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It’s All About Timing

Terry McAuliffe, former Democratic National Committee chairman and current Democratic contender for governor of Virginia, tried to pay off Ralph Nader, to keep the consumer activist from running in swing states during the 2004 presidential election, The Washington Post reports.

“Terry McAuliffe is slipperier than an eel in olive oil,” Nader said in an interview.

He said McAuliffe, who was the Democratic National Committee chairman at the time, had offered Nader’s campaign an unspecified amount of money, believed to be party funds, to spend in 31 states in exchange for an agreement to withdraw from 19 battleground states where he could potentially hurt Democrat John Kerry.

Perhaps more shockingly, McAuliffe’s not denying it. He’s not exactly admitting it, either — but he’s certainly not calling Nader a liar.

In fact, McAuliffe aides are even attempting to spin this in his favor, basically saying that any effort he made to thwart Nader and prevent the re-election of George W. Bush might actually play well with party loyalists.

In a statement to The Post, spokeswoman Liz Smith said McAuliffe “was concerned that Ralph Nader would cost John Kerry the election as he did Al Gore in 2000 and give us another four years of George W. Bush.” She then jabbed Nader, saying it appears he “misses seeing his name in the press.”

The problem is, Ralph Nader doesn’t need to find a new project to make him relevant these days — with corporate bailouts and credit card reform dominating the public psyche right now, a man who built his reputation on consumer advocacy should be as happy as a pig in mud. And he is busy critiquing everything from the government-led restructuring of General Motors to the handling of swine flu.

The Daily Beast points out that Nader was willing to take cash from wealthy Republicans trying to siphon votes from Democrats in that same election. He told The Post, however, that he turned down McAuliffe’s offer.

So why talk now, five years after the fact? The disclosure of the alleged bribe — which comes less than two weeks before Virginia’s June 9 Democratic gubernatorial primary — will apparently be played up in an upcoming book written by a former Nader campaign manager. Today’s news will likely drive up interest in that project, which is scheduled for release the week after the primary.

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