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2004-11-17

Why Isn’t Kerry Using $50M Unspent Campaign Money to Fund Recounts?

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Third-party candidates are requesting recounts in swing states as reports of widespread voting problems and malfunctions in electronic voting machines continue to emerge. Meanwhile, Democratic candidate John Kerry is sitting on over $50 million in unspent campaign funds, which could be used to fund recount efforts. We speak with Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb. [includes rush transcript]

President Bush nominated Condoleezza Rice yesterday as he continues to reshape his Cabinet for his second four-year term.

But, controversy continues to rage over the fairness of the November 2 presidential election. Stories are still emerging from states like Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and New Mexico of widespread problems with vote counting, voter suppression and malfunctions of electronic voting machines.

Now three candidates in the 2004 presidential race are demanding recounts. And not one of them is John Kerry.

In New Hampshire, independent candidate Ralph Nader is asking for a recount to test the accuracy of optical scan vote-counting machines. The request covers 11 of the state’s 126 precincts that use Diebold’s Accuvote optical scanning machines to count paper ballots. Backers urged Nader to request a recount after a statistical analysis posted on the Internet appeared to show that some New Hampshire precincts using the machines gave President Bush up to 15 percent more votes than had been expected on the basis of exit polls and the 2000 presidential vote.

Meanwhile, the Green and Libertarian Parties announced they raised $150,000 over the past week, enough to file the required fee for a statewide recount of the vote in Ohio.

While they scrambled to raise the required $150,000 in time to file the recount request, Democratic candidate John Kerry has been sitting on over $50 million in unspent campaign funds. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Kerry could use that money to fund recount efforts.

  • David Cobb, a lawyer from Texas. He now lives in California. He is seeking the Green Party nomination for president.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined right now by David Cobb, lawyer from Texas, now lives in California, Green Party presidential candidate in this election. We welcome you to Democracy Now!, David Cobb.

DAVID COBB: Thank you, Amy, it’s a pleasure to be back.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Can you talk about what you’re calling for in Ohio?

DAVID COBB: Well, Amy, we are demanding — we will be demanding a full statewide recount of every ballot cast that we can get our hands on in the state of Ohio. I want to stop for a moment, back up and really give some context to this story, because corporate media is attempting to manufacture consent around the lie that this was a clean and fair election. The reality is that this was not a clean and fair election. Far from it. There is a litany of problems, not only the problems that you mentioned in terms of the voting equipment themselves, but the clear and obvious civil rights and voting rights violations that occurred in this election. I just want to observe that it was only thanks to Pacifica and community radio across this country that this story was really getting out, and the internet and ordinary citizens telling each other the stories that they were hearing. Corporate media manufacturing consent around a lie, the people’s radio, Pacifica community radio stations, telling the truth. I think that’s a profound background and backdrop that we should remember as we go through with this story.

AMY GOODMAN: So what exactly will happen? You have got the $150,000. What will happen now?

DAVID COBB: Well, we’re not allowed under law to actually demand the recount until the republican Secretary of State, Blackwell, actually officially certifies the results. He has not done so. They’re still counting, that we know of, over 153,000 provisional ballots. That high number of provisional ballots is actually part of the problem, by the way, where only he and his office has the final say on how and where and under what circumstances those ballots will be counted. But as soon as that certification takes place, we will be demanding and filing in every single count in the state of Ohio for a full recount. Under Ohio state law, they must certify the results by December 3, but they might do it earlier, so we’re prepared immediately to file that recount.

AMY GOODMAN: The New York Times moved very quickly and did a whole piece basically debunking any questions about the vote and said there’s a lot of blogs and internet swirls that are alleging some kind of fraud or miscount, but that, you know, it’s got to be put to rest pretty fast.

DAVID COBB: Well, again, the corporate media doing its job to try to manufacture consent, but the reality — what we know on the ground from citizens on the ground, and in fact providing testimony at citizen-conducted hearings, public hearings, we know for a fact there were screens which had a, quote, jumping screen problem. That is where folks attempted to cast a ballot for one presidential candidate and the screen literally jumped in an attempt to default the vote for Bush. We know, of course, the infamous precinct where less than 700 people voted yet the machines attempted to record 4,000 extra votes for Bush. Of course, the intolerably long lines in low-income communities, especially communities of color, African American communities, which is a function of the allocation of voting machines, decisions made by a republican Secretary of State where too few machines went into African American communities. We know that there are over 92,000 ballots that are literally being discarded, or the so-called spoiled ballots where there was an alleged overvote or undervote. It’s the hanging chad problem all over again. We’re demanding that the votes need to be looked at to determine whether there was an intent to actually cast a ballot or not. These provisional ballots, and the high number of them are really problematic, because so many were cast because long-time voters simply disappeared from the voter roles. We don’t know why. There was an illegal use of I.D. requirements for voters that were illegal under Ohio law. This is just the tip of the iceberg, Amy. We haven’t even touched upon the inherent problems with black box voting. I’m talking about reports on the ground flooding in by the thousands of people in Ohio who experienced voting rights violations as they attempted to exercise their right to vote. So, I don’t know if this recount is going to result in changing the election results. Frankly, that’s not my intent. My intent is to attempt to do two things, really. To raise a cloud over the legitimacy of this election and George Bush. We know that Bush stole the election in 2000. So, I want to just at least raise this point, and the second thing I want to do is to have a healthy discussion and create the political space necessary for that discussion to describe the systemic changes that are necessary so that we, the people, can have confidence in the legitimacy of our elections.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to David Cobb, Green Party presidential candidate for 2004. I want to know if you have talked to the Democratic Party about what they’re doing with their money, looking at the report from the Center for Public Integrity they did a day before the election. John Kerry has $51 million left. That is more than any presidential candidate ever had. He has, I think, George Bush had something around $25 million. So, he has about, oh, or $27 million. He has about $17 million more than George Bush. Compare $51 million to what Gore had after 2000. He had something like $3-something million. Center for Public Integrity asked the Kerry campaign what they were going to do with this money. They refused to say. But have you been in communication with them? Have they talked about putting some of this money into recount efforts?

DAVID COBB: No, we haven’t had a formal conversation with the Kerry campaign. Frankly, Amy, we have been too busy putting our grassroots effort together on the fly. We did not expect, frankly, in the Green Party, to be the only party — well, with our friends in the Libertarian Party, we didn’t expect to be in the process of having to demand the recount, if these allegations had come through. So we’re putting together our team on the fly to stand up for the rights of Americans to demand the recount. So, we do know that the $50 million is available. We do know that it would be available for recounts, but so far there’s been a deafening silence on the part of the Kerry campaign. I do want to make a distinction here between the leadership of the Democratic Party and the rank and file members of the Democratic Party, the rank and file members of the Democratic Party on this issue seem to be howling with indignation and are — we’re getting words of support and emails and letters of encouragement. I’m not surprised, because the rank and file members of the Democratic Party are infinitely more progressive than the leadership of the Democratic Party or of John Kerry.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that John Kerry simply doesn’t want to look like a sore loser and is looking to 2008 and could possibly use these funds towards that?

DAVID COBB: You know, Amy, that conclusion certainly does not escape me, and — but I don’t know why John Kerry is so silent but he is complicit in his silence. And he is certainly complicit in a concession speech which was a downright capitulation. Especially in light of all of the evidence that was already available about voting rights violations that occurred in Ohio. Many people, in fact everybody who was associated with the campaign in Ohio, on the night of the election, was absolutely convinced that there would be at least a recount, and probable litigation. So, we were stunned the next day when Kerry conceded. Why he did so, you know, is speculation that we can all do. If it’s true that he conceded and then tried to basically brush aside all of the voting rights violations in some effort to position himself for 2008, I think that that is a profound mistake, and even more than simply a strategic mistake, I think it’s shameful. About as shameful as what’s happening in Fallujah, by the way.

AMY GOODMAN: David Cobb, are you calling for John Kerry to un-concede?

DAVID COBB: Listen, I think that it’s — I don’t want John Kerry to be in the White House. I’d like to be in the White House. I think that the people deserve a peace candidate in the White House. The people of the United States deserve a candidate calling for universal health care and a living wage and end to the prison industrial complex, but the reality is, Amy, it’s obvious that I did not win the White House. I’m calling for whoever won the presidential election to be in the White House. We don’t know who that is at this point. It stuns me that John Kerry is silent, but it — I’m proud that the Green Party is standing up.

AMY GOODMAN: David Cobb, I want to thank you for being with us. Again, the Green Party presidential candidate, together with the Libertarian Party presidential candidate, Michael Badnarik, are calling for a recount of the votes in Ohio, Ralph Nader for a recount of the votes in Ohio.

DAVID COBB: Thank you, Amy. If I could, for listeners, if you want to get involved either as a donor or as a volunteer on the recount effort, please go to our website, www.votecobb.org.

AMY GOODMAN: Thanks very much for being with us.

DAVID COBB: My pleasure.

AMY GOODMAN: Again, David Cobb calling for that recount in Ohio, Nader calling for it in New Hampshire.

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