Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Progressives 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," writes Conn.

The two-pronged attack -- to keep Nader off ballots and to attack him as a tool of the Republicans -- was planned during the Democratic convention. The Ballot Project's initial funding came from former Monsanto CEO and genetic-engineering proponent Robert Shapiro. It was started by Democratic insider lawyer William C. Oldaker, whose clients include the Bituminous Coal Association, Delta Air, Corning Glass, Equifax, and Neuralstem Biopharmaceuticals. The effort is being run in Ohio by Ken Starr's firm Kirkland and Ellis, defense attorneys for tobacco giant Brown and Williamson and General Motors. It is being run in Pennsylvania by Republican law firm Reed Smith, a favorite of the banking (29 of the 30 largest), drug (9 of the 10 largest), and advertising industries. They have battled Nader over advertising to children.

Conn points out that not only haven't journalists questioned the motives behind these and other firms committing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of pro bono work to this effort, they haven't noted the complete silence from civil liberties groups who would normally oppose such activity.

United Progressives for Victory was started by Oldaker to handle the second prong of attack. The organizations use the same office space in Washington, at public relations firm Robert Brandon and Associates. Robert Brandon is a generous supporter of Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, yet progressives unquestioningly sign on to his accusations that Nader is funded by Republicans to divide them. In fact, the Center for Responsive Politics has concluded that no more than 4% of Nader's monetary support comes from Republicans.

Another spokesman for both anti-Nader campaigns is former Monsanto official Toby Moffett, now lobbyist for the Cayman Islands, Turkey, Morocco, defense contractors Raytheon and Northup Grumman, and McDermott International, a Houston oil drilling firm interested in asbestos liability immunity. Moffett was instrumental in getting British company De La Rue the contract to print Iraqi money and passports.

"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 United Progressives, 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. ... 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."

That progressives sit by silently or even sign on to these projects is despicable indeed.