14 October 2008 ~ 0 Comments

Know the Candidates: Ralph Nader (I)

Ralph Nader (I)

Current Job:

Consumer advocate

Birth Date:

February 27, 1934

Religion:

Christian

Education:

Harvard Law School, JD Law
Princeton University, BA

Biography:

Ralph Nader was born in Winsted, Conn., the son of Lebanese immigrants.

He graduated from Princeton University in 1955 and Harvard Law School in 1958.

In 1963, then 29, Nader hitchhiked to Washington, D.C., and got a job working for then Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He did freelance writing for The Nation and The Christian Science Monitor and advised a Senate subcommittee on automobile safety.

In 1965 he released “Unsafe at Any Speed,” a study showing many American automobiles, especially those of General Motors, to be structurally flawed.

Since then, Nader has founded several prominent consumer advocacy groups, including Public Citizen, Public Interest Research Group, Center for Auto Safety, Clean Water Action Project, Disability Rights Center, Project for Corporate Responsibility and the Center for the Study of Responsive Law.

He ran for president on the Green Party ticket in 1996 and 2000, but never drew more than 3 percent of the vote. He won just 0.3 percent as an independent in 2004. He is running for president in 2008 again as an independent.

Nader has never married.

Profile:

Ralph Nader, perhaps America’s best-known consumer advocate, has attained even wider publicity as a presidential candidate. His 2000 bid for the White House on the Green Party’s ticket is blamed by many Democrats for siphoning votes from Democrat Al Gore, paving the way for the President Bush’s razor-thin victory.

Nader ran again in 2004, but won just 0.3 percent as an independent. He appeared on the ballot in only 34 states.

In launching his 2008 bid, also as an independent, Nader predicted his campaign would do better than four years ago. But Democrats quickly sought to portray his candidacy as having little impact, and Sen. Barack Obama dismissed Nader as a perennial presidential campaigner. Nader said he decided to run again because most people are disenchanted with the Democratic and Republican parties due to the Iraq war and a shaky economy.

He also blamed tax and other corporate-friendly policies under the Bush administration that he said have left many lower- and middle-class people in debt.

“You take that framework of people feeling locked out, shut out, marginalized, disrespected,” he said. “You go from Iraq, to Palestine/Israel, from Enron to Wall Street, from Katrina to the bungling of the Bush administration, to the complicity of the Democrats in not stopping him on the war, stopping him on the tax cuts.”

Nader has a history of defying authority to fight for the rights of the poor and disenfranchised. His career as a consumer advocate got its start with his 1965 book “Unsafe at Any Speed,” a harshly critical look at U.S. auto manufacturing that focused on the Chevrolet Corvair, manufactured by General Motors Corp. Nader made a then-novel argument that automobiles were dangerous not because of bad drivers but because automakers were putting profits ahead of safety.

As legislators took interest, an unappreciative General Motors hired a private investigator to tail “Saint Ralph” and find impropriety in his seemingly monastic life.

Instead of dirt, GM officials found themselves grilled in Senate hearings and facing a $26 million lawsuit from Nader for invasion of privacy. Nader settled for $425,000 and started a network of public interest organizations, including Public Citizen, the Center for Auto Safety and Public Interest Research Groups in dozens of cities around the nation.

In the process, he also drafted “Nader’s Raiders” — advocates with pedigrees similar to his Princeton undergraduate and Harvard law credentials — and ever since has surrounded himself with people, usually young, who are willing to work as hard as he does.

“I’m not interested in the Lone Ranger effect,” Nader said. “The function of leadership is to produce more leaders.”

The first raiders went to work in 1968 and took on the Federal Trade Commission. Using the Washington political and media machines, they went after misleading advertising claims and pushed for cigarette warning labels, among other issues.

Later, Nader and his organizations tackled the airline and drug industries, the World Trade Organization and now the political establishment. He makes friends who stay loyal and enemies who — years later — decline interviews to avoid his wrath.

Today, Public Citizen has over 150,000 members and numerous researchers investigating Congress, health, environmental, economic, and other issues. Their work is credited with passing the Safe Drinking Water Act and Freedom of Information Act and creating the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and Consumer Product Safety Administration.

Tall and trim, Nader watches what he eats, avoiding fats and meat. Though cancer runs in his family, his most publicly troublesome health threat came in 1986, when he was stricken with Bell’s palsy, a facial disease that left half his face partially paralyzed.

Frugality rules. During the 2000 campaign he stayed at the homes of Green Party supporters to avoid hotel expenses, and he’s known for haggling with airline ticket agents when they won’t take his senior citizens’ coupons.

Nader does not take a salary from any of the public advocacy groups he founded, and claims to live on just $25,000 a year, funneling most of his earnings to civic organizations.

For his 2008 campaign, Nader selected Matt Gonzalez, a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, as his running mate. The Texas-born Gonzalez ran for mayor of San Francisco as a Green Party candidate in 2003 but lost to Gavin Newsom.

Nader was on presidential ballots in 38 states as of early September, according to his campaign. He is aiming for 45.

He sleeps about six hours a night, and works tirelessly in his waking hours. Nader feverishly guards his personal life, to the extent he has one. Indeed, he has never married.

Campaigns:

Ralph Nader ran for president on the Green Party ticket in 1996 and 2000 and as an independent in 2004, but never drew more than 3 percent of the vote.He is running for president in 2008 as an independent.