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Ralph Nader visits Rochester
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Ralph Nader used detailed examples in a discussion he shared with a University of Minnesota business ethics professor on the subject of corporate responsibility. (MPR Photo/Erin Galbally)
Presidential candidate and consumer safety advocate Ralph Nader was in Rochester Tuesday to discuss corporate responsibility. It's been nearly 40 years since Nader's book "Unsafe At Any Speed" prompted reforms in the auto industry. Since then Nader's segued into politics. In 2000, he was the Green Party's presidential candidate and gained more than 2 percent of the popular vote. Now despite an outcry from both major parties, Nader's decided to run again for the White House again.

Rochester, Minn. — Ralph Nader walked onto the stage at the Rochester Community and Technical College armed with a thick manila folder. Inside were case studies he said showed corporate malfeasance and government regulations run amok.

He used those detailed examples in a discussion he shared with a University of Minnesota business ethics professor on the subject of corporate responsibility.

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Image A Nader guy, but not a Nader vote

While Nader spoke about the failures that led to scandals like Enron, Adelphia and WorldCom, he also tackled popular issues like the out sourcing of American jobs.

"You want to take your dollars abroad and invest in domestic markets fine. If you want to create markets in China fine," said Nader. "But you're not going to get any tax benefits, which are in place now, or any other benefits."

Nader railed against companies that conduct business with countries like China under the guise of free trade. He says that's impossible since China is a dictatorship. And he discussed at length the legal protections afforded to large corporations.

Following the discussion, dozens lined up for a book signing. Nicholas Zane was among those in the crowd. He's a medical student at the Mayo Clinic. Zane says he was impressed with what he heard. Even so, he doesn't expect to vote for Nader in the upcoming presidential election.

"I'm a pretty hardcore democrat so its going to take be hard for him to sway my vote but definitely I would like to hear what he had to say," Zane explains.

But unlike many democrats Zane says he has no problem with Nader's decision to run again.

"I think everyone should have an opportunity to run and I think that him trying to run on a third party ticket is a very good thing," says Zane. "Two party politics have their problems and I think its great that he's participating in the process and getting as many votes as he does."

In the 2000 election Nader roughly secured roughly 3 million votes. And his announcement in late February that he would run for the presidency again angered Democrats still smarting from Al Gore's loss four years ago.

Shortly before leaving for another speaking engagement Nader took a few moments to talk presidential politics. He defended himself against democratic allegations that he's a spoiler.

"When they say don't run, you shouldn't run, they are saying we don't want to give millions of Americans the chance to vote for the candidate of their choice," Nader said. "That is what they're really saying. That's not very democratic. That's a very autocratic attitude."

Nader says he's trying to arrange to a meeting with John Kerry, the all but endorsed democratic presidential nominee. Nader says he Kerry share some common ideas like the need for labor law reform. But above anything else Nader says he and Kerry have a very similar goal.

"I want to talk with him about a giant objective we both have which is to defeat George Bush, that giant corporation disguised as a human being in the White House," said Nader. "Why can't we collaborate on that?"

Nader says right how he's focused on getting on state ballots around the country. He predicts he'll do well in Minnesota where's been active on issues affecting Iron Range workers and nuclear power.

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