AUSTIN – Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader is getting a little help from his friends – and from George W. Bush's friends.
Nearly 10 percent of the Nader contributors who have given him at least $250 each have a history of supporting the Republican president,
national GOP candidates or the party, according to computer-assisted
review of financial records by The Dallas Morning News.
Among the new crop of Nader donors: actor and former Nixon speechwriter
Ben Stein, Florida frozen-food magnate Jeno Paulucci and Pennsylvania
oil company executive Terrence Jacobs. All have strong ties to the GOP.
Democrats have warned that Mr. Nader's entry in the race could help Mr.
Bush by drawing votes from John Kerry. Some analysts say Mr. Nader's
third-party candidacy four years ago siphoned off Democratic voters and
cost Vice President Al Gore the White House.
"Republicans are well aware that Ralph Nader played a spoiler role in
the 2000 election. And there is no reason why they wouldn't want to
encourage and help him do so again in 2004," said Jano Cabrera, a
spokesman for the Democrat National Committee.
A spokesman for the Bush campaign declined to comment on Mr. Nader.
"We're focused on our campaign. We're focused on generating support for
Republican candidates," said Danny Diaz, referring inquiries about Nader
fund raising to his donors.
Republicans who have given to Mr. Nader offered a variety of
explanations, including a desire to provide voters a choice in November
and to highlight the consumer advocate's issues. Some donors said they
were miffed by efforts, primarily Democrats, to keep Mr. Nader off the
None said their donations were designed to boost Mr. Bush's chances in
"Did I give $1,000 to Ralph Nader because I hope and believe he will be
president? No," said California business executive Charles Ashman. "I
don't believe that any more than Ralph Nader does. But I was offended to
see this campaign to squelch him from being a candidate."
Mr. Ashman said he remains a staunch Republican. He contributed $2,000
to the Bush campaign, the maximum allowed for the general election,
according to records.
"I proudly made a contribution to the re-election of President Bush
because I support him 100 percent," he said. "I hope and believe he will
Mr. Nader has dismissed the "spoiler" label Democrats have given him,
saying he expects this time to draw equally from both parties.
In 2000, Mr. Nader was on the ballot in 43 states and the District of
Columbia and got 2.7 percent of the vote nationwide. Experts say he was
a deciding factor in two states, Florida and New Hampshire, both of
which Mr. Bush won by razor-thin margins.
A Kerry spokesman declined to discuss Mr. Nader.
According to campaign finance reports, Mr. Nader raised $930,000 through
February. During the same period, Mr. Bush had raised $158 million and
Mr. Kerry $41 million.
More than 24 Nader contributors of $250 or more – about 10 percent of
his total – are otherwise reliable GOP donors, The News
Mr. Paulucci, the creator of Chun King and Jeno's Pizza Rolls, donated
$2,000 in February to Mr. Nader.
The Florida frozen-food executive is a prolific contributor to the GOP,
giving more than $150,000 to the Republican Party and national
candidates since 2000.
Mr. Paulucci described himself as a independent and said he also has
supported Democrats, including those in his native Minnesota. Most of
his money in federal races has gone to Republicans, records show.
Mr. Paulucci said he met Mr. Nader in Minnesota some years ago in
connection with a tax issue.
"I saw him on TV. I thought I would give the guy a little bit of
encouragement," he said. "I didn't think for a moment that this is going
to help Bush. No, that was not my thought."
Ben Stein's money
As for Ben Stein's money, the television personality and outspoken
advocate for the Republican Party has contributed $500 to Nader and
$1,000 to Mr. Bush this year. Records indicate that over the last
decade, Mr. Stein has given exclusively to the GOP.
In the 2000 presidential race, Mr. Stein agreed to make TV ads for Mr.
Bush, although they were never aired. He did not return telephone calls
Others helping Mr. Nader with $2,000 checks are Robert Monks, who lost a
Senate race in Maine, and his wife, Millicent. Both have a long history
of contributing money to Republicans and are financially backing Mr.
Daniel Hartnett, a self-described conservative who operates a plumbing
business in Sioux City, Iowa, said his $250 to Mr. Nader was not meant
to help Mr. Bush. He said he agrees with some of Mr. Nader's views.
Four years ago, Mr. Hartnett supported Mr. Bush, and although he hasn't
contributed to his re-election this year, that's where his loyalties lie
"I'm a Republican," he said. "If Mr. Bush comes out and takes a good
hard conservative stand on a few issues that I care about, I'll probably
send him $2,000."
Staff writer Jennifer LaFleur in Dallas contributed to this report
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