Nader's Angel Pulls Ads

News & Politics

NEW YORK -- Faced with a flurry of questions after he pulled advertisements supporting Ralph Nader from several California newspapers, New York businessman Greg MacArthur explained Wednesday that he still unequivocally urges everybody to vote for Nader, but that the ad text had become inaccurate in light of a new Public Policy Institute poll that showed Gore's lead had narrowed to five percent in the state.

The ads, which MacArthur is funding with $320,000 of his own money through Citizens for Strategic Voting, will still run beginning this week in the New York Times, Boston Globe and several other papers. But the planned ads were pulled from the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner and Los Angeles Times. MacArthur may use the $122,000 allotted for those ads to purchase additional space in New York publications.

"I would vote for Nader no matter which state I live in. The point is, this is aimed at a specific target audience who lives in states where there's really no contest," said MacArthur.

The text of the ad reads, "In this state, a vote for Nader is not a vote for Bush," and then emphasizes that since the electoral college rather than the popular vote elects the president, Nader supporters in states already chalked up to Gore or Bush can feel confident that their votes will not affect the final outcome of the race. The Democratic Party has been jolted this week to find its expected dominance in California suddenly on shaky ground.

MacArthur pointed to Massachusetts and New York as predictable Gore victories, Texas and Colorado as sure things for Bush, and all four as having pockets of progressives are still undecided -� between Gore and Nader.

"Unless you live in a battleground state, you shouldn't hesitate to vote for Nader," MacArthur continued. "If you do live in a battleground state, you should vote your conscience." He hoped that a $200,000 full-page ad in the New York Times national edition would reach potential Nader voters in all the states not specifically targeted, such as Indiana, where a Bush or Gore victory is virtually guaranteed.

MacArthur, a documentary film producer and grandson of billionaire insurance executive John D. MacArthur, said that he consulted with Washington-based lawyer Corey Rubin, who formerly counseled the commissioner of the Federal Elections Commission, about the legality of the ads. He was told that as long as the ads were supported by only his money, they did not qualify as a campaign contribution, which is legally capped at $1000.

Larry Makinson, executive director of Center for Responsive Politics said MacArthur's ads are indeed legal, as long as he filed them as an independent expenditure with the FEC and had absolutely no coordination with the campaign. "Greg MacArthur is just acting on his own. During every election you see a few individuals who do this, and its perfectly legal for them to explicitly say �vote for' or vote against.'"

Nader spokesperson Tom Adkins said that MacArthur had made no contact with the campaign about his plans to run the ads, and that although other organizations have independently placed ads in support of Nader, there had been nothing else to date on this scale.

Actors Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins spoke out in support of MacArthur's ads on Wednesday, and Robbins offered his own anecdote to defuse any suspicions that they somehow violated campaign finance laws. Robbins said that after donating his allotted thousand dollars, he asked if he could purchase a sizable block of tickets for a rally at Boston's Fleet Center to distribute for free. Nader's campaign responded with a firm "No."

"That's how unassailable these people are," said Robbins. "Please don't question the integrity of this campaign, they're unpurchasable."

Sarandon added that "the reason I'm behind Nader is that I'm tired of relying on the good graces of the status quo to bring about the systemic change that's needed. I've been voting for watered-down Republicans called Democrats for the last eight years, and the only way to get change is to start voting for someone I believe in."

Robbins, addressing the content of the ads and the perception that Nader is "stealing" votes from Gore, accused the Democratic Party of failing to realize "that a large number of [Nader voters] who are not supporting Gore are not going to support Gore under any circumstances. They're not going to be fooled any more, so let's stop all this talk about �a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush.'"

MacArthur sounded cogent, studied and deliberate in the outcome he hoped to garner from the ads. He said he wanted to help get Nader over the national five percent threshold, and perhaps as high as six or seven percent, in order to qualify for federal matching funds in 2004. He also wanted to contribute to the long-term building of a Third-Party movement.

"Realistically, Nader isn't going to be president, period," said MacArthur. "He's not going to be president in 2000 or 2004. I see this as a 15-year battle. The thing is to get Nader and his issues some attention, and since he was shut out of the debates and shut out of everything else, this is the best I can do."

Besides the New York Times and the Boston Globe, the ads will run in the Boston Phoenix, Austin Chronicle, Austin American Statesman, Boulder Camera, Village Voice, Los Angeles Weekly and San Francisco Bay Guardian.

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