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Nader decries big money in politics

In 1959, Ralph Nader jump-started the consumer advocacy movement with a Nation magazine article entitled "The Safe Car You Can't Buy." In 2000, armed with the ideals of the environmental and consumer rights oriented Green Party, Nader is running for president.

With a large blue and orange "U.Va. workers need a voice" banner as a backdrop, Nader spoke to a packed Wilson Hall auditorium yesterday afternoon, addressing issues including campaign finance reform, the perils of money-centered politics and grassroots activism.

"Why did I do this?" he said, referring to his untraditional presidential campaign. "Because I go around the country and I see total futility in the faces of people who are trying to do something about the savage injustices in their community."

Fighting injustices has been the rallying cry of Nader's career. In the 1960s he urged lawmakers to reform auto safety laws and mobilized California's migrant farm workers to fight for better working conditions. In the 1990s he pressed for campaign finance reform in presidential elections.

But Nader and his Green Party workers are not completely focused on the White House. They instead aim to glean 5 percent of the popular vote this November, thus making the Green Party eligible for matching federal campaign funds for Nader's 2004 presidential race.

But getting Nader on the Virginia presidential ballot will not be an easy task since Green Party workers must collect 10,000 signatures.

While stressing citizen-centered grassroots activism, Nader attacked the mainstream Republican and Democratic parties for being too dominated by corporate interest.

"It's not enough that they control the legislature, but we have a corporate tool in the governor's office," he said. "Gilmore is basically an 'accounts receivable' for big businesses."

Before Nader's talk, History Prof. Nelson Lichtenstein stressed the importance of the University's living wage campaign - a campaign that advocates raising the University's minimum wage from $6.24 per hour to a more "livable" $8.

Lichtenstein then pinned an orange and blue "$8" pin on Nader's lapel.

While Nader's speech struck a chord with many audience members, his emphasis on corporate influence turned off third-year Graduate College student Chris Stevens.

"The Republican and Democratic parties are ripe to be replaced - they're floating agents of corporate culture," third-year College graduate student Chris Stevens said. But "is [Nader] for democracy or for his own kind of version of events"