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Ralph Nader - bio information


AP Photo/Shane Bevel/Tulsa World

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader speaks to students and others during a news conference and campaign stop at OSU-Tulsa on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2008.

About Ralph Nader

Lawyer, author, political activist and four-time presidential candidate, Ralph Nader is a stonewall in the realm of third party candidates. Often referred to as the "spoiler" of the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, Ralph Nader has never walked softly in the land of politics.

But Nader has never been an official member of the politicians circle. Instead of working his way up the political ladder through elected positions, Nader has leveraged his political zeal through courting the most basic of political constituents -- the consumer, the person.

Nader has championed humanitarian principles and consumer rights for decades dating back to his days at Princeton in the mid-1950s when he rallied for the administration to eliminate the use of DDT after noticing an unusual amount of dead birds on campus. And after graduating Harvard Law School in 1958, Nader wrote an article in "The Nation" titled, "The Safe Car you Can't Buy." The article documented some of the research Nader collected while volunteering with the Department of Labor's Senate subcommittee on automobile safety.

His first claim to national fame came after publishing the book "Unsafe At Any Speed" in 1965. The book was Nader's first foray into consumer rights activism and claimed that the auto industry resisted adopting safety features, such as seat belts, and routinely covered up safety problems in vehicles. Within the pages of "Unsafe At Any Speed," Nader made his famous condemnation of GM's Corvair. He cited the frequency of roll-overs and traced the cause of unusually high single-car accidents to GM's poor design and manufacturing which he claimed the company knew about but took no steps to disclose or rectify until years later. Nader later successfully sued GM for harassment and intimidation in the wake of the book's publication.

Following the publication of "Unsafe At Any Speed," Nader garnered support from other young lawyers and researchers who felt the same dissatisfaction with corporations. They would later became known as "Naders Raiders" and served as the base for Naders' continued political action. Together Nader and his "Raiders" pushed for legislation that protected and better served consumers. Nader is often given credit for such consumer legislation as the the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (1966), the Wholesome Meat Act (1967), the Clean Air Act and the Freedom of Information Act .

He furthered his plight for the consumer with the creation of Public Citizen and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in 1971. Both organizations were dedicated to the investigation of health, environmental, economic and congressional issues. The creation of entities such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Organization (OSHA) were direct results of such investigations.

Parallel to his concerns over the ramifications rendered to a public due to government and corporate ineptitude were those of the two-party system. Nader had long criticized the presidential election process that had been condensed into a two-party, two-candidate election process that he claimed would allow the voter to only choose the lesser of two evils.

In 1992, Nader made it onto the presidential primary ballots as a write-in for both the Republican and Democratic parties in New Hampshire, but did not go much farther. But in 1996, Nader ran in the general election on the unofficial Green Party ticket. Although his candidacy was official, he made few attempts at publicly promoting his bid for president.

It was not until the 2000 election when Nader ran once again on the now official Green Party ticket that he made more headway and caused the alleged disruption for which Nader is so famous. The campaign was known for holding super rallies where each attendee payed around $20 to see Nader speak at large venues. The biggest audience gathered at Madison Square Garden in New York City where 15,000 supporters gathered to hear Nader and others speak.

Following Gore's loss in the 2000 election, Democrats pointed at Nader, claiming his presence on the ballot took valuable votes away from Gore — votes, they contend, that could have clinched a victory over Bush. Nader denies this theory and has stated that the real culprit in the 2000 election was the Supreme Court. While there is no consensus on the effect of Nader's candidacy on the results of the 2000 election, many Democrats remain bitter over the close defeat, which fell within the margins of every third party candidate that ran in Florida.

Nader's independent run in the 2004 presidential elections was just as controversial as his run in the 2000 election. In the 2006 documentary about his life, An Unreasonable Man, he claims that several wealthy Democratic operatives offered his organizations generous donations if he chose not to run. In the end he ran, citing Kerry's relaxed stance on a host of key issues as motivation behind his bid for the 2004 election.

Nader maintained that the Democratic party's losses in the 2000 and 2004 elections were indicative of the party's break with its "progressive heritage" and its new found captivity to "corporate interests." He contends that one of his purposes in running for office is forcing the Democratic Party to deal with the left instead of counting on their votes due to the lack of a better option.

After much anticipation from political analysts, Nader announced Sunday, Feb. 24, 2008, his independent candidacy for the 2008 presidential election on Tim Russert's "Meet the Press."

This report was compiled by Sun editorial assistant Jenna Kohler

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