Nader (and Romanelli) take on corruption in the Keystone State

In a two part series of articles by Ruth Ann Dailey at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the saga of Ralph Nader and Carl Romanelli and the PA Democratic Party’s fight to keep them off the ballot is covered in some detail. Both Nader and Romanelli faced challenges to their ballot access petitions in 2004, and Pennsylvania’s courts ruled that both Nader and Romanelli were responsible to pay the costs for those who took their ballot access petitions to task.

This is the first time that candidates have been charged for reviewing petitions which were found to be insufficient to secure a spot on the ballot. In essence, Nader and Romanelli were charged over $80,000 each for daring to run for office.

H/T to Ballot Access News.

Back in 2004, Democrats were desperate to keep Mr. Nader, the celebrated consumer activist, off the presidential ballot, fearing he’d siphon votes from John Kerry. They filed challenges to his candidacy in many states. In Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh-based attorneys for the international law firm Reed Smith led the effort.

“Based on news reports coming out of Philadelphia about how these [petition] signatures were being collected, some of my colleagues and I who are Democrats … organized volunteers, more than a hundred, an enormous effort,” said Reed Smith partner Dan Booker in an interview Friday. “It was all to tell us whether, if we went to court, we could prove that enough of these signatures were ineligible.”

What wasn’t known then — not by the Nader camp or the public, anyway — is that some of those “volunteers” were actually staffers in state Sen. Mike Veon’s Beaver office, working on the taxpayers’ dime.

If the judgment stands, “Ralph Nader will become the first candidate in American history who’s been penalized for running for office,” Mr. Hall asserted. “Carl Romanelli will be the second.”

As the Green Party candidate, Mr. Romanelli sought to run against Rick Santorum and Bob Casey Jr. in the 2006 Senate race, but was successfully challenged and assessed similar costs.

Here’s where “Nader Part 2″ begins: It was only after this process had played out that the Nader team discovered what it considers game-changing conflicts of interest. Reed Smith attorneys had been defending Chief Justice Ralph Cappy against ethics charges at the same time the state Supreme Court was weighing Mr. Nader’s appeal.

“That doesn’t pass the laugh test: You cannot represent and appear before a judge at the same time,” said Oliver Hall, Mr. Nader’s attorney. (Justice Cappy retired in 2008 and died last year.) In fact, five of the seven justices had ties to the firm, Mr. Hall said, either as clients, former employees and recipients of campaign donations.

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