
nonplussed; when asked if they were hired by Sproul to
get signatures for Nader, both immediately hung up.
Neither responded to follow-up interview requests.

According to a source who monitored
petitioning in Arizona this spring, Sproul covered his
tracks by having his secretary deliver Burns and
James' Nader petitions to Breslyn, who was operating
out of "a low-end motel" in Scottsdale. Upon receiving
the petitions, the source says, Breslyn mixed them in with her own. Breslyn
did not deny receiving petitions from Sproul: "I
wasn't there [at the motel] all the time. I can't
discuss my clients with you," Breslyn said. "I don't
really even know Mr. Sproul. He is not one of my
regular clients. I don't like to give interviews," she
continued.

Sproul rejected an interview request. However,
on June 8, he href=http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/politics/TheNote/TheNote_June804.html target=outlink>commented,
"I'm not being paid by anybody to do petitions [for
Nader], and I've not paid anybody to do petitions."

Sproul's machinations are nothing new:
According to Rob Boston of Americans United for
Separation of Church and State, when Sproul was the
Arizona field director for the Christian Coalition in the early
1990s he href=http://www.buildingequality.us/ifas/fw/9606/nonpartisan.html target=outlink>
encouraged members to run for Republican precinct committee
chairs and mislead voters about their Christian
Coalition affiliation.

Though Sproul's efforts helped Nader qualify
for the Arizona ballot by an overwhelming margin,
their victory may be short-lived. On
Wednesday, two Democratic voters supported by the
Arizona Democratic Party filed a lawsuit alleging,
among other things, that more than 14,000 of Nader's
signatures were invalid
because they came from unregistered voters and
convicted felons, who are barred from voting by
Arizona state law. The lawsuit also alleges that
several petition contractors -- including Diane Burns
-- falsified their home addresses, thus disqualifying
them as registered voters. "According to what we've
found and according to the laws of the state, Ralph
Nader simply does not qualify for the ballot," stated
Rosen of the Arizona Democratic Party.

Rumors are circulating through Arizona's
political circles that the Democratic lawsuit could
include subpoenas for people from Sproul's shop.
Sproul and his employees are keeping mum, but if and when the
subpoenas arrive, it may be time for at least one of
them to talk.

Max Blumenthal is a freelance writer based in Los
Angeles. Visit
his blog at www.maxblumenthal.blogspot.com.

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