Hearing on August 6, 2010 Will Determine Whether Lawsuit Alleging Unlawful Democratic Party Effort to Bankrupt Nader-Camejo Campaign and Suppress Voter Choice in 2004 Presidential Election Can Proceed.
MACHIAS, ME – On August 6, 2010 at 2 PM, Machias Superior Court Justice Kevin M. Cuddy will hear oral argument in Nader, et al. v. Maine Democratic Party, et al., No. 2009-cv-57, the lawsuit filed by consumer advocate and 2004 Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader and his Maine presidential electors, which alleges that the Maine Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee ("DNC") and others unlawfully attempted to bankrupt, sabotage and otherwise damage the Nader-Camejo Campaign, in an effort to deny voters the choice of voting for Nader and his running mate, the late Peter Miguel Camejo, during the 2004 presidential election.
The lawsuit charges the defendants with civil conspiracy, abuse of process and malicious prosecution. Abuse of process is an intentional tort that occurs when a party misuses legal processes, such as the subpoena process, for an improper purpose. Malicious prosecution arises when a party files a lawsuit without probable cause.
Democrats and their allies filed 29 complaints against the Nader-Camejo Campaign in 18 state courts and the Federal Election Commission ("FEC") during the 2004 presidential election. The state court complaints challenged the validity of Nader-Camejo nomination petitions, but the Democrats’ true purpose, Nader and his co-plaintiffs allege, was to tie up the Nader-Camejo Campaign in court, drain its resources, and smear the Independent candidates with false allegations of fraud.
"We had a role in the ballot challenges," defendant Toby Moffett told The Guardian UK in December 2004. "We distracted him and drained him of resources. I’d be less than honest if I said it was all about the law."
Moffett was president of a Section 527 political organization called The Ballot Project, which helped coordinate and finance the Democrats’ nationwide litigation against the Nader-Camejo Campaign. The goal of the litigation, Moffett said, was "to drain [Nader] of resources and force him to spend his time and money."
"The Democratic Party is going after anyone who presents a credible challenge to their monopoly over their perceived voters," Nader said. "This lawsuit was filed to advance a free and open electoral process for all candidates and voters. Candidates’ rights reinforce voters’ rights, by giving voters more voices and choices, for a more open and competitive democracy, in which the people, rather than private political parties, determine who our elected leaders will be."
Nader’s co-plaintiffs in the case are Christopher Droznick, Nancy Oden and Rosemary Whittaker, each of whom served as a Maine elector to the Nader-Camejo Campaign.
"The Democratic Party is afraid to allow citizens a genuine choice," Oden said. "Hence, their attempts to keep Nader off state ballots and out of the national presidential debates in 2004."
Oden and other Nader-Camejo electors were subpoenaed in connection with the Democrats’ Maine challenge.
Democrats and their allies filed two complaints against the Nader-Camejo Campaign in Maine, including one complaint filed by Dorothy Melanson, who was then-Chair of the Maine Democratic Party. Melanson admitted under oath that the DNC had retained her law firm and was paying her attorneys’ fees. At the time, DNC officials denied that the DNC was funding the Democrats’ litigation against the Nader-Camejo Campaign. Campaign finance reports now on file with the FEC confirm that the DNC hired several more law firms that sued the Nader-Camejo Campaign in other states.
At least 95 lawyers from 53 law firms nationwide joined the Democrats’ litigation against the Nader-Camejo Campaign. The Nader-Camejo Campaign prevailed in the great majority of state court challenges and in all five complaints filed with the FEC, but at great cost in time, money and other campaign resources. Further, Democrats’ false charges of fraud against the Nader-Camejo Campaign were widely reported in the news media.
Maine elections officials, the Maine Superior Court and the Maine Supreme Judicial Court unanimously concluded that the Democrats failed to provide any evidence to support their allegations of fraud against the Nader-Camejo Campaign. Democrats made similarly groundless allegations in several other states, none of which were proved.
"During the 19th century when ballot access standards were far less onerous, many small parties and independent candidates were able to pioneer reforms opposed to slavery, for a woman’s right to vote, for regulatory restraints on the abuses of industry and commerce, and for improved conditions for workers and farmers," Nader said. "Today’s vastly more burdensome, intricate and discriminatory ballot access barriers in many state laws, enacted by the two party duopoly, have enabled the anti-democratic forces of the Democratic Party to flourish."
Nader and his co-plaintiffs seek compensatory damages and punitive damages. Bar Harbor attorney Lynne Williams is the plaintiffs’ local counsel.
"This case is part of a long struggle to protect voter rights by ensuring that all candidates have an equal right to access the ballot," Williams said. "The Democratic Party’s effort to suppress voter choice in the 2004 presidential election went far beyond the usual dirty tricks, and we are looking forward to proving our case to a jury."
In June 2009, the federal court of appeals for the D.C. Circuit concluded that a similar lawsuit filed by Nader and his voter-supporters raised "interesting legal issues of first impression," but held that the District of Columbia’s three-year statute of limitations barred D.C. Courts from hearing the case. The D.C. Circuit did not hear evidence or rule on the merits of the case.
"We have the evidence to prove our claims, but we have never had the chance to present it to a jury," Nader said. "We are still pursuing our basic right to do that in this case."
Maine’s statute of limitations is six years.
For Immediate Release: August 3, 2006
Contact: Oliver Hall - (617) 953-0161