Ballot Access Law, Political Sock-Puppetry and a Suggestion for a Divide and Conquer Third Party Fundraising Strategy

The ballot access regime that has been constructed in the United States over the last century aims primarily at keeping alternatives to the corporatist stooges of the Democratic and Republican parties off the ballot at all costs. In order to ensure the reproduction of the two-party state and duopoly system of government, the Democratic and Republican parties must keep political competition to an absolute minimum. Indeed, the logical conclusion of the political strategies that have come to characterize Democratic-Republican party government is the abolition of competitive elections as such.

However, it is also in the immediate interests of each ruling party if the other is forced to compete with third party challengers. Thus, Democrats should be among the staunchest supporters of libertarian and conservative alternatives to the Republican wing of the global warfare and corporate welfare state, just as Republicans should be among the staunchest supporters of liberal and progressive alternatives to the Democratic wing of the global warfare and corporate welfare state. The fact that this is not the case just goes to show how deeply invested Republicans and Democrats are in the reproduction of the duopoly system of government, and of the global warfare and corporate welfare state. But there are always noteworthy exceptions.

The Green Party of Texas is currently embroiled in something of a scandal following revelations that a Republican consultant from out of state organized a ballot access petition drive that will ensure they remain on the ballot through 2012. The Republican's logic is simple to discern: if Greens are on the ballot, they will take votes away from Democrats, thus aiding Republican victory. In accepting such a "gift" the Green Party's logic is equally easy to discern: if Greens are not on the ballot, they cannot compete; but if they are on the ballot, they intend to win, defeating both Republican and Democratic opponents. A lengthy editorial at Green Party Watch provides background and discusses the matter in some depth:

This week it was revealed that: a) a Republican consultant in Arizona arranged for… b) a non-profit corporation in Missouri to pay $200,000 for… c) a petitioning company “Free & Equal” to collect 92,000 signatures and… d) give them as a gift to the Green Party of Texas to get a slate of candidates on the ballot.

Are Democrats pissed? You betcha. They are suing the Texas Green Party, Free & Equal, and “Take Initiative America” to delay the balloting of Green Party candidates until they can determine the source of the funding, and they are pointing fingers at Texas Governor Rick Perry.

The Green Party of Texas is cooperating by agreeing to delay submitting their slate of candidates until the courts rule on the matter. kat swift, State Coordinator of the Green Party of Texas, has been reported saying that they believe the petition drive was legal, but will wait for written assurance of that fact. swift also said that once the petition drive is determined to be legal, the Green Party of Texas will field a slate of candidates regardless of what individual funded the petition drive . . .

This is not the first time that Republicans have “conspired” to help Green Party candidates to surpass ballot access barriers that they themselves have created. Republicans are accused of financially assisting Ralph Nader’s Independent campaigns for President in 2004 and 2008, neither of which tipped the election . . .

Each time there is outrage that Greens would accept Republican money to surpass ballot access barriers set by Democrats, but no efforts by Democrats to establish fair and equal access to the ballot. For Democrats and Republicans it is all about winning, not “principles”, but for the Green Party it is only about having an opportunity to appear on the ballot and appeal to the electorate. [Emphases added.]
While there seems to be no dispute regarding just who funded the Green Party petition effort in Texas, the same cannot be said of the Michigan Tea Party. Last month it was reported that Democratic party groups were likely behind efforts to gain ballot access for third party Tea Party candidates for public office. From the Detroit Free Press:
Michigan Tea Party activists were agitated Monday, convinced that a shadowy group of left-wingers was trying to hijack their identity and run faux Tea Party candidates for office to siphon votes from authentic, limited-government conservatives.

The fears were aroused by an apparent petition drive in southeast Michigan aimed at qualifying the candidates for the Michigan ballot under an official Tea Party banner. Leaders in the state's Tea Party movement said Monday they knew of no connection between actual Tea Party activists and the petition circulators. Backers of the petition drive have so far chosen to obscure their identity, declining to respond to news media inquiries or file paperwork with the state Bureau of Elections.
At least one of the activists behind the effort was revealed a few weeks later. Also from the Detroit Free Press:
A Tuscola County man unknown to local Tea Party activists has been identified as a contact person for the mysterious petition drive to qualify a Tea Party party for the Michigan ballot. . . .

Mark Steffek of Reese filed incorporation documents in April, registering the Tea Party name in Michigan. Last week, Steffek registered the Tea Party as political party with state elections officials. Mark Graham, who heads the Tea Party movement in Tuscola County, said this morning he’s not met or heard of Steffek . . .

Steffek’s political activity in the past appears to be limited to contributions to UAW and Farm Bureau PACs, and to the 2002 gubernatorial campaign of former Democratic Congressman David Bonior, of Mt. Clemens.
While such efforts are looked down upon in many quarters, they should not be dismissed out of hand. It is no secret that minor parties and their candidates for office face an uphill fund-raising battle against Democrats and Republicans. Why not openly pursue a divide and conquer strategy? Why shouldn't the Green party openly court top contributors to the Republican Party? Why shouldn't the Libertarian Party seek out contributions from leading Democratic campaign contributors? The fund-raising letters write themselves: help us defeat your enemy.

1 comment:

Samuel Wilson said...

Why shouldn't they? Apart from the immediate risk of being accused of corrupt bargaining, I can think of no good argument against this strategy. And the answer to the corrupt-bargain charge is simply to deny the premise that "left" votes belong to Democrats and not Greens, or that "right" votes belong to Republicans and not Constitutionists. It was said that capitalists would gladly sell the rope that would be used to hang them; it'd be amusing if the Bipolarchy actually worked that way.