Michael Bloomberg and Brian Moore
The Bloomberg Fundraiser
Two weeks after I filed for Congress, I met two men who were at opposite ends of the political spectrum. It was Friday morning, July 25, 2008. One of these men was Michael Bloomberg, the multi-billionaire mayor of New York City. The other was Brian P. Moore of Tampa, Florida, who was the presidential candidate of the Socialist Party of America. Mayor Bloomberg was attending a fundraising event for the Minnesota Independence Party at the Pavilion Inn on Nicollet Island in the Mississippi river across from downtown Minneapolis. Brian Moore had a two-hour stop over at the Minneapolis-St. Paul international airport on his way to Milwaukee to kick off a petitioning drive in Wisconsin. I had arranged to visit with him then.
It was raining when I arrived at the Pavilion Inn at 7:30 a.m. I had made the suggested $100 contribution to attend this event, something that I do not normally do. Everyone who was anyone in the Independence Party, excepting Jesse Ventura, was on hand. Tables were set up around the hall. I was sitting at a table with Steve Williams, Red Nelson, and others, sipping coffee and eating fruit, when I spotted the New York mayor in conversation with several people at the back of the room. I shook hands with him briefly as he walked by to the front. Bloomberg was later chatting with some party members at a table near the podium. I saw an opportunity.
I walked over to this group of people and introduced myself to Mayor Bloomberg as the party’s candidate for Congress in the 5th District. I told Bloomberg that I intended to make job loss from our trade policies the main issue in my campaign. What did he think? The New York mayor said he was a free trader. The United States was poised for an export boom, and he did not want to close the door on that opportunity. We had the best educational system in the world and could compete. Protectionism had been shown in the 1930s not to work.
I replied that the situation today was not the same as in the 1930s. Today there is trade not between nations but between companies and their suppliers, with the purpose of cutting out high-priced American labor. At that point, the party chair, Craig Swaggert, cut me off and I walked back to my table. Mission accomplished, so to speak.
Bloomberg’s 40-minute talk, while articulate, did not impress me much. He made the point, for instance, that American students ranked 26th among 30 nations in math - so much for having the best educational system in the world. He thought the United States should welcome immigration from Latin America because the fast-growing population of Hispanics in the future would supply workers to support the financially sagging Social Security system. On the other hand, Bloomberg did have stimulating ideas about building political support to get things done. I was also interested to hear that he had been fired from a job at Solomon Brothers before he went on to start a multi-billion-dollar business, Bloomberg News.
Off to meet the Socialist Party’s presidential candidate at the airport
I had to hurry out the door to get to my next appointment at the airport in Bloomington. Brian Moore was scheduled to arrive at 10:22 a.m. Moore had lived in Washington, D.C. for a number of years while my parents and brother, Andy, were living there. He was a family friend. Moore had unsuccessfully run for city council in Washington. Intending to become a political candidate, he had then moved to Florida.
From his base in Tampa, Moore had run for Congress with the Reform Party and then, in 2006, was the Green Party’s candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida. Failing to be included in a candidate debate, he hit on the idea of holding a press conference in Havana, Cuba. Suddenly, the media was interested in his candidacy. Ralph Nader offered to join him in Havana. Now he and Nader were rivals for the endorsement for President of a group of California progressives. Nader got the endorsement. But Moore was the endorsed candidate of the Socialist Party of America.
As a contribution to his presidential campaign, I bought coffee and a sandwich for Brian Moore at the Starbuck’s near the baggage carousels. Mostly, we caught up on old times during an hour-long conversation. His campaign manager had read my book, “On the Ballot in Louisiana”, about my own 2004 presidential campaign. Moore’s own challenge was now to get on the ballot in as many states as he could for the general election. Wisconsin was the focus of immediate attention but Minnesota was also a possibility.
Moore was angling for an interview with Progressive magazine in Madison, Wisconsin, but that fell through. He was making plans on the fly. He gave me some campaign literature and buttons. One button had a picture of Moore and his running mate, Stewart Alexander, along with Eugene Debs, a Socialist candidate of the past century who received a million votes for President while in jail. It was a rich tradition, in other words. I walked Brian Moore to the gate to catch his plane.
Out of personal friendship, I offered to “do something” to help Moore with the petitioning process. That meant, I thought, spending an hour or so on the streets seeking signatures for ballot access. As the weeks went by and there was still no activity, I emailed my candidate friend to suggest that the clock was ticking on the petitioning process. Moore mailed me a packet of petition sheets - more than I wanted. I kept some and delivered the rest of a female member of the Minnesota socialist party who lived on Cedar Avenue. She was supposed to be coordinating the state petitioning drive for party but was hard to reach.
Despite a certain stress, I did spend several hours on the streets of downtown Minneapolis seeking signatures for a petition to put Brian Moore and Stewart Alexander on the ballot for president and vice-president in the November 2008 election. It took nerve to approach well-dressed businessmen and ask them to sign a petition for a Socialist candidate. Also, I was apprehensive about asking likely Obama voters to help a rival’s presidential campaign. And I was not even a socialist. I was running for Congress with another party. But I gritted my teeth and asked for the signature, not trying to hide anything. It was good discipline for my own forthcoming campaign.
The petition sheets each had lines for five signatures. I managed to fill four sheets from street solicitations on two different days, including illegible or incomplete lines. No one screamed or yelled at me. Some prospects were surprisingly receptive, especially young people. I received another four completed sheets from a tenant of mine whom I paid $1.50 per signature. She was happy to do this for the extra money. I turned in her and my sheets to the Minnesota state petitioning coordinator, dropping them off on her doorstep.
I become a field manager for the Socialist Party petitioning drive
More was to come, however. Brian Moore needed two thousand signatures in Minnesota to get on the presidential ballot. The deadline, when the petitions were to be received at the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, was 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 9th, which was the day of the primary. My contribution had been, at most, 2 per cent of the required number. Moore decided that he would seek the remaining signatures through paid petitioners, who would receive $1.50 per signature. He would bypass the state’s Socialist Party structure and hire the petitioners himself through Craigslist.com. There is a niche profession that does this kind of work.
So it was that I received a phone call from Moore one day, asking for another favor. He had hired two men who were driving up to the Twin Cities from Iowa. They needed a place to spend the night. Could I help? That would save him some money. Yes, I happened to have an empty apartment, including bathroom and kitchen. I could supply blankets and pillows and put cushions on the floor. The petitioners could stay there for a day or two free of charge. A van carrying three men, whose leader was Bob Lynch, arrived at my house around 10:30 p.m.
I showed these men the room in my building. They asked for keys to the building and to the apartment unit. I refused to give out keys to strangers. I told the men that I lived next door and could easily make arrangements to let them in and out of the apartment each day. After giving it some thought, they said they needed access to the unit at all hours of the day and night. They had their own way of working. They decided to continue driving up to St. Cloud, Minnesota, where there was a college campus. They thought they could gather signatures more easily there.
Brian Moore was frantically coordinating this effort from Tampa, Florida. He needed a reliable man on the ground, and I was that man. Moore had no alternative but to let Lynch and the other two men seek signatures in St. Cloud. However, he had also found another man, Darryl Bonner, who was experienced in gathering petition signatures. One problem was forms. ( I happened to have a blank copy that could be duplicated.) Another was how to pay the men for their completed petitions. Someone had to check the number of signatures to verify proper payment.
With a day to go before the deadline, Brian Moore asked me to meet Bonner by the main post office in Minneapolis to deliver 200 petition forms that had been sent to me in an Overnight envelope. There was also a check for Bob Lynch as partial payment for his work. Moore was asking if there was a way he could put money in my account to pay the signature gatherers when they had completed their work. He ultimately found another solution. I did meet Bonner and gave him the forms. Bonner and his crew of three had slightly more than a day to gather 700 signatures.
On Tuesday, September 9th, after casting my primary vote in the morning, I worked on my own campaign. I was busy with that until after 3:00 p.m. I had agreed to meet the petition gatherers at the Secretary of State’s office near the state capitol in St. Paul around 4:00 p.m. Heavy traffic kept me from arriving until 4:30 p.m. We had only half an hour to wrap it up. Hurriedly, I thumbed through the signed petition forms trying to count the number of signatures. It was clear that we would fall short of the 2,000 mark.
We did, however, finish the counting in time to deliver the forms to the service counter in the Secretary of State’s office by 5:00 p.m.. I filled out and signed the transmittal form on behalf of the Moore-Alexander campaign. Then the petition gatherers and I went out to relax on the steps of the State Office building. We called Brian Moore by cell phone. He made the payment arrangements. And that was it.
By official tally of the Minnesota Secretary of State, the Socialist Party of America had submitted only 1,390 valid signatures in support of its national ticket. Brian Moore was not on the ballot in Minnesota for the November election. He was on the ballot in Wisconsin and five other states. When I checked shortly after the election, the Socialist ticket had received around 6,500 votes nationwide; Moore anticipated that the total would climb to 10,000 votes. It would still be less than what I had received as a candidate for Congress with the Independence Party in the 5th district of Minnesota.
John McCain breathes new life into the Socialist movement
However, the Socialist Party campaign took a surprising twist when the Republican candidate for President, John McCain, accused Barack Obama of being a “socialist” and a person who wanted to “redistribute wealth”. (Obama favored a more progressive rate of taxation than McCain.) Suddenly, the real candidate of the Socialist Party, Brian Moore, started getting invitations to appear on national cable-television shows such as the Neil Cavuto show on the Fox network on October 14th.
An article in the Chicago Tribune on November 1st quoted Moore to the effect that Barack Obama was “no socialist”. After all, the Democratic nominee had received $25 million in campaign contributions from Wall Street interests, had supported the bailout of major banks, and would let private insurance companies control the health-care industry. Best of all, on October 28th, Moore was mentioned in the Colbert Report on Comedy Central.
On November 2nd, two days before the general election, Brian Moore announced his shadow cabinet by email. Rev. Jeremiah Wright would be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations if Moore were elected President. Some of the other better-known prospective appointees were: former U.S. Congressman Paul McCloskey for Secretary of State; former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel as Secretary of Defense; Howard Zinn, as Secretary of Labor; and Ralph Nader as Secretary of Transportation.
For Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Moore said he would appoint “William McGaughey, a political maverick from Minneapolis who once co-authored a book on a shorter workweek with the late Senator Eugene J. McCarthy,” if he were elected President.
I was tickled pink.
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