Ralph Nader (born February 27, 1934) is an activist who targets large American corporations on environmental and consumer rights issues. He was an independent candidate in the 2004 U.S. presidential election. He also received the Reform Party endorsement. His running mate was Peter Camejo.
He was also the U.S. presidential candidate of the Green Party in 1996 and 2000. In both runs Winona LaDuke was his vice-presidential running mate. In 2004, however, the Green Party nominated David Cobb.
Ralph Nader was born in Winsted, Connecticut. His parents, Nathra and Rose Nader, were Lebanese immigrants. He has three siblings: Shafeek (deceased), Laura (Professor of Anthropology at UC Berkeley), and Claire Nader. His father was employed in a nearby textile mill and at one point owned a restaurant where he engaged customers in discussions of political issues.
Ralph graduated from Princeton University in 1955 and Harvard Law School in 1958. He served in the United States Army for six months in 1959, then began work as a lawyer in Hartford. In 1963, Nader, then 29, hitchhiked to Washington, D.C. and got a job working for then-Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He later did freelance writing for The Nation and the Christian Science Monitor. He also advised a Senate subcommittee on automobile safety.
Clash with the automobile industry
In 1965 he released Unsafe at Any Speed, a study claiming many American automobiles, especially those of General Motors, to be structurally flawed. GM tried to discredit Nader, hiring private detectives to investigate his past and attempt to trap him in a compromising situation, but the effort failed. Upon learning of this harassment, Nader then successfully sued the company for invasion of privacy, forced it to publicly apologize, and used the winnings to expand his consumer rights efforts.
Hundreds of young activists, inspired by Nader's work, came to DC to help him with other projects. They came to be known as "Nader's Raiders" and, led by Nader, they investigated corruption throughout government, publishing dozens of books with their results:
- Nader's Raiders (Federal Trade Commission)
- Vanishing Air (National Air Pollution Control Administration)
- The Chemical Feast (Food and Drug Administration)
- The Interstate Commerce Omission (Interstate Commerce Commission)
- Old Age (nursing homes)
- The Water Lords (water pollution)
- Who Runs Congress? (congress)
- Whistle Blowing (punishment of whistle blowers)
- The Big Boys (corporate executives)
- Collision Course (Federal Aviation Administration)
- No Contest (corporate lawyers)
In 1971, Nader founded the NGO Public Citizen as an umbrella organization for these projects. Today, Public Citizen has over 150,000 members and numerous researchers investigating Congress, health, environmental, economic, and other issues. Their work is credited with helping to pass the Safe Drinking Water Act and Freedom of Information Act and prompting the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Their various divisions include:
- Buyers Up
- Citizen Action Group
- Congress Watch
- Critical Mass Energy Project
- Global Trade Watch
- Health Research Group
- Litigation Group
- Tax Reform Research Group
- The Visitor's Center
In 1980 Nader resigned as director of Public Citizen to work on other projects, especially campaigning against the believed dangers of large multinational corporations. He went on to start a variety of non-profit organizations:
- Capitol Hill News Service
- Corporate Accountability Research Project
- Disability Rights Center
- Equal Justice Foundation
- Georgia Legal Watch
- National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform
- National Coalition for Universities in the Public Interest
- PROD (truck safety)
- Retired Professionals Action Group
- The Shafeek Nader Trust for the Community Interest
- Congress Accountability Project
- Citizen Advocacy Center
- Pension Rights Center
- Foundation for Taxpayers and Consumer Rights
- Center for Auto Safety
- 1955: Princeton Project 55
- 1969: Center for the Study of Responsive Law
- 1970s: Public Interest Research Groups
- 1970: Connecticut Citizen Action Group
- 1971: Center for Science in the Public Interest
- 1971: Aviation Consumer Action Project
- 1972: Clean Water Action Project
- 1972: Center for Women's Policy Studies
- 1980: Multinational Monitor (magazine covering multinational corporations)
- 1982: Trial Lawyers for Public Justice
- 1982: Essential Information (encourage citizen activism and do investigative journalism)
- 1983: Telecommunications Research and Action Center
- 1993: Appleseed Foundation (local change)
- 1994: Resource Consumption Alliance (conserve trees)
- 1995: Center for Insurance Research
- 1995: Consumer Project on Technology
- 1997?: Government Purchasing Project (encourage the government to purchase safe and healthy products)
- 1998: Center for Justice and Democracy
- 1998: Organization for Competitive Markets
- 1998: American Antitrust Institute (ensure fair competition)
- 1999?: Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest
- 1999?: Commercial Alert (protect family, community, and democracy from corporations)
- 2000: Congressional Accountability Project (fight corruption in Congress)
- 2001?: League of Fans (sports industry watchdog)
- 2001: Citizen Works (promote NGO cooperation, build grassroots support, and start new groups)
- 2001: Democracy Rising (hold rallies to educate and empower citizens)
Nader considered launching a third party around issues of citizen empowerment and consumer rights. He stated that the Democratic Party had become "so bankrupt, it doesn't matter if it wins any elections." He suggested a serious third party could address needs such as campaign-finance reform, worker and whistle-blower rights, government-sanctioned watchdog groups to oversee banks and insurance agencies, and class-action lawsuit reforms.
Nader was drafted as a candidate for President on the Green Party ticket in the U.S. presidential election, 1996. He was not nominated by the Green Party USA, which was, at the time, the largest national Green group; instead he was nominated independently by various state Green parties (in some areas, he appeared on the ballot as an independent). He qualified for ballot status in relatively few states, garnering less than 1% of the vote, though the effort did make significant organizational gains for the party. He refused to raise or spend more than $5,000 on his campaign, presumably to avoid meeting the threshold for Federal Elections Commission reporting requirements; the unofficial draft committee could (and did) spend more than that, but was legally prevented from coordinating in any way with Nader himself.
Nader ran again in 2000 as the candidate of the Green Party of the United States, which had been formed as a result of his previous campaign. This time he received almost 3% of the popular vote, missing the 5% needed to qualify the Green Party for federal matching funds in the next election.
The exclusion of Nader and other third-party candidates from events staged by the bi-partisan controlled Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) contributed to the marginalization of those candidates and helped minimize their support on election day. This issue led to an effort to build a more independent Citizens' Debate Commission.
Nader campaigned against the pervasiveness of corporate power, and spoke on the need for campaign finance reform, environmental justice, universal healthcare, affordable housing, free education through college, workers' rights, legalization of commercial hemp, and a shift in taxes to place the burden more heavily on corporations than on the middle and lower classes. He opposed pollution credits that make it more profitable to pollute than conserve, and giveaways of publicly-owned assets.
The extremely close race between the two major presidential candidates, Al Gore and Bush, helped to create some additional controversy around the Nader campaign. Before the election, a number of those who supported Gore claimed that since Nader had no realistic chance of winning, those who supported the Nader platform should nevertheless vote for Gore, the theory being that a victory for Gore was preferable to a victory for a more conservative candidate, even if an individual voter might, in a perfect world, prefer Nader. Late in the campaign, the Gore campaign dispatched prominent liberal celebrities to present this argument to Nader voters in swing states. Nader, and many of his supporters, however, claimed that while Gore was preferable to Bush, the differences between the two were not great enough to merit support of Gore.
When challenged with complaints that he was taking away votes from Al Gore, Nader argued at times that he was trying to save the Democratic Party, and at other times, that he wanted to destroy it. When Nader argued that he was trying to hold the Democrats' "feet to the fire," he was suggesting that he only wished the Democrats were more progressive. However, at other moments Nader said he wanted the Democrats to go the way of the Whigs, and that he would support Green candidates who ran against the most progressive Democrats, such as Paul Wellstone and Russell Feingold.
As it turned out, the number of Nader votes were more than the margin of Bush over Gore in Florida and New Hampshire, meaning that Gore would have won the election if even a small fraction (as little as 1%) of Nader's supporters in Florida had instead voted for Gore. Nader supporters claimed that many of them would not vote at all if Nader wasn't on the ballot. Regardless, many analysts believed that Nader supporters would more likely choose Gore over Bush. (Nader has stated on his website: "In the year 2000, exit polls reported that 25% of my voters would have voted for Bush, 38% would have voted for Gore and the rest would not have voted at all." ) Most political analysts and experts believe that Nader's presence caused Bush to win the election. For their part, Nader supporters countered that the Democrats could handily have won the election with a better and more competent candidate than Gore, who made a series of blunders in his debates against George W. Bush. And, of course, the U.S. presidential election, 2000 was hounded by the Florida situation.
Some voters had attempted to minimize this problem by engaging in Nader trading, in which Nader-inclined voters in swing states agreed to vote for Gore in exchange for Gore-inclined voters in safe Bush states to vote for Nader. Even though Nader trading had the potential to win Al Gore the election AND earn the Green Party its 5% and matching funds, Nader himself rejected the idea. He and his campaign explained that they were running in every state.
The "A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush!" phenomenon is the so-called spoiler effect where candidates split the vote, and it is common to most third-party or independent candidacies, whenever such candidates draw most of their support from constituencies who would otherwise support one or the other candidate. The problem is endemic to the First Past the Post electoral system; according to Duverger's Law, such a voting method naturally results in a two-party system. Some, such as Democrat Dennis Kucinich, advocate approval voting or instant runoff voting to address the spoiler effect. Nader has made strong statements in favor of election reforms and it is listed in the number two position on Nader's list of 2004 campaign issues (below health reform).
But since, in the long run, both the Democratic and Republican parties appear to be net beneficiaries of this state of affairs, many commentators conclude that electoral reform addressing the matter is improbable - unless of course one party consistently loses because of it. Many Greens hope to force the reforms by causing Democrats to lose until the situation becomes intolerable. Nader has not stated such a goal publicly, nor is he a member of the Party. Other progressives believe strongly that this strategy is doomed, and that candidates sharing Nader's views should run in Democratic primaries, taking advantage of an electoral reform that has already been implemented.
Nader announced on December 24, 2003 that he would not run for president in 2004 on the Green Party ticket; however, he did not rule out running as an independent. On February 22, 2004, Nader announced on NBC's Meet the Press that he would indeed run for president as an independent, saying, "There's too much power and wealth in too few hands." Because of the controversies over vote-splitting in 2000, many Democrats have urged Nader to abandon his candidacy. The Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe argued that Nader had a "distinguished career, fighting for working families" and McAuliffe "would hate to see part of his legacy being that he got us eight years of George Bush."
On May 19, 2004, Nader met with John Kerry in Washington D.C. for a private session, concerning Nader's factor in the 2004 election. Nader refuses to withdraw from the race, citing specifically the importance of the removal of troops from Iraq. The meeting itself ended in disagreement. On the same day, two Democratic leaning groups, the National Progress Fund and the Democracy Action Team, were formed. They both seek to reduce the effect of Nader upon Democratic voters that might be persuaded to vote for him. The following day The Democracy Action Team's Stop Nader campaign announced they would air TV commercials in key battleground states.
On June 21, 2004, Nader announced that Peter Camejo, a co-founder of the California Green Party, would be his vice presidential running mate. Shortly thereafter, Nader announced that he would accept (although he was not actively seeking) the endorsement, but not nomination, of the Greens as their presidential candidate. Later in June, however, the Green National Convention rejected Nader as a candidate in favor of David Cobb, an attorney and Green Party activist. Nader's failure to take the Green Party's nomination meant that he could not take advantage of the Green Party's ballot access in 22 states, and that he would have to achieve ballot access there independently.
On April 5, 2004, Nader failed in an attempt to get on the Oregon ballot. "Unwritten rules" disqualified over 700 valid voter signatures, all of which had already been verified by county elections officers, who themselves signed and dated every sheet with an affidavit of authenticity (often with a county seal as well). This subtraction left Nader 218 short of the 15,306 needed. He vowed to gather the necessary signatures in a petition drive. Secretary of State Bill Bradbury disqualified many of his signatures as fraudulent; the Marion County Circuit Court ruled that this action was unconstitutional as the criteria for Bradbury's disqualifications were based upon "unwritten rules" not found in electoral code, but the state Supreme Court ultimately reversed this ruling. Nader has presently appealed this decision to the US Supreme Court, but a decision did not arrive before the 2004 election.
On September 18, 2004, the Florida Supreme Court ordered that Nader be included on the 2004 ballot in Florida as the Reform Party candidate. The court rejected the arguments that the Reform Party did not meet the requirements of the Florida election code for access to the ballot — that the party must be a "national party" and that it must have nominated its candidate in a "national convention" — and therefore Nader should have attempted to file as an independent candidate. Specifically, the court ruled that the term "national party" must be interpreted as broadly as possible. The Reform Party has a ballot line in only some U.S. states.
In the general election, Nader appeared on the ballot in 34 states and the District of Columbia. Ballot access ultimately became one of the most significant issues of the Nader campaign - in his concessions speech, Nader characterized it as a "civil liberties issue" and noted that Democratic attempts to challenge his ballot access were rejected in the "overwhelming majority" of state courts.
Effect on major-party candidates
The expectation among many analysts was that Nader�s candidacy would benefit Bush by taking more votes from Kerry than from Bush. Lending credence to that opinion, Republican organizations in several states worked to gather petition signatures to place Nader on the ballot . The Nader campaign accepted contributions from donors who were also contributing to Bush's campaign (, ) and from those helping to fund the televised advertisements by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that attacked Kerry for his activism against the Vietnam War (). In Florida and elsewhere, Nader�s ballot access came because of his nomination by the Reform Party, which had nominated conservative Pat Buchanan in 2000. The party�s chairman, [[Shawn O�Hara]], voted for Bush in 2000 and has said, "I'm doing everything I can to make sure John Kerry never gets around the White House." 
The same view of Nader�s likely effect was taken by many people opposed to Bush. A group of Nader�s supporters from 2000 endorsed Vote to Stop Bush, a statement urging support for Kerry in the swing states. Even Nader�s running mate in 1996 and 2000, Winona LaDuke, endorsed Kerry.  Another approach was taken by �RalphPlease.org�, which gathered conditional contributions � pledges to donate to Public Citizen if Nader would withdraw from the race. 
The Nader campaign contends that its donations were made by "people who agree with him on the issues and want him to get his message out to the public". . The campaign also charges: "The anti-Naderites hired Stanley Greenberg to conduct surveys and focus groups to determine how best to smear Nader. They found that falsely claiming Nader was funded and controlled by Republicans was the most effective line they could use...."  Nader also responds to such claims by pointing out that Democratic opponent John Kerry has received $10.7 million dollars from donors who also contributed to Bush or to some other Republican candidate - nearly 100 times that of the $111,700 Nader has received.
Nader received many fewer votes than he had in 2000, dropping from about 2.9 million votes (2.74 percent of the popular vote) to just over 400,000 (0.34 percent). He finished only about 20,000 votes ahead of the fourth-place candidate, Michael Badnarik of the Libertarian Party. Fears that Nader would play a "spoiler" role for the Democrats proved unfounded, however -- Kerry's margins of loss in states won by Bush were all substantially larger than the percentage of votes gathered by Nader.
Nader has never been married. According to the mandatory financial disclosure report that he filed with the Federal Election Commission in 2000, he then owned more than $3 million worth of stocks and mutual fund shares; his single largest holding was more than $1 million worth of stock in Cisco Systems, Inc. 
- The Nader Page (not campaign-related)
- NaderNow (Pro Nader Unofficial Blog)
- Ralph Nader speaks at the Reform Party Convention, 2004 - Provided by C-SPAN in RealVideo format.
- Nader/Camejo 2004
- National Nader in 2004 Meetup
- Greens for Nader
- Students For Nader
- Unofficial Vote4Nader Blog
- The Nader Factor
- The Unity Campaign
- United Progressives for Victory
- Stop Nader
- Ralph Nader's Skeleton Closetbg:Ралф Нейдър