Nader steals from homeless
Friend of the worker steals from the homeless
Nader office shuts down as workers seek pay
Petition circulators demanded payment for signatures collected. A campaign employee said the scene smacked of dirty politics.
By Michael Currie Schaffer
Inquirer Staff Writer
Ralph Nader's presidential campaign this week abruptly abandoned the Center City office that housed its efforts to get on the Pennsylvania ballot, leaving behind a mess of accusations and a damaged building.
The office, on the 1500 block of Chestnut Street, was emptied Thursday after a raucous scene the night before. Police were called as dozens of homeless people lined up to collect money they said they were owed for circulating petitions on the candidate's behalf.
Many of the circulators were never paid, according to outreach workers and interviews with several men who had collected signatures.
"A lot of us were scammed," said Ed Seip, 52, who said he collected more than 200 signatures for Nader.
Nader has until Monday to collect the 25,697 petition signatures required to be on the presidential election ballot. Dan Martino, the campaign's Pennsylvania coordinator, said he believes the campaign is on track to meet that goal.
The quest has drawn national attention because many Democrats believe Nader, who is running as an independent, could drain enough support from John Kerry to throw Pennsylvania's 21 hotly contested electoral votes to President Bush.
Nader has succeeded in New Jersey, where the state Division of Elections has ruled that his name will appear on the ballot. A spokesman for the New Jersey Attorney General's Office said the deadline for filing challenges to a person's candidacy was Monday, and none was filed.
In Pennsylvania and elsewhere, Nader's campaign has accused Kerry supporters of resorting to dirty tricks to keep the candidate off the ballot.
John Slevin, a ballot-access contractor hired by Nader to run the Pennsylvania petition campaign, said all circulators would be paid. And he speculated that the accusations and chaos at the office were the result of political trickery.
"That's the only explanation for it," Slevin said.
He cited both the unexpected arrival of large numbers of homeless people looking for petition work and the calls he received from city officials about payment complaints as examples of possible partisan efforts to derail the campaign.
Slevin began hiring petition circulators two weeks ago with classified advertisements in newspapers and on the Internet.
Petition circulators were told they would be paid from 75 cents to $1 for each valid signature. Half of the money was to be delivered at the end of the day and the balance paid by check the following Wednesday.
But people who showed up Wednesday described a chaotic situation. Lines moved slowly as Slevin and one assistant, protected by armed guards, vetted the petitions for obviously forged signatures. Many in line were shouting and claiming they had been underpaid. As tensions grew, police were called.
Political trickery my ass. The Nader campaign grows sadder and more pathetic by the day. This is wrong. I dare any of the Nader groupies to defend this kind of unvarnished evil. Are these people kidding? They know how bad the economy is, and how desperate people can be. The idea that the Dems would have to put people up to do this, it's bullshit.
I am disgusted by this. I've done field ops, and anyone walking around in the summer heat, looking for signatures deserve to get paid. Fleeing in the dead of night is absolutely despicable.
One of the weaknesses of the left is the ability to blame others for their obvious failure. The Nader people created this mess, and the state should make sure that Nader pays these people. If people are unaware, it is a crime to stiff people on wages, even the homeless.
And if Nader was a decent human, he would make sure they were paid. But considering his track record with his own, white, well-educated workers, I have low expectations this will be solved out of court.
posted by Steve @ 9:50:00 AM