We spend the hour on Green politics and how third party candidates are being blocked from taking part in debates. We begin in New York, where the League of Women Voters has withdrawn its sponsorship of three debates in New York because Green Party candidates were excluded from participation. We’re joined by Green Party Senate Candidate Howie Hawkins and League of Women Voters analyst Betsey Swan. [includes rush transcript]
Today we continue with our coverage of the mid-term elections. The League of Women Voters has withdrawn its sponsorship of three debates in New York because Green Party candidates were excluded from participation. Two of those debates were between candidates running for Attorney General. The Democratic candidate is Andrew Cuomo and the Republican is Jeanine Pirro. Rachel Treichler is the Green Party candidate. Sources from the two stations sponsoring the debates told Metroland, an alternative weekly in Albany, that it was Cuomo’s camp which refused to participate in the debates if Treichler were to be included.
The League also withdrew its sponsorship of a debate between Democratic Senator Hilary Clinton and Republican Challenger John Spencer after Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins was excluded from taking part. In a press release announcing their decision, the League stated that they had determined that the Republican, Democrat and Green candidates were all bona fide contestants and should have all been included in the debates.
Today we spend the hour on Green politics and how third party candidates are being blocked from taking part in debates.
- Howie Hawkins. Green candidate for US Senate in New York.
- Betsey Swan. Legislative Analyst for League of Women Voters, New York State.
AMY GOODMAN: Today, we’ll talk about Green Party politics and how third party candidates are being blocked from taking part in debates. Howie Hawkins joins us here in Democracy Now!'s studios. And from Albany, we're joined by Betsey Swan. She’s the Legislative Analyst with the League of Women Voters, New York State. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Howie Hawkins, why don’t you begin? Tell us how the process works, how the debates are set up.
HOWIE HAWKINS: Well, you have groups like the League of Women Voters that try to participate. What I heard from them is that they were negotiating with their corporate sponsors, which would be the corporate broadcast media, and, I would assume, the corporate-sponsored candidates, particularly Hillary Clinton. My hunch is that broadcast media felt she’s the show, and if she won’t show, it’s not worth doing the show for the broadcast media. So I don’t have direct confirmation that she did the same thing Cuomo did, but that’s my hunch. That’s been my experience in running for local races and trying to get in debates in Syracuse.
AMY GOODMAN: Betsey Swan, why don’t you lay out for us what these negotiations were? How was the League of Women Voters involved?
BETSEY SWAN: Well, the League has a policy that we apply in determining what candidates we will invite to participate in our debates. The policy was last modified in 1992. The board of directors invites third-party candidates to submit materials and information about their candidacies to the state League. The board reviews these materials and makes a determination about whether a candidate is a bona fide contestant.
Among the standards that the League employs are the candidate’s constitutional eligibility to run for office, ballot access, compliance with financial filing requirements, and demonstration of significant voter interest and support in the candidacy. And the things we look at are evidence of a formal statewide campaign with the presence of headquarters, issuance of position papers, campaign appearances, fundraising activities. And then we look at other factors that provide substantive evidence of voter interest, and this can include serious media attention or results in polls.
And the board of directors looked at these criteria and determined that the two Green Party candidates, Howie Hawkins and Rachel Treichler, did meet these criteria, and therefore had to be invited to participate in any League-sponsored debates.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, what happened?
BETSEY SWAN: Well, once the decision was made, we were in negotiations for one debate with WXXI in Rochester. This was a debate for the Attorney General’s office —
AMY GOODMAN: And WXXI is owned by?
BETSEY SWAN: It’s a PBS station in Rochester. And then two debates out of New York City with WABC: one for the U.S. Senate and one for the state Attorney General’s race. Basically we were negotiating, and the bottom line with XXI was, we were told, that if Rachel Treichler participated, Andrew Cuomo would not. And they were going with the debate with the two main party candidates.
At that point, because the League takes the position that once it has determined a candidate is a bona fide contestant, the candidate is required to be invited to debate for League sponsorship, we had no choice but to withdraw. A similar situation occurred in New York City. We don’t know the reason that the debates were limited to the two main candidates, but we were unable to negotiate inclusion of the Green Party candidates and also had to withdraw from those debates.
AMY GOODMAN: What is the League of Women Voters’s history when it comes to debates? How have you been involved? How did it all start?
BETSEY SWAN: Well, it’s a long history, and it precedes me by many years. I can talk in general terms about why the League organizes debates and how we organize them. The League’s a nonpartisan political organization. It was formed to encourage active and informed citizen participation in government. And one of our major focuses is voter services activity. To that end, we publish Voter’s Guide and we run candidate debates at all levels — at the national level, the state level and local levels.
And we employ pretty much the same procedure at all levels. We adopt standards that we will use to judge whether candidates will be asked to debate, and once we have determined that a candidate is eligible, we require that the candidate be invited in order for the League to sponsor debates. We feel very strongly that the public has a right to know, to hear from viable candidates, and we also feel very strongly that the process should not be dictated by the political strategy of frontrunners, which is why we have adopted our position.
AMY GOODMAN: So, is the League of Women Voters just being increasingly sidelined, because you take this nonpartisan view and you insist on viable candidates being able to participate? You’re just getting taken out of all of these discussions.
BETSEY SWAN: I would say we are not getting taken out. We certainly have sponsored a number of debates this year, and at the local level we have ongoing and very frequent sponsorship of debates. I think it’s an ongoing dilemma and not one that is peculiar to the League. There are many organizations, some traditional news organizations, some organizations such as the League, that feel it’s very important that the public hear from a range of candidates. I think we all take slightly different tacks in how we approach this. I think the important thing is that the discussion continues and that we have as many debates as we can with as many viable candidates talking as we can.
AMY GOODMAN: Are we now having corporations taking over the decision-making about who will participate? For example, we had Jonathon Tasini on. Now, he was a Democratic candidate before the Democratic primary, challenging Hillary Rodham Clinton. And it was NY1, who’s parent is Time Warner, that said that he had to have something like a minimum 5% polling and $500,000 in the bank. He had over 13% polling, but he didn’t have that money in the bank. It wasn’t either/or, it was both. And it turned out that the parent company, Time Warner, had given Hillary Rodham Clinton something like $100,000. Ultimately, they didn’t hold the debate. Betsey Swan?
BETSEY SWAN: That happens. Those standards are very different from the League’s standards. We do look at polling. We have disjunctive requirements, so if the poll figures are not met, there are other ways a candidate can prove viability of candidacy.
AMY GOODMAN: But in this case, he was more than double the polling. The polling wasn’t the issue at all.
BETSEY SWAN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: It was this prohibitive amount of money in the bank that I think was more than you needed as a presidential candidate. He was running for —
BETSEY SWAN: Yes, obviously those are standards that the League has not seen fit to adopt. We don’t feel they’re appropriate, to use that type of standard to exclude candidates.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Betsey Swan, I want to thank you very much for joining us, Legislative Analyst for the League of Women Voters, New York State. Thank you, speaking to us from Albany. Howie Hawkins, you’re the person that they pulled out their sponsorship over here in New York. Talk about your attempts — I mean, what message it is you’re trying to get out, and how you do get it out when you’re not able to participate in the debate?
HOWIE HAWKINS: Well, the debate would have been great, because the two leading issues I’m running on are bringing the troops home from Iraq, and we know that a two-to-one majority of New Yorkers are for that position; and the other position is a national health insurance program that would cover everybody, and we know three-to-one New Yorkers favor that. So it wasn’t just my personal disappointment. It was the disservice to the majority of New Yorkers, who did not have a voice in these debates. Clinton and Spencer, the Democrat and Republican, debated how to fight the war in Iraq, not to get out of it, and how to patch up private health insurance. So the majority of New Yorkers were, in a sense, excluded from these debates.
My experience is, the leading candidates basically dictate the terms, and the broadcast media won’t broadcast debates without the leading personalities, and in this case Clinton is, you know, the best funded, probably best known candidate in the whole country. So, my sense is she dictated the terms.
I’ve personally experienced that when I’ve negotiated over mayor debates. I ran for mayor of Syracuse last year, and, you know, the Democrat came in and said we’re doing one debate with this one particular station, not three like he originally agreed to. And then, a Republican negotiator said, "Well, if the Democratic mayor doesn’t show up, we’re not showing up." My position was, I’ll show up and debate anybody anytime. And I believe the producers sympathized with my position, but in the end they made a business decision. And so —
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, a business decision?
HOWIE HAWKINS: They said they won’t get an audience if the mayor isn’t involved, so the mayor was basically able to dictate the terms, a mayor who had, you know, a million dollars to run for mayor of Syracuse, a city now of about $125,000.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Howie Hawkins, Green candidate for U.S. Senate in New York. And when we come back from break, he’ll be joined by the Green Party candidate for Congress from Delaware. He lost his son in Iraq. His son was beheaded there. Our guest is Michael Berg. He’ll join us from Delaware. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn to Delaware and the race for the state’s one House seat. Three challengers are vying to upset seven-term incumbent Republican Congressmember Mike Castle. Democratic candidate Dennis Spivack is up against Karen Hartley-Nagle, who is running as an Independent, and Michael Berg, who is on the Green Party ticket. Michael Berg is the father of Nicholas Berg, the 26-year-old American who was captured and beheaded in Iraq in May 2004.
Last week, a forum for the candidates was held at Brandywine High School in Wilmington Delaware. The forum was sponsored by the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred. Third party candidates were not invited. Well, Michael Berg decided to attend the forum anyway. He climbed onto the stage and took a seat. Forum moderator Harvey Rubenstein asked him to leave.
HARVEY RUBENSTEIN: I’m asking you, Mr. Berg, to please leave the stage. If you want to make a spectacle of yourself, I understand that, but we’re ready to start.
MICHAEL BERG: I think you’re making a spectacle of democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Berg was then escorted from the forum by a police officer. According to the Delaware News Journal, Rubenstien told the audience afterwards the third party and independent candidates were not invited, because, quote, "voters have traditionally stuck with the Republican and Democratic parties." He also said that including all candidates would have meant stretching the forum out for three or four hours. Michael Berg joins us now from a studio in Delaware. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Michael Berg.
MICHAEL BERG: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Well, why don’t you further describe the scene? And for our radio listeners, you can go to our website and see the video of Michael Berg sitting on the stage and then being escorted out. Describe what happened.
MICHAEL BERG: Well, they did let Karen Hartley-Nagle and I come in and set up a display of campaign materials. All the other candidates got a whole table. They made us share a table. It kind of deminimizes [sic] us and makes us look small. Then people finally started filing into the auditorium, and I just decided that I was going to go up on the stage and sit down with them. So, I did. Mr. Rubenstein asked me to leave, and I just tried to bring it to the attention of the people in the audience that they were being deprived of hearing all four candidates.
Mr. Rubenstein’s comment in the paper that having all the candidates participate would have stretched it out to three or four hours was very misleading. There were only three candidates who were being deprived of being heard when their opponents were being heard. There were a whole list of other candidates, where no one in the office was being allowed to talk. That’s a different story. If the Democrat can’t talk, the Republican can’t talk, the Green and Independent can’t talk, that puts everyone on an even level. But when you say the Democrat can talk and the Republican can talk, but the Green and the Independent can’t, that, to me, is vote steering.
AMY GOODMAN: So what did you — as I look at the video, you put tape over your mouth?
MICHAEL BERG: That wasn’t tape. That was actually a bumper sticker that said, "Berg for Congress." I had done that before at the Jewish Community Center, and I just wanted people to realize that not only was I being gagged, but they were being prevented from hearing all of the candidates.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, your response to Mr. Rubenstein telling the audience that third party and independent candidates were not invited, because voters have traditionally stuck with the Republican and Democratic parties?
MICHAEL BERG: You know, it’s kind of a Catch-22. What they say is that there isn’t enough voter interest in us, but they won’t let the voters see us so that they can become interested in us. The whole thing is set up and run by Democrats and Republicans, and it keeps us out. Mike Castle had earlier indicated — he’s the Republican incumbent — he had earlier indicated that he thought that all candidates should be allowed to speak, and there was some possibility that he wasn’t going to go to any forum where they wouldn’t allow us to speak, but tonight he will debate Dennis Spivack, the Democrat, and Karen Hartley-Nagle and I will be barred from it.
AMY GOODMAN: Why are you running for Congress, Michael Berg?
MICHAEL BERG: I’m running for Congress to stop the war that stopped my son Nick. None of the other candidates, not even the Independent, Karen Hartley-Nagle, is willing to say, "If elected, I will support, vote for, and sponsor bills to end the war immediately." People want to let the war go on for three months or six months, but every three minutes, someone is dying. That’s according to the latest Johns Hopkins study. That’s too many for me.
My son Nick was killed the 91st day that he was in Iraq. And people want to let the war go on 90 more days? Nick was abducted the 58th day — and his fate was sealed — that he was in Iraq. People want to let the war to go on for another 30 — another three months, another six months, or indefinitely, as the Republican says. I don’t see how people feel that they have the authority to allow people to die at the rate of one every three minutes. I don’t.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Berg, I remember when we talked to you about your son, when he was beheaded. Before that, he was held in U.S. captivity, and you were investigating what happened. For people who don’t remember, if you could explain — and are you continuing that investigation, as you run for Congress from Delaware?
MICHAEL BERG: Well, what happened to my son was, he was picked up by the Iraqi police, who immediately turned him over to the American military police, who immediately turned him over to the FBI. He was held in an American military prison illegally for 13 days. And finally, I filed a writ of habeas corpus, which I guess I can’t do anymore, and got him out of that American prison.
But it was too late. The events that took place at the Abu Ghraib prison, the rapes, murders, and tortures, became public, and the resistance to the American invasion of Iraq became a grassroots affair in Iraq. Everyone became against the Americans, and so Nick was abducted shortly thereafter. I blame the United States military and the FBI for detaining Nick illegally for 13 days and preventing him from going home, when he had planned to go home, which was before those atrocities were made public. And he would have been home safely.
As far as the investigation is concerned, I got to ask questions of the Defense Department, the State Department, the military, the FBI, but as far as I’m concerned, I got the same lies that they told the public. So now, I haven’t furthered the investigation. Beyond that, I don’t think I will ever get the honest truth, certainly not with the current administration in power.
AMY GOODMAN: He was head of a telecommunications company? He wanted to help set up telecommunications in Iraq?
MICHAEL BERG: That’s right. It was originally — about a year before he went over, it was just a one-man company, but by the time he went over to Iraq, he had about a half a dozen people working for him. To say that he was the head of a telecommunications company sounds like more than what it was. He originally used a corner of my garage and our spare bedroom as his warehouse and office.
AMY GOODMAN: And the U.S. held him, why? He was a contractor.
MICHAEL BERG: Well, they held him, they said, because they were suspicious of an American who wasn’t with Bechtel or Halliburton or the U.S. military. Nick was there legally. He had all the proper visas and papers. He was actually recruited to go there at a forum in Crystal City, Virginia, on December the 4th of 2003, which was part of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 movie. But they were suspicious of him.
They didn’t think that Americans should be walking around alone. And there is no policy about that. That was just one person’s opinion. So, they arrested him. They took him to the American military police. And there, a lawyer, Lt. Col. William Kern, decided all on his own that that was true, that it was suspicious for an American to be alone.
Nick hadn’t done anything. Nick is, to this day, not suspected at this time of ever having done anything wrong. And every agency that I pose that question to told me that that was true, that he’s not suspected of having done anything wrong. He was at the time — they were worried that he was a terrorist, so they took their time investigating and finally concluded that he wasn’t a terrorist, and they let him go, but it was too late for him when they did it.
AMY GOODMAN: So why are you running for Congress?
MICHAEL BERG: Well, I can’t do anything about my son’s death at this point. Nothing will ever bring him back. But I am running for Congress in the same way that a parent who loses a child in a bicycle accident when they didn’t have a helmet on, you know, and then they go out on a crusade to try to get everyone to put helmets on their children when they ride their bicycles. It’s the same thing with me.
This war, this stupid war that was based on lies to begin with, that is going on just for George Bush to save face — which is backfiring anyhow — is killing people at the rate of one every three minutes. Someone is having the experience that I had every three minutes. Someone is losing a son, someone is losing a father, someone is losing a loved one every three minutes in Iraq, and I’m running for Congress to stop it.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined, Michael Berg, by Howie Hawkins, who is the New York Green senatorial candidate. Howie, You come from Rochester?
HOWIE HAWKINS: Syracuse.
AMY GOODMAN: Syracuse. Explain how you got involved in politics. What is your background?
HOWIE HAWKINS: I came up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and by the time I was about 12 years old, in 1964, Reagan was campaigning against fair housing. I decided I’m not a Republican. And then I watched the Democrats exclude the Mississippi Freedom Democrats. And at that point, I said, "I’m looking for my own party," which became the Peace and Freedom campaign in 1967-68. I’m 14 years old then, urging adults to register in this party. I was afraid of getting drafted. I eventually was drafted.
And since that time, I’ve been involved in trying to set up a people’s party that wasn’t corporate-funded, that tried to represent the working people in this country, fights for peace, fights for the environment. And so, I, you know, just sort of got involved at that time, and I’ve stuck with it.
AMY GOODMAN: And why did you choose this race, the senatorial race?
HOWIE HAWKINS: It kind of chose me. The state committee asked me to run. And we knew we were going to run somebody, because Clinton has been pro-war, and the war issue is — you know, Michael has just been very articulate about that. It’s not only a personal tragedy for all the people being affected, military families — a lot of people are tied to the military through their family. But, it’s draining our Treasury. It’s bankrupting our country. Over a trillion dollars, according to former Clinton administration officials, who —- you know, Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, who studied the cost of what -—
The troops coming back home are going to be sick, disabled. The depleted uranium is causing what we called Gulf War Syndrome, from the first Gulf War. And now, we’re finding out the proportions are the same. Hundreds of thousands of people coming back are going to have to be taken care of over the long run. So, that’s going to drain our Treasury. So, you know, this is a central issue. And so we knew we wanted to run against Clinton, and whoever the Republicans put up, because we needed an antiwar alternative.
And then, there’s lots of other issues. I mentioned healthcare, the energy crisis, the problem of global warming. You know, my position is take about half the military budget, 300 billion dollars a year, and over ten years build a new energy infrastructure for the world around renewable energy. I believe that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in New York alone. It will do more for world peace and national security than all the arms in the world. And it will deal with this problem of global warming.
AMY GOODMAN: So, how do you get word out? You’re not included in the televised debates. How are you conducting your campaign?
HOWIE HAWKINS: It’s going by word-of-mouth through organized groups, like the peace movement, community groups. Zogby did a poll, showed I’m getting 21% support among independent voters. And you look at party enrollment in New York state, that’s at least 5% of the total vote. If I got that vote, it would be the most a Green ever got in the state, more than Nader got in 2000. It’d be more than an independent progressive for Senate got in New York state since W.E.B. Dubois in 1950. He got 210,000 votes. The kind of numbers I’m getting translate into 300,000 to 400,000 votes.
If we hold that, it will send a strong message on our issues and, I think, give hope to the movements, who I think have been demoralized. You look at the antiwar sentiment using the Gallup poll question, "Was the war a mistake?" and in three years we’ve got to just about where we were in the anti-Vietnam War. We’re at 54% on that question. It was 56% at the peak in the antiwar Vietnam War. But you don’t see the manifestation and the resistance in the movement. So I think a strong vote for us will give hope to the movements and encourage all kinds of activity on the issues we’re talking about.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re not dealing with a close race here in New York, but I wanted to talk about one of the places where there is a close race. Turning to Pennsylvania, where newly released campaign finance documents have revealed the state’s Green Party has been receiving money from a most unlikely source: the founder and owner of the mercenary company, Blackwater USA. Federal Election Commission filings show that Erik Prince and his wife donated $10,000 to a chapter of the Green Party in Pennsylvania.
Other prominent Republicans who donated to the Green Party chapter included a Halliburton lobbyist, a former aide of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and California’s leading anti-choice activist. The Republicans were trying to help get the Green Party’s Senate candidate, Carl Romanelli, on the ballot in an attempt to take away votes from Democrat Bob Casey in an extremely close race he has against Republican Senator Rick Santorum.
Will Bunch of Philadelphia Daily News helped break the story on his blog. He joins us now from Philadelphia. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Will Bunch.
WILL BUNCH: Yeah, hi, Amy. Thanks for having me on the show.
AMY GOODMAN: Your blog, attytood?
WILL BUNCH: Thanks for the help. Yeah, that’s what it is.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, explain exactly what you found, and then I would like to get these Green Party candidates, though not in Pennsylvania — Howie Hawkins here, running in New York, and Michael Berg in Delaware.
WILL BUNCH: Sure, and I understand they had nothing to do with what’s going on here in Pennsylvania. But what is going on here in Pennsylvania is kind of fascinating. You had a situation where — first of all, just by way of background, Pennsylvania has a very onerous and very restrictive ballot access procedure. And I think most people, no matter what their politics, look at that, are not happy about that. I mean, we obviously would like to see a situation where it’s easier for third party candidates and people with alternative viewpoints to get on the ballot. The way it works in Pennsylvania is, you need a large number of signatures from all over the state to qualify for the ballot. In fact, it’s a formula, but they figured you needed 70,000 signatures across the state, valid signatures from registered voters, to qualify, and that’s a lot. In fact, it takes as much as $100,000 to do that.
The Green Party of Pennsylvania obviously doesn’t have $100,000. But, lo and behold, they got $100,000, and the way they did that was through an effort that was totally 100% — not even 99%, but 100% — funded by conservatives and Republicans, most of whom either have a history of directly supporting Rick Santorum, the Republican candidate in the Senate race here in Pennsylvania, or supporting causes that are close to Rick Santorum, either opposing abortion rights or that sort of thing. You know, so we have a situation here where — and as it turned out, even in spite all that and in spite of spending $100,000 on a company with Republican roots that’s very controversial, that helped them to try to get on the ballot, in the end they still didn’t have enough signatures. And in fact, Carl Romanelli, barring a last minute — he may have one more appeal still out there, but I’m 99.9% sure Carl Romanelli will not be on the ballot next month.
But it’s kind of disturbing. I mean, voters want choice here, but, I mean, clearly the entire Green Party candidacy here ended up being a motivator to get liberal voters, — as some of your listeners may know, the Democratic candidate we have here in Pennsylvania, Bob Casey, is one of the more conservative Democrats out there. He is anti-abortion. He supports some NRA positions, that sort of thing. And, you know, some progressive voters would want to go for somebody with the Green Party, if there was a legitimate Green Party candidate. This was not a legitimate campaign, by any means. This was an attempt to divert votes from Bob Casey and help one of the most conservative Republicans in the country, Rick Santorum, get re-elected.
AMY GOODMAN: And how exactly did you go about investigating this?
WILL BUNCH: It wasn’t that hard. I mean, thankfully, Federal Election Commission reports go online fairly quickly after they’re filed. And now, some other sites — I know TPMmuckraker, which is a very good political site — and also, I think, some journalists from the Philadelphia Inquirer and some of the other papers around the state did get, I think, the initial tip that it wasn’t even either the Romanelli campaign or the Green Party of Pennsylvania that was accepting these donations. It was a committee that was set up called the Green Party of Luzerne County. Luzerne County is a county in Pennsylvania where Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, which is where Romanelli is from, is located. So it’s not the type of committee that people would normally — that most political reporters would most normally not look at the records of the Green Party of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, in their normal duties. Luckily somebody stumbled onto this, and when people looked into it, they found out that this group has raised well over $100,000 now, all of it from Republican and conservative donors. And it all went to fund trying to get Carl Romanelli on the ballot, either through signature gathering or then, later on, legal fees to try keep him on the ballot .
AMY GOODMAN: And this company, JSM, the Republican-oriented ballot access firm?
WILL BUNCH: Right. Some of your listeners who follow these things, may be familiar with some of the weird doings that happened in the 2004 election with people on college campuses signing petitions that they thought were, like, for medical marijuana and issues like that, and then finding out that they had been registered as a Republican, even though they were not Republicans. JSM was the company that was involved in, not all of that, but a lot of that type of shenanigans that went on in 2004. And they also did a lot of work trying pull essentially the same tactic in terms of trying to get Ralph Nader on the ballot in different states, including, I believe, here in Pennsylvania, you know, with the same principle, that Nader would have taken votes away from Kerry and helped Bush win the election.
AMY GOODMAN: And the comments of Mr. Romanelli? You’re saying that he actually — he wasn’t even receiving the money, he might not have even known about it.
WILL BUNCH: Yeah, to be honest, I don’t have a good sense of how involved Romanelli was in all of this. I mean, it’s an awkward situation, like I said. I mean, we do have this onerous law about ballot access here in Pennsylvania. You know, Romanelli wants to be on the ballot. I’ve looked into his background, and he legitimately is somebody who has, you know, in the past espoused the views of the Green Party. So he’s not a totally phony candidate. He seems like he’s a legitimate Green Party member. You know, he wants to get on the ballot in this U.S. Senate race. Somebody just, you know, shows up with the money and the means to do this, and I don’t know if he knew a lot about where this money was coming from or if he decided just to look the other way, but clearly — and I should stress that what happened here is legal. I mean, it’s legal for these conservatives to give money to the Green Party. It’s kind of hypocritical for all these anti-abortion people to give money to a pro-choice party, people —- you know, like you mentioned, the head of Blackwater USA, the mercenary company which is making millions of dollars in Iraq and they’re supporting the party that supposedly wants to pull troops out of Iraq immediately, so there’s a lot of -—
AMY GOODMAN: And the former Bill Frist aide, who now lobbies for Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary, making a lot of money in Iraq, not to mention the oil giant, Chevron.
WILL BUNCH: Right, exactly. So you have all of those people giving money to the Green Party. I mean, it’s an incredible thing. Like I said, it’s legal, but it’s the kind of thing — and, you know, this is where journalists come in and campaign finance laws. It may be legal, but voters need to know about this. That’s what I’ve been trying to do, writing about this a few times on my blog, attytood. .
AMY GOODMAN: We are not able to go back to Michael Berg in Delaware, because we lost that studio, and we’re switching over to Washington state to talk with the Green Party candidate. But, Howie Hawkins, what is your response in situations like this, where the party is manipulated?
HOWIE HAWKINS: Well, I wouldn’t have taken any money from those sources. Carl Romanelli should have checked out his sources. I don’t know the story on whether he approved receiving that money in order to get onto the ballot. I do know Carl Romanelli. I’ve met him over the years. He is an antiwar candidate. Casey, the Democrat, is not antiwar, as well as the other issues the reporter mentioned.
But there’s another story here, and that is that the firm, that Republican-oriented firm, was hired by the Nader campaign in 2004 and apparently the Romanelli campaign this year to help them get signatures. They’re a signature gathering firm, and that’s what the money was used for. Some of those signatures were fraudulent. You know, Mickey Mouse, whatever. And then the Democrats challenged that petition. And it’s been ruled in court that the whole petition was fraudulent and that Nader in the 2004 case has to pay the Democrats $80,000 for their legal fees. And now Romanelli has to pay an even higher fee. And because once the Democrats brought them to court on that challenge, the other two candidates, because Romanelli was slated with the governor and lieutenant governor candidates, those two Green candidates dropped out. The point was, they were intimidated.
Another thing about 2004 is that the Democrats hired a Republican law firm that gave lots of pro bono help to challenge Nader’s petition in Pennsylvania. So, you know, maybe Romanelli was set up. I do know that to me the worst thing is not that they took some money from some bad sources to try to get onto the ballot, but the courts in Pennsylvania are intimidating third party candidates from even trying to get on the ballot, by putting these exorbitant fees on them or, you know, to pay the legal fees of the people that challenge them from running. I mean, it makes you think twice about even running for office. How can you deal with a $100,000 fine?
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Howie Hawkins, I want to thank you very much for being with us, New York Green Party candidate for Senate. And Will Bunch, thanks for joining us. He’s a senior editor at the Philadelphia Daily News and author of the blog, attytood.