Ralph Nader formally announced his campaign for president on February 21 in Washington, D.C., promising to campaign actively on "fundamental issues," such as "democracy, concentrated corporate power and the excessive disparities of wealth," and "send a message across the country."
Invoking the message of last year's Seattle demonstrations against the World Trade Organization, Nader introduced a "blue-green agenda" that pointed to core labor standards and environmental safeguards as central issues in his campaign.
"In 1996 I stood for election, this year I'm running," Nader said. "The American people deserve a debate on corporate globalization and its damage to democracy."
Addressing concerns regarding Nader's potential impact in November, his advisors believe his campaign could assist the Democrats in taking back Congress by helping to turn out progressive voters. In the 1996 election, more potential voters didn't vote than did. A serious Nader campaign could bring independent and new voters to the polls, energizing the 18-to-30-year-old voters and others who have traditionally not turned out to vote.
Pointing out the impact of "big money, big influence" politics on Washington, Nader distributed a 15-page statement on how to revitalize democracy. Nader said that "concentrated corporate power is on a collision course with democracy".
In 1996, in the Green Party's first presidential campaign, Nader received nearly 700,000 votes and finished in fourth place, despite limiting his campaign spending to less than $5,000. In 2000, the Nader campaign intends to raise $5 million dollars.
A Connecticut native, Nader is a Harvard-trained lawyer who has a four-decade record in consumer and public interest law and activism.
He faces Green candidates Joel Kovel on the California ballot and they both face Stephen Gaskin and Jello Biafra on the New York ballot in March 7 primaries.
The Green Party is holding its national nominating convention in Denver at the Renaissance Hotel, June 24-25. One of approximately 80 Green parties internationally, the US Green Party platform focuses on environmental protection, economic justice, grassroots democracy and nonviolence. For more information on Nader, see www.votenader.com or write Nader 2000, P.O. Box 18002, Washington, D.C. 20036.
Ross Perot loyalists regained control of the Reform Party and repudiated Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura Feb. 12 by ousting the new chairman and treasurer in a rump meeting in Nashville, but the coup threatened to reduce the party to a fractious rabble.
The national committee, in a rowdy meeting dominated by Perot partisans, replaced Chairman Jack Gargan and treasurer Ronn Young after less than six weeks in office, a period of constant struggle with former Chairman Russ Verney, a Perot employee. Gargan was replaced by Pat Choate, Perot's 1996 running mate and the co-chair of Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign. (Choate then reportedly quit the campaign.)
The national committee then moved the August national convention back from St. Paul, Minn., which Gargan and Ventura had been promoting, to Long Beach, Calif., where the Perot faction wanted it to be held.
The day before the ouster session, Ventura dropped out of the party, calling it "hopelessly dysfunctional." He urged the Minnesota Reform Party to follow him out, and hinted at the formation of a national Independence Party.
Micah Sifry, for the web site Salon.com, wrote from Nashville: "The delegates seemed to be willfully ignoring political reality. Just a day after Ventura announced his disaffiliation from the national Reform Party, not a word was spoken from the meeting floor about the party's loss of its most charismatic -- and only successful -- candidate for high elected office.
"Nor did the assembled delegates devote any time to exploring the party's underlying problems -- its loss of ballot status in about a dozen states since 1996; the difficulties most state chapters have had in holding onto registered members, attracting strong candidates and building any kind of institutional base; and the negative image of party founder Perot. These issues, after all, were behind Gargan's upset election at the party's last national convention, in Dearborn, Mich., in July 1999, which signaled a clear break with the Verney-Perot regime."
Young tried to return the $2.5 million awarded by the FEC last November to pay for the party's election expenses, but the agency refused to accept it and a federal judge in Virginia on Feb. 18 ordered Young to hand the money over to the court pending a decision on who controls the party and its funds.
Among the defections from the party after the Nashville meeting was Tom Johnson. who told the American Reporter, "Today is my last day as national public relations chair AND as a member of the Reform Party. After 8 years of hard work, I cannot stand to see the Reform Party become what I hoped to replace."
The American Reform Party, which broke away from Perot's Dallas-controlled party in 1997, offered its support to Ventura. "You've got to love Jesse Ventura," ARP Chairman Ted Muga of San Diego said. "He cleaned the varmint out of the barn. He won't put up with the anti-democratic forces that are trying to usurp the financial resources of the Reform Party and its presidential process and its total disregard for other Reform candidates."
The naming of Choate as the acting chairman, the seating of several state delegations tilted toward Buchanan on the national committee and the decision of real estate developer Donald Trump not to run greases the skids for Buchanan's Reform nomination, although several lesser-known challengers remain in the race. There also was talk of a movement to draft Perot, who has maintained a low profile during the Gargan controversy, for a third run for president.
The party's presidential candidate will get $12.6 million in federal funds for the 2000 election campaign.
Buchanan showed up at a Reform Party candidate forum Feb. 12 at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois, but he refused to share a platform with nine other Reform presidential candidates, complaining that the debate format gave him only eight minutes to present his views. Instead he met with supporters, autographed books and left.
For more information, see the "official" Reform Party web site: www.reformparty.org; the Gargan-supported site: www.rpusa.org; the anti-Perot American Reform site: www.americanreform.org
CLINTON BACKS MULTINATS. President Clinton has decided to back multinational corporations in a key court challenge to a Massachusetts law designed to promote democracy in Burma. In a brief quietly filed with the Supreme Court Feb. 15, the InterPress Service reported, Clinton's Justice Department charged that cities and states that make it more difficult for companies doing business in repressive countries to win procurement contracts "impermissibly intrude into the national government's exclusive authority over foreign affairs." Joining a coalition of some 600 major multinational corporations, the European Union (EU) and Japan, the administration asked the Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments on the case March 22, to declare the Massachusetts law unconstitutional. A final judgment by the nine-member court is expected in June.
LABOR STILL LIKES AL. AFL.-CIO leaders said they would continue pushing union members to campaign aggressively for Vice President Al Gore, even though he has reiterated his support for President Clinton's trade deal with China, the New York Times reported Feb. 20. Gore told labor leaders meeting in New Orleans that any trade agreements he negotiated as president would have strong labor and environmental protections. Some union officials took that to mean Mr. Gore was unenthusiastic about the China deal, which does not contain such protections. But after administration officials and corporate executives criticized Gore for undermining the deal, he sent a letter to a powerful business group reaffirming his support for the China accord and his aides said his remarks had been misinterpreted.
LABOR BACKS IMMIGRANTS. The AFL-CIO changed its policy Feb. 16, calling for blanket amnesty for six million illegal immigrants and an end to most sanctions against employers who hire them. In the past, unions often saw immigrant workers as potential scabs who were used by employers to depress wages and break strikes. But the AFL-CIO executive council declared that too often U.S. immigration rules have enabled employers to exploit illegal immigrants. Unions are trying to organize immigrants who work in farming, hotels, construction, meat packing and many other industries, but unscrupulous employers often fight off unionization drives by threatening to fire illegal immigrant employees who support unions and by calling immigration officials to deport them. "The present system doesn't work and is used as a weapon against workers,'' said John Wilhelm, chairman of the federation's Committee on Immigration Policy and president of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union.
BUSH'S NEO-CONFEDERATE TIES. Texas Governor George W. Bush has "long-standing close ties with -- and offers financial support to -- neo-Confederate groups and causes," Southern Exposure reports. Among the evidence of Bush's questionable associations, the magazine documents that Bush is listed as a donor to the Museum of the Confederacy, based in Richmond, Virginia, as a supporter of the Museum's annual ball -- an event held in a slave hall, which has drawn fire for its celebration of the Southern Confederacy. Bush in 1996 congratulated the United Daughters of the Confederacy -- a group known for glorifying the Confederate past, and which has been criticized for sponsoring books by extreme-right authors who, among other claims, downplay the harms of the slave trade. Bush also penned an official state letter honoring the Sons of Confederate Veterans in 1996, a group which claims to be mainstream, but which has repeatedly offered a platform for avowedly white supremacist organizations like the Council of Conservative Citizens.
"This puts Bush's silence on the South Carolina battle flag controversy into perspective," says Chris Kromm, editor of Southern Exposure and author of the story. "Gov. Bush has gone out of his way to embrace the agenda of the Old South -- a position that, if made public, would alienate most forward-looking Southerners, not to mention the rest of the country."
The story is available on the magazine's website, www.i4south.org, as well as the print version in early March.
NEW HAMPSHIRE SOCIAL JUSTICE MONTHLY premiered in February. A publication of the Community Research and Action Center at New England College, the 8-page newsletter contains a legislative update, an article on the Growing Economic Divide, an interview with anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean, death penalty facts and statistics, an article on Martin Luther King and a calendar of events. Information: call 603-428-2346.
GLOBAL WARMING IS REAL and so hard to stop that Americans will have to learn to cope with a hotter and quite different lifestyle in coming generations, a panel of scientists is saying after more than three years of research. That means changing the way the West's water supply is managed, cutting down trees in Southern forests to keep them from dying out, beefing up public health programs, building higher bridges, and rethinking massive environmental restoration projects, such as the proposed $7.8 billion cleanup of the Florida Everglades, the experts said in a sneak peek at a still-unfinished report, according to Seth Borenstein in the Feb. 21 Philadelphia Inquirer. Global warming and the associated sea-level rise already is threatening residents of Tuvalu, a South Pacific island with 11,000 residents and no point of land more than 15 feet above mean sea level.
ENVIRONMENTAL 'ZEROES'. The League of Conservation Voters scored 37 U.S. senators with a "zero" environmental rating in 1999, meaning they failed to cast a single environmental vote on issues such as public lands and natural resource protection, efforts to rollback environmental protections and funding for conservation programs. It was the highest number of Senate "zeroes" since the League started keeping score in 1970. For the fifth straight year, environmental scores averaged below 50 percent -- 41 percent in the Senate and 46 percent in the House. For the third year in a row, the Senate majority leadership failed to cast a single vote in favor of conservation. Senate minority leadership dropped to a 63 percent average, from 78 percent in 1998. On balance, Democrats outscored Republicans by over 60 points in each chamber. However, 29 Republicans outperformed the national average in the House or Senate. Of particular concern is the zero earned by Senator Robert Smith (R-N.H.) who became chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee after the death of John Chafee (R-R.I.) who compiled a 70 percent lifetime environmental average and was known as a leader in building bipartisan consensus for environmental protection. (See the scorecard at www.lcv.org).
MISSISSIPPI #1. The Mississippi River is the most polluted waterway in America with over 57 million pounds of toxic chemicals discharged in 1997, the US Public Interest Research Group reported Feb.17. The study, "Poisoning Our Water -- How the government permits pollution", shows nearly 30 percent of the nation's largest industrial, municipal, and federal facilities were in serious violation of the Clean Water Act between October 1997 and December 1998 and 40 percent of the nation's waterways were too polluted for safe fishing or swimming. Rounding out the Top 5 most polluted waterways were Connequenessing Creek (PA), the Brazos River (TX), the Alafia River (FL), and the Houston Ship Channel (TX). (See the report at www.pirg.org.)