News Release Archive - 2000

Rumsfeld: Star Wars Booster

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WILLIAM HARTUNG
Senior research fellow at the World Policy Institute and co-author of the recent report “Tangled Web: The Marketing of Missile Defense, 1994-2000,” Hartung said today: “Donald Rumsfeld has a reputation as a moderate, dating back to his days as secretary of defense in the Ford administration in the mid-1970s, but during the 1990s he has become a darling of right-wing Republicans and a member in good standing of the Star Wars lobby. As Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott’s handpicked chairman of a congressionally-mandated commission on Third World ballistic missiles that bore his name, Rumsfeld grossly exaggerated the ballistic missile threat to the United States posed by so-called rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. At the same time that he was providing this allegedly objective assessment of missile threats, Rumsfeld was a close associate of Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, a corporate-financed, ideologically driven think tank that serves as the nerve center of the missile defense lobby. He also served on the board of Empower America, which ran misleading, pro-Star Wars ads against Democratic senators who opposed the plan during the 1998 mid-term elections. Before Rumsfeld is confirmed as secretary of defense, he needs to answer some tough questions about whether he has the temperament and the objectivity to be entrusted with decisions about a National Missile Defense system that could cost hundreds of billions of dollars and spark a new nuclear arms race in the bargain.”
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KARL GROSSMAN
Author of the forthcoming Weapons In Space and professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, Grossman said today: “Star Wars has received a huge push with the assumption of power by the Bush-Cheney administration, intimately linked to corporate interests committed to expanding space military activities. The goal, as U.S. military documents state, is to have the U.S. ‘control space’ and from space ‘dominate’ the Earth below. That’s why, in November 2000, some 160 nations voted in the United Nations — the U.S. abstained — to reaffirm the Outer Space Treaty, the basic international law on space, enacted in 1967 to keep war out of space. Now the U.S. would push full-speed-ahead to make space a new arena of war. Spearheading the drive will be Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney, a former member of the TRW board. His wife, Lynne Cheney, remains on the Lockheed Martin board but is on a ‘leave of absence.’ (Lockheed Martin, the world’s biggest weapons manufacturer, and TRW are major Star Wars contractors — and have spent many millions of dollars lobbying for the program.) A main player, too, will be National Security Council deputy director-designee Stephen J. Hadley, a Star Wars advocate whose Washington law firm represents Lockheed Martin. And they will be working from a foreign policy platform put together at the Republican National Convention by a committee chaired by Bruce Jackson, vice president for corporate strategy and development at Lockheed Martin.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020

Critics Blast Treasury Secretary for Comments on Debt Relief

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WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers faced criticism today for derogatory comments about a U.S. congressional commission’s call for the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to use their resources to cancel 100 percent of their debt claims against poor countries.

Speaking at the National Press Club on Thursday afternoon, Summers said that full implementation of recommendations made by the bipartisan Meltzer Commission — which urged cancellation of all the debts of the world’s poorest countries — “would do very serious damage to the economic and financial interests of the United States, and would in a meaningful and important way undermine the prospects for successful economic development around the world.”

But today, some analysts blasted the treasury secretary’s comments as a smokescreen for policy prescriptions that continue to give low priority to reducing global poverty.

“The majority of the poor countries that have been approved for ‘debt relief’ under the initiative supported by Secretary Summers will still pay more in debt service than they will spend on health care,” said Robert Naiman, senior policy analyst at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “At least one country, Zambia, will pay more in debt service after ‘debt relief’ than it was paying before.”

The limited debt-relief plan favored by Summers “won’t actually deliver the benefits which have been promised in terms of ending the debt crisis, reducing poverty, and increasing access to primary health care and education,” Naiman said. He faulted the Clinton administration for “defending the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to the hilt, supporting their disastrous interventions in Asia, Russia, Brazil, Turkey and Argentina, so New York banks could collect on their bad loans.”

Institute for Public Accuracy communications director Sam Husseini, whose questions about debt relief at Thursday’s briefing prompted Summers’ remarks, said today: “It was obvious from his responses that, at the end of the Clinton administration, U.S. policies continue to give much higher priority to maximizing the profits of Western bankers than reducing global poverty, contrary to the generous veneer of ‘debt relief.'”

ROBERT NAIMAN

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SAM HUSSEINI

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A transcript of the Summers briefing

Perspectives on the Fed

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ELLEN FRANK
Professor of economics at Emmanuel College in Boston, Frank said today: “The rapid upsurge in business and consumer spending of the past few years has been heavily debt-financed. Consumer debt doubled over the last decade. Corporate indebtedness stands today at over $10 billion, while our $400 billion trade deficit requires unprecedented levels of international borrowing. In this context, even a slight downturn could set off mounting bankruptcies and snowball rapidly.”
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MARK WEISBROT
Co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Weisbrot said today: “The Federal Reserve’s decision to move from a bias towards raising interest rates to a bias towards lowering rates was widely interpreted as an indication that the Fed would likely lower rates next year. Third quarter GDP growth dropped to 2.4 percent, from 5 percent in the previous quarter. Auto sales, housing starts and retail sales are also lagging. The person who really ought to take the lion’s share of the blame for a ‘hard landing’ is Fed Chair Alan Greenspan. Fearing ‘tight labor markets’ — something that most people celebrate because it means more job opportunities and a chance at a pay increase — the Fed has raised interest rates six times in the last 18 months. These rate increases, which brought the short-term federal funds rate to its highest level in nine years, have started to have their intended effect: slowing consumer and business spending. In the coming months this will probably be seen as a mistake, and one that will not be so easy to correct. The Fed, which elevates the fight against inflation above all other concerns, actually brought on the last recession (1990-1991) by raising interest rates to 10 percent in 1989. Although Mr. Greenspan began lowering them as the economy slowed, it turned out to be too little and too late. As before, working families at the bottom of the labor market will suffer the most from the Fed’s prioritizing low inflation over low unemployment.”
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JANE D’ARISTA
Director of programs at the Financial Markets Center, D’Arista said today: “Evidence that the Fed’s rate increases are slowing the economy abound. But the full impact of those rate increases is yet to be felt. Having confined itself to a single policy instrument — changes in short-term interest rates — the Fed allowed huge inflows of foreign investment to drive the rate of private sector borrowing to levels significantly above the rate of growth of the economy, setting the stage for the asset price bubbles in the stock and commercial real estate markets and driving up the price of residential housing as well. Higher rates have slowed the credit expansion but they also make it harder for the business and household sectors to pay back debt. And, as the cost of debt service rises, spending is falling, taking profits in their wake. Household sector debt is now 103 percent of disposable income, up from 89 percent at the beginning of the last recession. The Fed should cut interest rates, but it must also use regulatory controls to prevent another round of credit expansion. Otherwise, rate cuts will encourage shifts out of the dollar that will only end up raising interest rates as borrowers scramble for a shrinking supply of funding to roll over existing short-term debt.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020

Presidential Race: Unresolved Issues

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MANNING MARABLE
Director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University, Marable said today: “The election in Florida represented a gross abrogation of voting rights for African Americans. There were widespread examples of local police harassing African Americans going to the polls, of polling machinery that didn’t work in largely African-American precincts. Gore played to the right wing by avoiding putting forward the issues of racial disenfranchisement.”
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ALEXANDER KEYSSAR
Author of The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States and professor of history and public policy at Duke University, Keyssar said today: “The invocation of the equal protection clause by the Supreme Court was astonishing given the enormous disparities among voting practices across the country. If the variations in hand counting in Florida are unconstitutional, so are hundreds of variations. One could point very easily to the disparities of reliability of the count in Florida between counties using optical scanners and counties using punch-card machines. And those disparities seem to partially coincide with race — a crucial fact given that the equal protection clause was itself precisely designed to overcome race discrimination.”

TERRY BOURICIUS
The New England regional director for the Center for Voting and Democracy, Bouricius is a specialist in voting machines. He said today: “The Supreme Court claims to be concerned about disparate treatment and equal protection, but officials have known for years that there is an undercount in poorer and largely African-American districts because of older voting machines and have done nothing. In the recent Canadian election, they hand counted virtually all the votes in about three hours.”
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MIKE GRAVEL
A former two-term senator, whose case as a litigant, Gravel vs. U.S. Government, in the Pentagon Papers issue precipitated a landmark decision by the Supreme Court on the Speech and Debate Clause of the Constitution, Gravel said today: “We must bear in mind that the judiciary does not render the justice of our grade-school lessons. It renders a detailed interpretation or a parsing of the law’s words aided by the attorneys of the contesting parties. If the laws are unclear or bad, then the courts’ judgments are equally bad and made more so by partisanship. The laws that underlie our presidential electoral system are archaic, outmoded, and unfair, and violate the equal protection rights of all American voters under the Constitution.”
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MARK LEVINE
An attorney, Levine has written an informative and caustic Q and A on the Supreme Court decision.
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Supreme Court vs. Democracy?

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DAVID COLE
Professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center, Cole said today: “The U.S. Supreme Court has done what we all feared — it has decided the election itself, and has done so by a single vote. While the per curiam attempts to mask this fact, only five Justices — the five who likely voted for George W. Bush on November 7 — voted to bar any further recounts. That they did so on grounds that there was insufficient time — after their own intervention had delayed matters — raises serious questions about the Court’s legitimacy. In addition, it is ironic that the five conservative Justices, who typically take the most restrictive view toward individual rights, stopped the vote in the name of the equal protection clause.”

RON DANIELS
Executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-chair of the National Malcolm X Commemoration Commission, Daniels wrote: “Though election irregularities in Florida and across the nation were widespread, the most egregious violation was the thousands of Blacks who did manage to cast ballots only to have them thrown out by voting machines. This problem was aggravated by the disproportionate locating of antiquated voting machines in predominantly Black precincts in Florida. These are the ballots that constitute the ‘undercount’ which would have been rectified by the manual recount halted by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
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GWENDOLYN MINK
Professor of politics at the University of California at Santa Cruz, Mink said today: “The Supreme Court not only stole the 2000 election from the people, it deranged our constitutional order. Yesterday’s decision was not just about who will be our president; it also was about the relationship of the Court to democracy. In one fell swoop, the majority jettisoned 40 years of jurisprudence promoting electoral equality. It set time limits on democracy, and then let the clock run out. It cried ‘equal protection,’ and then discarded votes that endanger its desired electoral outcome. It pleaded ‘state’s rights,’ and then knee-capped the Florida State Supreme Court in interpreting state law. It claimed ‘due process,’ and then gave the Florida legislature carte blanche to trample the people’s rights in elections. This is a throwback to the Lochner Era, when the Court contorted the Constitution to suit its economic and political sympathies.”

GREGORY PALAST
Palast writes the column “Inside Corporate America” for the Observer of London and is the author of a forthcoming book, Democratic Regulation. He said today: “A close examination suggests thousands of voters in Florida may have lost their right to vote based on a flaw-ridden list of purported ‘felons’ provided by a private firm, ChoicePoint, with tight Republican ties.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

The Florida Uproar: Deeper Issues

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DAVID COLE
Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, Cole is a leading specialist in constitutional law and the U.S. Supreme Court.

MIKE GRAVEL
A former two-term member of the U.S. Senate, Gravel used his position as a senator to officially release the Pentagon Papers and facilitated full publication as The Senator Gravel Edition, The Pentagon Papers (Beacon Press). He is author of Citizen Power and is currently leading Philadelphia Two, a group which works to bring about direct democracy. Gravel said today: “The situation in Florida shows that the polity is controlled by the factions or parties, which is precisely what the Founding Fathers feared most. They control things from the canvassing level, with the design of ballots, to the executive level with the Florida Secretary of State to the Florida Governor — the Republican candidate’s brother — to the Legislature, exercising party, political prejudice, to the gaggle of attorneys financed by the factions who are vying for power. It’s got nothing to do with the interest of the people. This points to the fundamental flaw of the representative system. The representative is committed to his own self-interest first and then the economic interest of those who finance his campaign. At best, the people’s interest comes third.”
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PENDA HAIR and JUDITH BROWNE
The Advancement Project reports that unprecedented numbers of African Americans were turned away from the polls in Florida on Nov. 7. Since then, two of the organization’s attorneys — Hair, a nationally recognized expert on voting rights law, and Browne, a civil rights attorney and activist — have been among a group of lawyers in Florida collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses for potential litigation. They are available to provide specific information regarding voter intimidation, African Americans denied the right to vote, and potential litigation.
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DOUGLAS AMY
Professor of politics at Mount Holyoke College, Amy’s most recent book is Behind the Ballot Box: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting Systems. He said today: “Given the recent problems with the Electoral College system, the time has come to take a sober look at our entire electoral system and consider whether Americans would be better served by alternative electoral arrangements. One such alternative, used in several other democracies, is instant runoff voting, which eliminates the ‘spoiler’ problem and ensures that the winning candidate has the support of the majority of voters.”
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SCOTT RASMUSSEN
President of Rasmussen Research, Rasmussen said today: “In a poll we released today, we found that 60 percent of Americans say voter fraud and illegal activities played a role in Election 2000. Most, 58 percent, say that when election results are close there should be an automatic recount. When it comes to the Electoral College, 61 percent would like to see the president elected by all Americans in a direct, nationwide election; only 33 percent would prefer to have the Electoral College elect the president.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

“Battle of Seattle”: One Year Later

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DEBORAH TOLER
A policy analyst with the Institute for Public Accuracy, Toler said today: “Although, with the notable exception of Ralph Nader, trade was a ‘non-issue’ in the recent U.S. presidential election, trade issues are extremely hot in virtually every other country, particularly in Third World countries that suffer the most from World Trade Organization regulations. The Seattle demonstrations brought more Americans’ attention to the myriad ways the secretive and fundamentally undemocratic WTO functions on behalf of corporate global interests to the detriment of the economic, social and political interests of the world’s working and poor majority.”
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LORI WALLACH
Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch and co-author of Whose Trade Organization? Corporate Globalization and the Erosion of Democracy, Wallach said today: “The challenges to the ‘trade über alles’ zealots come from a global coalition of citizens demanding that public interests in human rights, living wages, safe food and the environment are prioritized over the special interests of the world’s largest transnational corporations.”
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CHRIS TOWNSEND
Political action director for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), Townsend said today: “We have been hammered by the corporate forces and the two major political parties which both condone — and actually encourage — the transfer of whole industries to sweatshop economies. The U.S. trade deficit is approaching $400 billion a year; it has increased tenfold under the Clinton administration.”
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PAUL LOEB
Author of Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time and associate scholar at Seattle’s Center for Ethical Leadership, Loeb said today: “The fundamental issue is about whether or not there’s the possibility of real democracy in this country or globally. Once you start removing the ability of local and national governments to act and giving that ability to an unelected and unaccountable body like the WTO, it becomes much more difficult for citizens to act on a wide variety of issues, which is why you saw a convergence of labor, environmental, human rights and other activists in Seattle. You see similar concerns about the assault on democracy from the controversy around the Florida election.”
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SHAYA MERCER
Director of the recently released documentary “Trade Off,” Mercer said today: “We set out to capture the week of protests in Seattle, concentrating on the issues that brought people to the streets of Seattle.” The producer of “Trade Off,” Thomas Lee Wright, will be at demonstrations this week in Seattle.

JILL FREIDBERG
Co-director of another recent documentary, “This Is What Democracy Looks Like,” Freidberg said today: “The film was partially inspired by a large archive that the Independent Media Center had after the Seattle protests. We wanted to tell the story of people feeling powerful by forming unprecedented coalitions.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Global Warming Summit: Analysts Available

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This week, government representatives and non-governmental organizations are meeting at the Hague in the Netherlands for what many are calling a “make or break” summit on global warming. The following analysts are available for interviews:

ROSS GELBSPAN
Author of The Heat Is On: The Climate Crisis, the Cover-up, the Prescription, Gelbspan said: “Despite increasing climatic instability, the Clinton administration continues to insist the United States can meet its carbon-cutting obligations by planting more trees and using the deeply-flawed mechanism of international carbon trading. Given the growing diplomatic fatigue, the current round of climate talks at the Hague may finally buckle under the interminable — and irrelevant — haggling by the U.S. over how to measure the carbon-absorption capacity of vegetation and how to buy cheap carbon reductions in poor countries. The Europeans are far more serious, committing to cuts of 50 percent and more over the next 50 years. Meanwhile, the U.S. is dragging its heels on achieving even the modest 7 percent reductions in the short term, refusing to make any changes in its domestic energy system. The Europeans will achieve their cuts by drawing an increasing proportion of their energy from fuel cells, windfarms and solar systems. The opportunity embedded in the climate crisis is unprecedented. It is dawning on corporate leaders but not, unfortunately, on U.S. policy makers. Given its huge labor requirements, a global energy transition would create millions of jobs — especially in developing countries. It would transform impoverished and dependent countries into robust trading partners. It would dramatically expand the amount of wealth in the global economy. Ironically, that goal could be simpler to negotiate — and far less divisive — than the current inadequate and piecemeal approach.”
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LENA AAHLBY
Climate Campaign Coordinator for Greenpeace USA, Aahlby said: “While the United States is the world’s largest global warming polluter, the Clinton/Gore administration’s negotiating team, along with OPEC country negotiators and multinational corporations, are collectively weakening the Kyoto treaty, making global warming pollution cuts less likely. The U.S. government and some other parties are pressing for a wide range of loopholes that would allow them to sidestep real pollution reductions. These include emissions trading schemes that would, for instance, allow the United States to get credit for an energy project in China instead of cleaning up cars and power plants here in the U.S; or seeking credit for management of forests (which absorb carbon dioxide) instead of reducing global warming pollution; and promoting environmentally unsound technologies like hydroelectric dams and nuclear power to developing countries.” Greenpeace has organized 225 university students to participate at the summit in the Hague.
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Broader Issues in the Florida Vote

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RABBI RICHARD YELLIN
Rabbi for Temple Emeth of Delray Beach, Florida, Yellin was among the voters confused by the “butterfly” ballot. He has concluded, after extensive conversations with his congregation and others, that some of the “butterfly” ballots were misaligned and misprinted while others were not.

THOMAS JOHNSON
Director and Pastor of House of Hope, a non-denominational center to re-acclimate men once they have been released from jail or drug rehabilitation in Gainesville, Florida, Johnson said today: “Like over 500,000 others in Florida, largely black men, I’ve been disenfranchised. I’m a man who committed a crime, I went to prison for it. I’ve paid my debt to society. Now, I’m helping guide other men’s lives towards adhering to the law of the land, to have them be decent men, husbands and prominent citizens in the community. I’m supported by politically-minded people for the work that I do, yet the political system in Florida says I cannot vote.”

NANCY NORTHUP
Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, Northup is representing ex-felons in a lawsuit challenging Florida’s ban on voting by ex-felons, including Johnson. Northup said: “There are 13 states, including Florida, that permanently disenfranchise people who have committed a felony. In the last 25 years, the number of ex-felons disenfranchised has increased from 1 percent to almost 5 percent of Florida’s voting-age population. African-Americans are disproportionately affected by the law, which disenfranchises at least 139,000 black ex-felons — 9 percent of Florida’s blacks of voting-age. Florida’s ban on voting by ex-felons means that a citizen who wrote a bad check 30 years ago can be permanently denied the vote.”
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BARBARA ARNWINE, [c/o Diane Gross]
Arnwine is executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which has dispatched a team of civil rights lawyers to conduct an investigation into allegations of disparate treatment of voters, voter intimidation, and practices leading to the disenfranchisement of African-Americans and other voters throughout Florida.
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BERNICE FONTENEAU and JOHN STEINBACH
Co-conveners of the Gray Panthers of Metropolitan Washington, Fonteneau and Steinbach point to impediments the elderly face in voting, including transportation to the polls, readability and complexity of the ballot, lack of wheelchair-accessible voting places and personnel to assist voters, insufficient number and remote location of polling places, steps and other barriers, and long lines without places to sit.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Post-Election Decisions

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ERIC FONER
Professor of history at Columbia University, current president of the American Historical Association and author of The Story of American Freedom and Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, Foner said today: “In 1876, there was a dispute over the Hayes-Tilden presidential election returns from Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana. An electoral commission was formed (which was extra-constitutional), but behind the scenes, the party bosses came up with the ‘Bargain of 1877’ which effectively awarded the White House to the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes but gave control of the South to the Democrats. At the time the Democratic Party was the white supremacist party; it proceeded to take the vote away from blacks in the South and impose the legal structure of racial segregation. Behind the scenes deals always seem to be at somebody else’s expense.”

MICHEL GELOBTER
Assistant professor in the Graduate Department of Public Administration at Rutgers University, Gelobter said today: “The current margin of difference is not statistically significant, it is almost like flipping a coin. At the conclusion of Wednesday morning’s vote count, Bush held 48.904 percent of the Florida vote, compared with 48.900 percent for Gore. A simple test of this tiny difference — four thousandths of one percentage point indicates that there is a 45 percent chance that the difference is a result of random error. Given enough vote re-counting, re-analysis, and, perhaps, re-voting, a winner with a statistically defensible margin in Florida may yet emerge. Barring this, a backroom deal may be cut.”
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GWEN PATTON
Montgomery Pioneer Voting Rights Archivist at the Trenholm State Technical College, Patton, who has done voter training in predominantly black areas of Alabama and Florida, said today: “The Electoral College makes a mockery of what we call a democracy. One person one vote — that should be the determinant of how we should conduct our elections. I’ve always been suspicious of the voting process, because the vote should be the equalizer, but the process can be corrupted. We should be training people in voting, investing in the electoral process and ensuring the integrity of the vote. We do so much to assure the validity and honesty for commercial transactions such as banking, buying groceries or pumping gas. Surely we should do more to validate the integrity of the vote.”

ALAN HIRSCH
An attorney and professor at Hartwick College in New York and co-author of For the People: What the Constitution Really Says About Your Rights (Free Press, 1998) as well as author of an unpublished novel about an Electoral College crisis, Hirsch said today: “If Bush wins Florida and Gore wins New Mexico, Bush’s margin in the Electoral College is four votes. A switch of two electors to Gore would result in a tie in the Electoral College. If Bush wins Florida in a way that seems improper, pressure will no doubt be mounted on the Bush electors in Florida, and perhaps elsewhere, to vote for Gore when the Electoral College meets on Dec. 18.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167