2008 Fall Features

Pennsylvania Democrats indicted for challenges to Greens

By Carl Romanelli, Pennsylvania Green Party

Although it has been two years since I was prevented from running for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania under the Green Party banner, it has been an ongoing saga. Finally, the PA Democrats’ transgressions are being revealed. Harrisburg was buzzing in July as thirteen high ranking Democratic Party officials were indicted on charges of theft, conflict of interest, and conspiracy. Some of these charges were related to a crushing petition challenge of the Carl Romanelli U.S. Senate campaign, where I was assessed over $80,000 in costs owed to the lawyers for the Democrats, and was subsequently denied a bid for senate.

The PA Attorney General (AG) charged Democrats with illegally using state workers and state resources and that they paid hefty bonuses to the workers for partisan political work. Nearly four million dollars of taxpayer money was wrongfully used on these political projects between 2004–2006. Among those charged are former Democratic Whip for the PA House of Representatives, Michael Veon; current representative, Sean Ramaly (D-Greene County), former Chief of Staff to House Majority Leader Mike Manzo, his spouse Rachael Manzo, and nine others. If convicted of all counts, the 13 individuals will face cumulatively 1,873 years in prison. It was the weight of these potential sentences which induced staffers to reveal vital information to the cases.

It appears that most of the money was used in the effort to remove my name from the 2006 ballot, and for the effort to displace Ralph Nader from the ballot in 2004. In the challenge against me, the Democrats are accused of using a caucus of up to 36 staffers to research the campaign signatures for flaws, negative public relations, and other dubious activities. In the Nader case, the same technique was used and a caucus of up to 50 state workers was used. This is significant, as it appears the only way Democrats in PA could banish the Greens and others from the ballot was through gross misuse of taxpayer funds and by committing serious constitutional crimes against those who dare challenge the old party duopoly. Though the indictments are new, the accusations are not. Nader, the Greens and I have consistently complained about “blatant and criminal abuses” to their rights of speech, assembly, due process, and association.

The scandal has become known as “bonusgate” since the grand juries were convened in 2007. AG Tom Corbett indicated more arrests were coming and his investigation is not limited to Democrats alone. Corbett advised he felt he had to move on the Democrats first as they were destroying evidence. For example, Veon apparently destroyed a hard drive containing 2006 records and Manzo allegedly instructed an intern to shred personnel records from the summer of 2006. Nearly 31,000 emails were deleted concerning 2004, but investigators were able to recover them. There is a clear pattern of conspiracy waged against Nader in the recovered information.

The Green struggle for ballot access in Pennsylvania has been arduous. In 2006 the Pennsylvania Green Party nominated its first candidate ever for the office of U.S. Senate. Pennsylvania has always had extremely unfair restrictions regarding third party and independent ballot qualification, but 2006 was uniquely difficult. For a Democrat or Republican to qualify for the PA ballot, he or she needs to collect and submit the signatures of at least 2,000 voters. In comparison, the minimum number of signatures needed by third parties was 67,072—the highest standard ever. The Greens were the only third party to qualify in 2006 through the filing of nearly 100,000 signatures. This is the most signatures ever collected by a candidate of any party.

The PA Democrats filed a challenge to the submitted signatures. They alleged that signatures were “invalid” and demanded review. The court ultimately ordered both sides to be present in Harrisburg from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday with nine “volunteers” from each side. The purpose was to rid the review of any blatantly invalid signatures.

This stretched out for eight miserable weeks with the Democrats’ lawyers thinking of every possible way to defeat signatures. PA Greens were able refute them and validate most of the signatures. Twice the Democrats tried in a sweep to wipe out nearly 40,000 signatures by challenging the circulator or the notary. Lawyers for the Romanelli campaign, locating the notaries and circulators, defeated those claims. This discredited the charge of “widespread fraud” made by the Democrats.

But when the Democrats, undaunted, asked to amend the challenge to discredit the same signatures on different technicalities, the judges (Democrats) allowed it. Though this was unprecedented, the Green campaign complied.

By October 2006 the court had sided with the Democrats and removed my name from the ballot. Further, the court decided that since “so many government resources” were involved in the review, I had showed “bad faith” in defending the challenge and should pay costs to the Democrats’ lawyers.

The judge later approved a bill submitted by the lawyers for the Democrats, assessed at over $80,000.00 in costs on the Green U.S. Senate campaign and directly on me as an individual. I appealed the decision, since the PA election code only calls for legal fees or costs to be assessed when fraud, forgery or some other crime has been committed. Although this was not the case with the Green Party filing, the costs were still imposed. Through the many appeals, attorney Larry Otter fought hard and kept defending the Greens. By January 2007, the court decided Otter should also be assessed costs.

For the Green Party, it has been two years of fighting in PA. But the injustice is coming to light. By July of 2008, I continued to press forward despite the appeal hanging on the thinnest of threads after languishing before the PA Supreme Court for months without a decision. In July, the PA Greens legal team filed a motion to re-open or remand the case for new testimony based on new evidence. I also want the Democrats to pay legal fees. Nader and his team filed a similar action with the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, asking for the $80,000.00 judgment against him to be vacated.

This is not over yet. I vow to continue to fight until we prevail over these political bullies.

The Party loses one of its finest members

Contributions by John Selawsky, Green Party of California

Activists across the country mourn the loss of Dona Spring, the longest serving Green Party office holder in California. She held a seat on the Berkeley City Council for 16 years. Despite her long-term struggle with Rheumatoid Arthritis, she was determined to be a voice for the unrepresented and was a formidable force for change in the political arena. Spring died on July 13th at the age of 55.

Spring was first elected to Berkeley City Council in 1992 representing District 4. This was the second longest continuous term for a Green in the entire country. In 2006 she was re-elected by a resounding margin. From the local to the international level, she addressed issues with equal dedication and intelligence. In addition to advocating for tenants, youth, the disabled, and victims of war, she even came out to rally with protesters at the University of California to protect trees despite her worsening health.

“She (was) definitely a role model,” said Pam Webster, Berkeley rent board commissioner and Green, noting Spring helped blaze a trail for Greens in politics.

“The Green Party of California mourns the passing and celebrates the life of one of our finest leaders, Dona Spring. She was a smart and capable politician who remained the conscience of the Berkeley City Council. Her first campaign was galvanizing. She never failed us,” said Hank Chapot, a member of the East Bay Greens.

A documentary film on Spring is available called “Courage in life and Politics: The Dona Spring Story.”

John Selawsky shares his thoughts on Dona Spring:

We will remember Dona Spring for many things: zipping through her District 4 to attend a neighborhood meeting or to City Hall in her motorized wheelchair, her advocacy for people with disabilities, and a new Berkeley animal shelter. She was a champion for animal rights, environmental issues, including strong and early support for the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets, and tirelessly advocating for the need for the funding and political will for a new warm-water therapeutic pool. She was accessible, available, intelligent, and responsive. She was a rare public official in so many ways.

Dona Spring authored a resolution in Berkeley strongly condemning U.S. military action in Afghanistan, and gained national attention and vociferous criticism for this resolution. Due to her efforts and outspokenness she received death threats for that proposal, as well as for others she carried and sponsored.

My own experience and relationship with Dona goes back over 15 years. We met first as Green Party activists; she was already serving on the Berkeley City Council. She appointed me to Berkeley’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission in 1995, on which I served five years with two terms as commission chair. I note this as an example of Dona’s unerring ability to place people in positions where they could succeed and grow.

Dona never backed down from a debate, never apologized for taking the side of the disabled, or homeless, or poor. She lived with the understanding that we, and the society we build, are all ultimately judged on how we treat and empower those who have had little or no opportunity in their lives, or have had hardship and setback. We all need to remember that message in the work we continue to do.

For more information go to: www.donaspring.com

Peter Camejo, three-time gubernatorial candidate for the Green Party of California and vice-presidential running mate with Ralph Nader’s independent campaign in 2004, passed away on September 13, 2008 after a two year battle with lymphoma. Camejo was 68.

A profile of Peter Camejo’s career in activism and Green politics will appear in the the next issue of Green Pages

By Claudia Ellquist, Arizona Green Party; Hillary Aisenstein, Pennslyvania Green Party; and Ann Link, Green Party of New York State

This summer, more than 600 Greens represented 38 states at the Green Party’s National Nominating Convention in Chicago. After traveling by public transportation, bikes, and carpools, delegations made the most of this political weekend, attending workshops, sharing ideas and experiences, meeting candidates, and casting their state’s votes especially for the presidential nominee. Unlike the predictable, tax-payer subsidized spectacles produced for the Republicans and Democrats, Greens paid for their own convention and got their money’s worth.

This year’s convention also produced the best media coverage the Green Party has ever had. Some of the national stations and programs were ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CNN, NPR, and Democracy Now. Pacifica aired the convention live including interviews with convention organizers and C-Span featured speeches by Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente. The Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune and Atlanta-Journal Constitution all had articles about the event and Chicago Public Radio also aired many segments about the convention.

The Green Party presidential nomination, on Saturday, July 12, confirmed former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and Hip Hop activist Rosa Clemente as the Green Party’s presidential and vice-presidential candidates, in one round of voting. McKinney and Clemente gave rousing speeches outlining their plans for a dynamic campaign and a new course for the United States.

McKinney’s candidacy marked the 160th anniversary of the Equal Rights Party nomination of the first female American presidential candidate, Victoria Woodhull.  She is the 45th female to seek the presidency of the United States, and the McKinney/ Clemente ticket is historic in naming two women to lead the nation.

McKinney said, “We make history today only because we must. In 2008, after two stolen presidential elections, eight years of George W. Bush, and at least two years of Democratic Party complicity, the racket is about war crimes, torture, crimes against the peace; the racket is about crimes against the Constitution, crimes against the American people, and crimes against the global community. … The Green Party is no longer ‘the alternative party,’ we are now the Imperative Party.” (Excerpts from McKinney’s speech are on page 8) For more about their campaign, go to www.runcynthiarun.org.

Additionally, there were several press conferences featuring the candidates for nomination, congressional candidates, and state and local candidates from around the country. The one drawing the most media attention featured Rich Whitney, who got over ten percent of the vote in his 2006 race for governor of Illinois. Whitney also hosted the presidential candidate forum the eve of the convention.

Earlier that day, Pennsylvania’s Cecilia Wheeler distinguished herself as the spokesperson of the newly forming Latino caucus, arguing forcefully to vote down the proposed 2008 platform over wording related to Guest Worker programs. In a show of solidarity, delegates preferred to stand with the existing platform from the previous convention.

Various committees gave reports to the National Committee on the Green Party’s many accomplishments. Three new members of the national Steering Committee were elected: Sanda Everette of California, Craig Thorsen of California, and Jill Bussiere of Wisconsin.

Video from the forum and the convention has been posted on numerous websites including youtube. Link to www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxbDwXeOeA4.

From the Green Party of the United States media office

The Green Party has taken the lead by filing a civil action to protect voting rights of presidential electors. “We’ve witnessed in election after election how some states have used the winner-take-all formula to prevent the votes of political, ethnic, and other minorities from being counted,” said Jody Grage national treasurer for the Green Party.

The civil action was initiated by Greens under the conviction that the outcome of the 2008 presidential election may be affected by the antidemocratic apportionment of Electoral College votes, with the popular vote misrepresented by the winner-take-all system of assigning votes to electors.

“We’re in danger of seeing the 2008 election stolen again, as in 2000 and 2004,” said Clyde Shabazz, Green candidate for the U.S. House in Michigan. “In Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, we witnessed the obstruction and manipulation of votes by election officials and possible tampering with computer voting machines. But equally insidious is the mal-apportionment of Electoral College votes, which disenfranchises whole sections of the voting public.”

Asa Gordon, chair of the DC Statehood Green Party’s Electoral College Task Force and executive director of the Douglass Institute of Government, filed the civil action with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (1:08-cv-01294) on January 28, 2008. The action seeks relief against the defendant, Vice President Cheney, who will preside over the tabulation of “unbound electoral states” on January 6, 2009, challenging the recognition of Electoral College votes that are apportioned by states on a winner-take-all basis.

“Americans don’t vote for president.  Instead, we vote for an electoral college which was created in the late 1700s to expressly increase the power of the slave states— and which it is still doing,” said Mark Dunlea, an election law attorney with the Green Party of New York State.

The civil action seeks enforcement of the ‘Mal-Apportionment Penalty’ provided in Section 2 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which mandates a reduction of a state’s presidential electors and congressional representatives if “the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States … is denied … or in any way abridged.” The civil action alternatively seeks the issuance of a court order providing proportional apportionment of presidential electors.

“If two thirds of the voters in a state vote for a candidate from Party A and one third vote for a candidate from Party B, and the state’s winner-take-all rule gives all of the state’s electors to Party A, then one third of the voters have been disenfranchised in violation of Amendment 14, Section 2 of the US Constitution,” said Grage.

Gordon said, “by refusing to challenge Electoral College mal-apportionment in 2000 and 2004, which blocked Democratic electors from voting in those elections, the Democratic Party’s leaders abandoned tens of thousands of their own voters, just as they failed to challenge the election irregularities in Florida and Ohio in 2000 and 2004. Will they fail to challenge mal-apportionment again in 2008, and hand the Republicans another victory? … The winner-take-all provisions in the general election present the distinct possibility that Mr. Obama in 2008 will win the popular vote by a considerably larger margin than did Gore in 2000, but will repeat the Democratic loss in the Electoral College.”

Green Party leaders noted that after John Kerry quickly conceded the 2004 election, Democratic leaders failed to respond to thousands of complaints about voting irregularities in Ohio and other states.  Green presidential nominee David Cobb and Libertarian nominee Michael Badnarik launched the Ohio and New Mexico recount efforts and collected the initial evidence that Republican officials had blocked the votes of many African American and young voters. Greens raised most of the money for the recounts.  Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) later held hearings and published evidence of the election theft.

The civil action is part of the Green Party’s ‘Democratize the Electoral College’ program, which debunks accusations that the McKinney campaign could ‘spoil’ the Democratic candidates bid for president. “Democratic leaders should have to explain why they choose to ignore 13 additional electors from southern states they’d gain through the Green Party’s presidential electors project. Why is the Green Party fighting to give voice to Democratic voters that the Democratic Party will not fight for?  Let me be clear—we’re not doing this to assist Barack Obama, but to foster real democracy and voter participation, and to offer Cynthia McKinney as the truly democratic choice for all the people,” said Gordon.

The Green Party’s national platform endorses a constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College and providing for the direct election of the president by instant runoff voting. Since the debacle of the 2000 presidential election, the Green Party in partnership with the Douglass Institute of Government has led the way in educating Americans about their constitutional “right to vote” under the provisions of 14th Amendment, Section 2.

By the Green Party of Colorado

Hailing the passage of a new state law encouraging local governments to use Instant Runoff Voting, Colorado Green Party members have called on cities and counties around the state to implement ranked voting methods in upcoming elections.

In May, Governor Bill Ritter signed into law HB08-1378. It was championed by state Representative John Kefalas (D-Fort Collins) and former Green. The Voter Choice Act permits cities and counties to use ranked voting methods, and requires the Secretary of State to create rules for conducting such local elections.

“If politics is the art of the next step, than Rep. Kefalas’ election reform measure is a Picasso,” said Art Goodtimes, San Miguel County Commissioner and Green Party member. “Instant Runoff Voting will save taxpayer money, guarantee majority wins, and allow citizens to vote for multiple candidates of their choosing—that means more candidates, more choice, more democracy. It’s darn exciting.”

“It is long past time to extend this form of voting to all elections held in Colorado,” said Bob Kinsey, Green Party candidate for Colorado’s U.S. Senate seat. “Voters deserve a broader range of choices than what the so-called two-party system provides. Money, name recognition and image will become less significant. Voters will feel more empowered and become more active in the process.”

Dr. Ron Forthofer, former Green Party candidate for governor is also a member of the 2007 Voter Choice Task Force. The task force was instrumental is laying the foundation for the new law. Forthofer said the momentum for voting reform is growing.

Ranked voting methods have been used in dozens of American cities over the years. In Colorado, Basalt and Aspen have already adopted ranked voting, while cities like Grand Junction and Boulder have used these methods in the past. Minneapolis (MN), Oakland (CA) and Burlington (VT) are among cities that recently switched to ranked voting methods.

Eddie Boyd will be missed for his commitment to speak the truth

By Barbara Rodgers-Hendricks, Green Party of Florida

What do you do after you experience homelessness? Well, if you’re Eddie Boyd, you join Mitch Snyder and the Community for Creative Non-Violence, an advocacy organization for the homeless. And what do you do when you’re dying of cancer? From your deathbed, you talk about the Green Party with anyone who will listen.

Eddie Boyd, Jr. was born on August 24, 1961, in Miami, Florida. He joined the Navy soon after graduating high school. However, the Veteran’s Administration (VA) didn’t keep faith with Boyd. For years, Boyd suffered from leg pain, but he was never told by the VA Hospital that he had cancer. By the time he was admitted to the emergency room of Union Memorial Hospital, the cancer had spread to his lungs.  Boyd died on August 11, 2008, just shy of his 47th birthday.

Boyd was the Green Party candidate for governor of Maryland in 2006. He was the first African-American to run for governor of Maryland. His issues included promoting equity in funding for all Maryland schools and opposing the death penalty. He made news when he protested his exclusion from the gubernatorial debates sponsored by Maryland Public Television.

Boyd used his own experiences to help others. In Baltimore, after recovering from drug addiction, Boyd helped homeless veterans conquer their own addictions. He worked in the anti-war and counter-recruitment movements, sleeping in a ditch with Cindy Sheehan and other activists, near President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, as they protested the invasion of Iraq.

Brandy Baker, a former Green Party candidate herself, considered Boyd as one of her best friends.  She said, “He was a compassionate soul.  He would give you the shirt off his back—and he didn’t have many shirts! Just a wonderful person!”

Granted probation for “disruption”

By Dave McCorquodale, Green Party of Delaware

“Bring them home, bring them home!” This is what Green activist “zool” Zulkowitz from New York was arrested for chanting during a public hearing chaired by senator Carl Levin (D-MI) in April. He was charged with “Unlawful conduct in Congress, specifically disruption of a Congressional hearing” This summer zool was granted probation before judgment in a Washington, D.C. courtroom.

The Senate Armed Services Committee was hearing testimony from General David Patraeus, when zool voiced his opposition to the continued wars. zool, calling himself a “full-time trouble-maker” when he is in Washington, has attended many similar congressional hearings. At the Patraeus hearing, protesters wearing costumes and holding signs filled the courtroom. Levin allowed for some protest, a tactic frequently employed by committee chairs in the face of a hostile witness. After Gen. Petraeus evaded Levin’s question of when the troops could be brought home several times, zool stood up and chanted. zool said it was several minutes before he was arrested.

“When I stood up, I knew full well that I was not allowed to stand up, that I would be removed and there was a good chance I would be arrested and go to trial. But what is left for a citizen to do? The American people have been making a case against the war since before shock and awe. In 2006, Democrats were elected on the promise of ending the war and they have done nothing. In the hearing, no one represented the anti-war sentiment of the people. So the only branch of government left to us is the courts and I was ready to face jail in order to say what the people couldn’t say at the hearing.”

Since the potential penalty was up to six months in jail and a $250 fine, a defendant could get a jury trial for this charge. According to his attorney, Anne Wilcox, “zool was preparing to have a jury trial, around issues of the length and loudness of the ‘disruption’, as opposed to other interruptions that occur during a congressional hearing (bells ringing, press activity, etc.).” Wilcox added that although it wasn’t really part of a legal defense, zool planned to raise the issue of whether his elected officials were actually “representing” him.

At the last minute, rather than go through a jury trial, the court offered him a diversion offer to basically table the case for six months. During that time if the defendant does not get re-arrested, and if he fulfills all conditions, the case is dismissed. “This makes it easier for all concerned, and means that zool did not risk a six-month suspended sentence, lengthy probation, fines, etc.,” said Wilcox. As for zool, he accepted the plea on the condition they remove the order to stay away from hearings, allowing him to continue being a “troublemaker.”