DC Court Doesn’t Block PA Dems’ Access to Ralph Nader’s Bank Accounts
Two years after hearing the case, a 3-judge panel in Washington, DC has refused to block Pennsylvania Democrats from seizing $56,928 from the bank accounts of consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader. The judgment stems from the 2004 presidential campaign, in which Nader’s petitions were successfully challenged by the Democratic Party for not producing enough valid ballot signatures.
As PW wrote back in March, the story surrounding these funds is a bit shady. In 2004, the Democratic party, worried Nader would again act as a spoiler in the general election, allegedly contracted Pittsburgh law firm Reed Smith to help them challenge Nader’s petitions to get on the Pennsylvania ballot. They did and they won—ensuring the race for president in the commonwealth would be a 2-man sideshow, between George Bush and John Kerry. After winning just 50.9 percent of the vote, Kerry won Pennsylvania. He would still lose the general election, as he was a very bad candidate.
But it did not end there. The state Democrats’ challenge was done on state time by state employees—and that’s illegal. Nader’s plight eventually unwound to the scandal that today is called Bonusgate, in which several state employees and legislators went to prison and remain there today.
Even so, Nader was ordered by Commonwealth Court to pay the Democrats’ legal bill in his own challenge. That’s because Pennsylvania has what’s called a “loser pays” electoral challenge system, which overly favors the party and candidate with more support and money. Green Party senate candidate Carl Romanelli suffered the same fate when attempting to run against Bob Casey and Rick Santorum.
Nader’s challenge against the Democratic Party swooping in and ripping his money from his accounts was based on the fact that if not for the illegality of the challenge, none of this ever would have happened.
“We cannot have a Democracy without a fair and impartial judicial system,” says Bob Small of the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition. “This decision confirms that we now have neither.”
According to Ballot Access News, “the D.C. Court of Appeals said if there is any injustice, the injustice lies in the Pennsylvania state courts, and the federal system requires D.C. bank officials to enforce orders of courts from outside the District in such cases.”
This news comes as especially worrisome for now-PA Green Party Chair Carl Romanelli, who is in the same spot as Ralph Nader. In fact, as he says it, he is “the only other American in the same position as Nader, sort of.”
Romanelli became a target of Democrats in 2006 when attempting to run for the U.S. Senate. After getting kicked off the ballot by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, he owed more than $80,000 in legal fees, and still does. He responded to PW by email regarding the Nader ruling.
“I do not have the $80,000 plus the Democrats want from me, nor do I have an account of that size for them to raid, but I do have this burdensome debt looming, and it is an awful feeling for one to carry,” he writes. “Most shocking is the indifference on the part of the courts toward the rampant criminality on the part of the Democrats, and the chilling effect this has on Pennsylvania ballot rights. We have yet to see ANY meaningful reforms by the legislature, so the culture of corruption continues to thrive here.”
Consider the buck passed.
[Note: This blog has been updated to include comments from Small and Romanelli.]