Candidate Nader sets about in California in biggest fund-raiser of campaign

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader shrugged off a poll Thursday that showed him mired in the single-digits in California, and set about the biggest fund-raising swing of his campaign.

''They go up and down,'' Nader said of such surveys. ''Look at Gore and Bush's numbers in the last few weeks - they go up and down.''

Nader was on his fourth day of a five-day trip to the nation's most populous state, a favorite destination of politicians hunting for campaign cash.

He planned to raise $20,000 each of the five days, collecting a total of $100,000. That is small change compared to what the major-party candidates draw in a week, or even California Gov. Gray Davis.

Nader does not accept donations from corporations or political action committees.

The Field Poll released Thursday showed Nader supported by 4 percent of likely California voters, statistically unchanged from the 7 percent he drew in a June survey.

Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore led GOP opponent George W. Bush 50-37 percent.

Nader said at a Capitol news conference that he intended to appeal to those disinclined to vote and to former supporters of vanquished presidential candidates Bill Bradley and John McCain.

Earlier polls have shown Nader supporters generally are defecting from Gore.

Despite Nader's anemic poll numbers, state Democratic Party spokesman Bob Mulholland attended Nader's appearance, urging reporters to question Nader's integrity and taunting the Green candidate's supporters.

''He's a fraud,'' Mulholland said.

Nader reiterated his apathy toward those, including Mulholland, who warn Nader will help Bush by pulling votes away from Gore.

''It's impossible, organically and politically, to spoil a system that's spoiled to its core,'' he said.

Prosperous times make third-party efforts easier in some ways, but more difficult in others, he said.

''Good times give people an opportunity to discuss issues more removed from their immediate condition,'' Nader said in an interview. ''On the other hand, it's not by coincidence that Gore keeps saying things are good now, because there tends to be a complacency.''

Though running for the nation's top federal office, Nader used the news conference to address a litany of issues specific to California.

He lamented the closure of several California hospitals in recent years, saying it hurt the uninsured and poor most, and blamed HMOs' drive for profits.

Nader said he predicted the state's current energy crisis would arise from the deregulation under way now. Nader had argued against California's 1997 deregulation plan.

''I hate to say I told you so,'' Nader said.

Nader did not mention that he also campaigned for California Proposition 103, which voters approved in 1988, instituting an elected insurance commissioner.

Critics warned at the time that making the position elective would prompt a wave of campaign donations from insurers, potentially corrupting the commissioner.

Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush left office under just such a cloud last month.

Nader himself has raised $2.7 million for his presidential campaign, including $700,000 in federal matching funds and $40,000 from his personal bank account.

He has proposed making campaigns fully financed by the government, which could eliminate the need for candidates to raise money.

In the meantime, Nader pursued campaign funds each of five days in California, collecting a recommended $150 from supporters at a wine and cheese klatch and $5 for a rally.


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