Progressive as Pawns
Cannon Fodder for Kerry's War on Nader
By Stephen Conn
The progressives and peace activists who are helping to stop Ralph Nader and Peter Miguel Camejo don't realize it but they are being used by people who represent the corporate interests, especially the military-industrial complex, of the two major parties.
After months of fund raising, research and development of a detailed attack plan, anti-Nader Democrats hatched a much publicized two pronged attack on the Nader campaign in meetings with party leaders from Washington, New Mexico and elsewhere during the Democratic Convention (David Postman, "Nader foes seek funding from Democratic donors," Seattle Times. July 28, 2004).
The first prong was a nationwide preemptive attack on voters who might choose Nader. The Democratic Party would field law firms to challenge Nader's access to state ballots with ubiquitous law suits to deplete his resources and limit his candidacy. Nader's grassroots campaign would be sued to death. The second prong was a campaign to insinuate and perpetuate a lie found effective by polling and focus groups, that Ralph Nader was a tool of right wing Republicans.
The Ballot Project Inc. was funded initially by former Monsanto CEO and genetic farming proponent Robert Shapiro, with another $25,000, (an amount far in excess of legislated campaign finance limits), from West Coast Democratic moneyman, Max Palevsky. This 527 group, officially called, "Focus on Ballot Qualifications, Inc,." was founded in July by candidate Wesley Clark's former counsel-now- Kerry supporter, William C. Oldaker, the first FEC General Counsel, an elections law strategist and longtime Democratic insider. Oldaker is a partner in the Democratic law firm Oldaker, Biden and Belair (www.obblaw.com) and founding principal of the newly formed National Group (thenationalgroup.net). Its clients, including the Bituminous Coal Association, Delta Air, Corning Glass, Equifax and Neuralstem Biopharmaceuticals (which Oldaker co-founded) regularly seek largess and other special favors from government of the kind Nader has long denounced. The Ballot Project Inc. coordinates the anti-Nader ballot access project with hundreds of lawyers throughout the country, including the banking, drug and advertising industries' favorite, Republican law firm Reed Smith (Reed Smith.com) in Pennsylvania and GM's and tobacco giant Brown and Williamson's defense attorneys, Kirkland and Ellis (Kirkland.com), in Ohio.
Partners in both the aforementioned firms have fought Nader's ballot access tooth and nail, expending hundreds of thousands of dollars in partner hours in their efforts without a single question from main stream reporters as to how corporate attorneys of such prominence could justify their pro bono efforts to restive, paying corporate clients around the world.
Partners in both Reed Smith and Kirkland and Ellis have been quoted extensively and favorably in the New York Times and elsewhere as they portray themselves as self-appointed guardians of the ballot against the likes of Ralph Nader and his ilk. Reed Smith, a major corporate law firm from Pennsylania that has battled Nader over advertising to children has provided 12 attorneys including 7 partners billed 1,300 hours to keeping Nader off the ballot. Kirkland and Ellis, Ken Starr's law firm, which represents GM and other major corporate efforts is leading the anti-Nader effort in Ohio.
No journalistic suspicions about this coordinated investment in "good government" high-mindedness among top corporate law and lobbying firms have been raised, nor have journalists noticed the profound absence of the involvement on the other side by civil libertarian groups who might have rushed to defend the would-be Nader voters' Constitutional rights.
The second prong, aimed at voters in states where Nader could not be forced off the ballot or where he is a still viable write-in candidate, force feeds voters with the most effective lies discovered in extensive research by Bill Clinton pollster, Stanley Greenberg, that Nader is "in bed with," funded and controlled by Right Wing Republicans. For this agitprop campaign to spread the lies, a Kerry PAC called United Progressives for Victory was set up in June by Oldaker, housed in the DC offices of Robert Brandon and Associates, 1730 Rhode Island Ave. suite 712, the same office which houses the Ballot Project.
Robert Brandon is a typical Washington public relations flack who sings whatever song is placed in his mouth with a check. He had already made more campaign donations to anti-choice and anti-Kerry Senator Orrin Hatch than to John Kerry, according to Center for Responsive Politics' FEC data. This is the same Orrin Hatch who recently said terrorists "are going to throw everything they can between now and the election to try and elect Kerry," and on Fox News, that Democrats are "consistently saying things that I think undermine our young men and women who are serving over there."(Dana* *Milbank, "Tying Kerry to Terror Tests Rhetorical Limits,". Washington Post, Sept.27, 2004, p1).
In "open letters," full of what lawyers term "boilerplate" focus group language circulated to national and state progressives and in press releases, Robert Brandon portrays Nader as a figure head of the Republican right and as a "divider" of the progressive moment. Unquestioning anti-war activists and progressives across the country joined United Progressives for Victory (upforvictory.com) without a second thought as to the veracity of Brandon's claims, ever available as cannon fodder for Kerry's unacknowledged Weapon of Mass Deception. The Center for Responsive Politics had long concluded that no more than 4% of Nader funds came from Republicans. But in campaigns, as in war, truth was indeed the first victim.
Media spokesmen for both the Ballot Project and United Progressives for Victory are Brandon and Toby Moffett. Moffett is a former Monsanto official, now lobbyist for foreign countries, the Cayman Islands, Turkey (at $1.8 million a year) and the Kingdom of Morocco, defense contractors like Raytheon and Northup Grumman, and McDermott International, a Houston oil drilling firm interested in asbestos liability immunity. Moffett is a partner in the Republican (Bob) Livingston Group (www.livingstongroupdc.com) and its Livingston-Moffett International Group Practice.
Moffett makes big money for his clients from the war and occupation of Iraq. One Moffett client is British firm, De La Rue. It secured contracts to print new Iraqi money and travel documents through Moffett's efforts. The Livingston group guided Turkey to its lucrative billion dollar plus foreign aid alliance with the Bush administration.
Nader cites Moffett for turning the Democratic Leadership Council into a corporate bag man for the party. Corporate donations have strings. Ralph Nader contends these compromises are part of the reason Kerry doesn't take a firmer position on Iraq or promote health care for all.
Apparently the corporate clients of Oldaker and Moffett have found no conflict between the political strategy employed by their agents to deny Nader ballot access and defame him and their own desires to discredit Nader's anti-corporate agenda and, with it, the progressive moment -whether or not Kerry is elected. Anyone who reviews the published client lists (and glowing self-promotion) on the Livingston or The National Groups web sites will discover the anti-Nader crusade by the Ballot Project and Progressives United, designed and orchestrated by the Democrats, is also a very natural extension of both Oldaker's and Moffet's clients' desires to maintain and extend their corporate influence in either a new Kerry or a second Bush administration. For foreign nations to stand by smugly while their lobbyists meddle in American state elections is what we in Alaska call, "skating on very thin ice."
Hatred of the progressive agenda and persistent public meddling by Ralph Nader in corporate matters also could be said to create a happy coincidence of self-interest between corporate clients with their attorneys' legal wars against Nader in the courts and in the press. Kirkland and Ellis' clients, GM or Brown and Williamson or twenty-nine of the top thirty big banks and nine of the top ten drug companies all represented by Reed and Smith can only gain from conflict within or capitulation of the progressive movement. Whatever the outcome of the Presidential race, for their law firms to invest vast professional resources in destruction of Nader and his reputation will ease the way for their corporate clients as they interact with government, especially if Nader's Washington influence is diminished.
And what about the Any-butt-Bush's -progressives who support these efforts by signing on to anti-Nader letters drafted by Brandon and Associates for the United Progressives? Perhaps, for them, the end justifies the means. Perhaps they were fooled or just went along with people they trusted. Whether they were duped by the fear put out by the ABB campaign or they chose the direction on their own, they are clearly being used by corporate interests who they certainly disagree with.
Antiwar activists, feminists and environmentalists who enthusiastically ride the Brandon-Oldaker-Moffett train over Ralph Nader and his anti-war, progressive agenda must be a great source of amusement to occupants of boardrooms, corporate law firms, and palaces around the world. Who would have guessed that progressives would be such naive and willing instruments in their own destruction in a plan designed by openly acknowledged advocates for multinational and foreign national agenda? The Nader's message is, after all, their own. Ignorance of this strategy and its links back to corporations, their lawyers and lobbyists is no excuse. Any school child could have surfed the web and connected the dots. Now progressives, to their probable dismay, will.
Stephen Conn is a retired Professor of Justice at the University of Alaska.