Democrats urge Nader to renounce groups

Democratic heavy-hitters including Howard Dean are turning up the pressure on Ralph Nader, urging him to renounce the Republican-leaning groups that have been working to boost attendance at Nader’s weekend convention.

Nader will make his second attempt Saturday to bring 1,000 people together in a Portland high school to sign petitions to put him on Oregon’s presidential ballot. An earlier attempt in April drew only 751 people.

On Thursday, two GOP-leaning groups conceded they had been calling people around Oregon this week urging them to attend Nader’s gathering in an overt effort to draw votes from Democrat John Kerry and to help President Bush in this battleground state.

Dean, the former presidential contender, on Friday called on Nader to “repudiate” the efforts on his behalf by the two groups — Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Oregon Family council.

“This is the kind of political deal that makes Americans sick,” the former Vermont governor said. “He ought to be denouncing these people, not trying to get their signatures.”

Earlier in the day, Democratic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden released a letter in which he urged Nader to “place principle over politics and cancel your convention” until Nader could assure that only his true supporters would show up at the convention.

Wyden also said it appeared that the two conservative groups were trying to drum up attendance for Nader’s convention with “with, at a minimum, the quiet encouragement of the Nader for President campaign staff.”

The head of Nader’s Oregon campaign, Greg Kafoury, said Friday that Wyden “doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” and that the two conservative groups were acting on their own.

Kafoury also said the Nader campaign has been the target of “dirty tricks” by people who have been constantly calling the campaign office and tying up the phone lines and others who’ve been tearing down posters advertising the Nader gathering.

Nonetheless, Kafoury said he thinks Nader’s Saturday event will draw enough people to put the 70-year-old consumer activist on the Nov. 2 ballot.

State law says that for Nader to qualify for the ballot as independent candidate, he need only draw 1,000 registered votes — regardless of their party affiliation — together in one place to sign petitions for him.

If Nader qualifies for Oregon’s ballot, polls suggest that he could be a factor in whether Kerry or Bush wins the seven electoral votes of this swing state in November.