Oregon Judge Puts Nader on Ballot


In a year devoid of victories for Democracy, indeed a year where Democracy has taken quite a few body blows to say the least, a county judge in Oregon has stepped up and blown away months’ worth of shady dealings of the Democratic (sic) Party, its top political pros and its union henchmen.

Judge Paul Lipscomb ruled September 9th in Salem that “Secretary of State Bill Bradbury violated election laws” indeed “made up laws,” in the Democrat’s effort to undermine the presidential candidacy of Independent Ralph Nader. The judge ordered Nader’s name to be placed on Oregon’s November 2nd ballot, joining as of today, 20 other states where Nader’s name will appear.

Situational Democracy Again

Nader’s supporters turned in more than 28,000 signatures to county elections officials last month. After getting new rules (those made up laws), the county staffers eliminated around 10,000 signatures. So, the Nader supporters still armed with over 18,000 already-vetted signatures went ahead and submitted them to the Secretary of State’s office as 15,306 were needed to place Nader on the ballot.

But Secretary of State Katherine Harris — er, Bradbury – an ardent Kerry supporter — last week disqualified 3,082 signatures that had been validated by the county elections officials. That left Nader just 218 signatures shy of the 15,306 needed to put him on the ballot, prompting the lawsuit.

Bradbury alleged that more than 1,000 sheets of signatures of registered voters could not be counted because rules about numbering the sheets were not followed or because the sheets were improperly signed or dated.

“I think the secretary of state should be ashamed of himself,” Greg Kafoury, co-director of Nader’s Oregon campaign said at the time. “This is a completely political decision.”

On Oregon Public Radio, Nader attorney Dan Meek used this sports analogy to describe what had happened to the Nader Campaign: “It’s as if someone came, somebody who is here in Oregon and said, OK, we’re here to play baseball. And the Secretary of State says, OK, play baseball. But after the game is over, says well we’re not going to count the runs you scored, because actually you should have been following the rules of basketball.”

Prior to Judge Lipscomb’s Court decision, Bradbury proudly defended his rejection of the petitions, saying, “It’s my duty to uphold the law, and it is clear that signatures on sheets that do not comply with the law cannot be counted.”

Not so clear to Judge Lipscomb — rumored to have never voted for a Republican — who repeatedly asked in Court, “And, just where in the law does it give the Secretary of State that power?”

Apparently it was just “clear” to Bradbury who disingenuously claimed, “I don’t have a dog in this fight.”

Still defying the Judge, Bradbury underling State Elections Director John Lindback denied that state officials had applied different rules to Nader. “We apply the law evenhandedly and the secretary’s positions (as a Kerry supporter) are irrelevant,” he testified. Of course Bradbury has a dog in it; Lindback vowed to Appeal Lipscomb’s decision immediately to the Oregon Supreme Court. Fellow Democrat Attorney General Hardy Myers took up Lindback’s vow and has asked the Supreme Court for a seldom used (last time in Oregon was a decade ago) Writ of Mandamus to bypass the Court of Appeals — the Supreme Court being stacked with cronies of Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski, an alumni of the court.

Predictably, despite the judge’s ruling, the executive director of the Oregon Democratic Party and architect of the dirty tricks, Neel Pender still contends, “The Ralph Nader campaign misled voters and committed voter fraud,” while at the same time labeling the Nader candidacy a “political sideshow.” He ended his blather claiming, “Progressives are supporting John Kerry.”

Oregon GOP Chairman, former Democrat Kevin Mannix responded, calling the judge’s ruling “a victory for Democracy and voter access to the ballot, and a defeat for bureaucratic obstinacy.”

Republicans hands are hardly clean in all this, and they are fully entangled, as well. Thinking, as wrongly as their Democratic opponents that Nader hurts the Democrats’ chances more, the Republicans circulated petitions and have defended their circulators, who I assure you weren’t out there circulating Ross Perot Petitions in 1992.

Dirty Dems

Judge Lipscomb’s heroic ruling comes on the heels of a dirty campaign waged by the Democrats and their union henchmen, notably the public employees union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

In August, sixty Nader petition circulators received a letter in the mail from the union’s law firm stating that they were “under investigation” for fraudulently filling out the petition form and could “face a felony conviction and a prison term.” One person “under investigation” was a lawyer who had just herself and her family sign. One elderly woman had two people show up at her house past 9 PM telling her that she was under investigation and that she might do jail time for not filling out her forms right. All of her forms were found to be in compliance.

“The evidence indicates a clear pattern of widespread signature fraud in the effort to put Nader on the ballot,” SEIU union spokesman Mark Weiner baldly lied.

“We have been sabotaged and smeared, and now we have had our people bullied by people who knock on doors at night,” Nader’s Oregon Chair Greg Kafoury said, adding that, of course, there was no intentional effort to turn in invalid signatures. Kafoury notes that 30 of the campaign’s 150 petition carriers quit as a result of the union aggravation.

The state’s largest newspaper, The Oregonian, editorialized September 3rd in favor of Bradbury’s sleazy attempt to deny voter rights, ironically stating, “Legislators should consider whether just one fraud investigator is really enough for the secretary of state’s office.”

Lipscomb has tangled with Oregon’s corrupt Democrats before

Judge Lipscomb, despite numerous death threats, recently took on corruption in the quasi-public State Accident Insurance Fund (SAIF), a group that was secretly paying the firm of disgraced former Governor Neil Goldschmidt more than $1.1 million between 1986 and 2003 for lobbying the agency is forbidden to conduct.

SAIF Chief Executive Officer and President Katherine Keene resigned in disgrace after it was disclosed that she had destroyed all records concerning Goldschmidt; intentionally defying Lipscomb’s June 2001 court order to turn them over. The judge found SAIF in contempt and fined the organization over $1 million. State investigators have since seized computers and other records trying to find or recreate the missing documents.

The well-connected Democrat Goldschmidt recently admitted to having a years-long sexual relationship with a woman who was a 14-year-old child when it began — when then-Portland Mayor Goldschmidt was 35. Such sexual activity with a minor is a felony in Oregon, with mandatory prison time. Goldschmidt escaped under old Statute of Limitations clauses, though legions of Democrat sycophant/enablers knew of the assault; did nothing and covered it up for years, including current Governor Ted Kulongoski. Jimmy Carter even made Goldschmidt Secretary of Transportation, AFTER knowledge of the rape was known within Democratic Party circles.

Judge Lipscomb has also been involved in a series of lawsuits over the state’s Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund (PERS). Neil Goldschmidt’s wife Diana is a member of the Oregon Investment Council. It decides where the PERS and other state funds are invested. The council, with Diane Goldschmidt’s yes vote, approved the investment of some $300 million of PERS funds in Fort Worth-based Texas Pacific Group. The $300 million was over $100 million more than the normal cap on such investments. That brought Oregon’s total investment with the Texas group to a whopping $950 million.

On November 18, 2003, the power investment group agreed with Enron to buy Portland General Electric (PGE) for $2.35 billion, including $1.1 billion in debt costs/liabilities. Enron paid $3.1 billion for PGE in 1997.

Then it came to light that Neil Goldschmidt was, along with two other Pacific Northwest “movers and shaker’s, Tom Walsh of Oregon, and Gary Grinstein of Washington investing $2.5 million in the venture BUT will control 95% of the voting stock. Oregon’s PERS, with its $300 Million (70% of the total investment) investment will have little say. Oregon PERS has lost $80 million due to PGE- parent Enron’s bankruptcy, caused as the world knows, by company fraud on the watch of former Enron CEO, Kenneth “Kenny Bay” Lay, good friend of both George W. Bush and Teresa Heinz.

Denying Democracy for What?

In the end, with Kerry holding a 53-43 lead over Bush in Oregon in a September 2nd Zogby poll, Nader’s entry on the ballot is unlikely to affect the outcome of the state’s race. With Bush now leading by eleven percent in many nationwide polls, Nader’s candidacy is doubtful to change the national outcome.

This means that all the dirty tricks of the Democrats AND the implosion of the Green Party has all been for naught. If the polls hold and Bush wins with over 50% of the vote, then it most likely means Nader could have garnered 5 to 10 percent of the vote and it would not have affected the outcome at all — other than the Democrats and the Green Party might have been left with some integrity intact as they, hopefully regroup and join forces behind the necessary Impeachment.

Re-losing the Last War

“Generals often re-fight the last war, and so do political people,” Portland pollster Tim Hibbitts told The Oregonian. “The Democrats believe Nader cost them votes the last time, and they are playing hardball to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

And, just as the generals pretty much always get the last war analysis wrong, these seedy operatives started from the wrong premise (“Nader cost Gore”), reinforced each other, seethed for almost four years and then shot themselves in the foot and Democracy in the head.

It’s way past time for the Democrats and the Greens to clean house. It’s way past time for Kerry to “disown these efforts on his behalf.” Bradbury should resign or face Recall. The same applies to Kulongoski, whose silence on the issue has been as deafening as his silence on his patron Goldschmidt’s recent confession – and, of course, the rest of the Goldschmidt cabal. Too bad we can’t recall the Cobbite “Greens” who consciously passed on such a golden opportunity to fully differentiate themselves from this rotten other half of the War Party duopoly.

I was left instead to the heroic Nader supporters and tireless folks like Greg Kafoury and his longtime ally Dan Meek and many others who organized for Nader and saw through, not only the Petition process despite all the union harassment, but two conventions that were sabotaged by anti-Nader forces. Ultimately all the efforts of a lot of people culminated when Nader attorneys Meek and Mark McDougal brought this egregious assault on public participation in free and open elections before a lone, courageous non-partisan in the best sense county judge. We sure could use more judges like Paul Lipscomb. And, one thing The Oregonian sure has right is we have a great need for political fraud investigators in Oregon these days. Democracy won this one. But, stayed tuned. In Oregon politics these days, it’s a Reprieve at best.

MICHAEL DONNELLY of Salem, OR is a longtime forest activist. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s new book on the 2004 elections, A Dime’s Worth of Difference. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com


MICHAEL DONNELLY has been an environmental activist since before that first Earth Day. He was in the thick of the Pacific Northwest Ancient Forest Campaign; garnering some collective victories and lamenting numerous defeats. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com