No Holds Barr: The Co-opting of the Green Party?

You can read this article in its entirety at Green Party Watch

Firebrand comedian and aspiring politico Roseanne Barr is running for the Green Party’s nomination for president of the United States in a move characterized by many as a publicity stunt à la Donald Trump. But the situation is not entirely as it seems. Yes, Barr sought to be recognized as an official candidate just as NBC picked up her comedy pilot “Downwardly Mobile,” but Barr has been talking about running for POTUS — and also for prime minister of Israel — since at least 2010. Her progressive persona is no act: Her sitcom “Roseanne” examined working-class socioeconomic issues, as will her new show, and she addressed Occupy on the day of the movement’s inception.

Roseanne Barr at Rally in the Valley

At contention is whether rules were innocently skirted — or intentionally broken — to allow Barr to be officially recognized by the Green Party of the United States (GPUS) in time for an important press release deadline for the California ballot. Also at issue are apparent conflicts of interest within the national party’s Steering Committee. Note that the national and state parties are different entities under the same Green umbrella.

On Barr’s presidential campaign and personal websites, she advocates the “Green Tea Party” and enjoins viewers to “Occupy the Green Party.” This language irks many party members, who feel that they are complicit in a ploy for comeback publicity, rather than part of a serious campaign; they are wary of being co-opted. On one hand, a celebrity gets people talking again about the Green Party, which suffered when Ralph Nader’s campaign was widely blamed for Al Gore’s loss in 2000. On the other, many feel that front-runner Jill Stein is doing the heavy lifting in rebuilding the party, and that Barr’s charged rhetoric may ultimately damage the party’s credibility.

Barr is no stranger to high profile PR debacles, from screeching “The Star- Spangled Banner” at a San Diego Padres baseball game to dressing as Hitler for a photo spread in Jewish magazine Heeb to tweeting the address of the parents of George Zimmerman, who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. Despite its concerns over behavior like this, the Green Party of California (GPCA) tried to accommodate Barr, who applied to the state party in November, but was ineligible because she was a Democrat. The GPCA outlined in a letter to the Barr campaign how California Secretary of State Debra Bowen could place her on the ballot via national party recognition.

The secretary of state could add Barr until March 23, but former campaign treasurer Eric Weinrib stressed to state and national party officials that he wanted party recognition by Feb. 1 to make Bowen’s Feb. 6 press release. On Jan. 25, Presidential Campaign Support Committee (PCSC) Co-Chair Tom Yager announced Barr’s candidacy, and set into motion a one-week period for lodging objections, despite her failure to meet eligibility requirement 10-1.7 for fundraising of $5,000 from independent sources. In a Jan. 31 conference call, the PCSC discussed ways to verify compliance, and ultimately agreed on requiring the campaign to submit a signed affidavit and a list of donors.

According to Yager, both he and Weinrib believed “that February 6 was a hard deadline” and that Feb. 1 recognition would be “crucial.” But Barr still had nearly two months to get onto the primary ballot. Mike Feinstein, a California delegate to the PCSC, pointed that fact out to Yager, and explicitly told him that he would challenge Barr’s recognition if the documentation was not produced on Feb. 1. When it was not provided, Feinstein made his objection. Yager ignored it, citing a tardiness of three minutes.

For verification Weinrib sent Yager a scanned Wells Fargo deposit slip. According to Yager, Weinrib refused to specify the donors, and said that they “would be known when the quarterly [April 15] FEC filing was made.” Despite the 10-1.7 deficiency and Feinstein’s objection, Yager officially certified Barr on Feb. 2. Weinrib did not sign the affidavit of financial compliance until Feb. 4. No donor list was provided. Barr made Bowen’s press release.

Because of its concerns over Yager’s recognition, the state party requested that the national Steering Committee go into executive session to demand that Yager offer “clear and unambiguous answers.” In a March 11 conference call, committee members Farheen Hakeem and Tamar Yager cast two of the three votes against executive session. Hakeem, also a national co-chair, is working for the Barr campaign. Hakeem declined to comment. Tamar Yager, Tom Yager’s wife, voted in a measure dealing with her own husband. According to Ms. Yager, “Executive session would not have changed the outcome of the SC’s [Steering Committee’s] decision.” That decision was to urge the state party and Tom Yager to resolve the matter on their own.

The major issues for the campaign are transparency and accountability — that Weinrib, who declined to comment, circumvented the rules before getting recognition and then refused to comply once he got what he wanted. Barr did not respond to requests for an interview. Problematic for party leadership are Yager’s certification of Barr without 10-1.7 compliance, and the apparent conflicts of interest within the Steering Committee.

In Yager’s interview for this story, he defended his actions as an effort to be as inclusive as possible. That inclusiveness did not extend, however, to candidate Harley Mikkelson, whose recognition he rescinded for an eligibility requirement deficiency, or to the concerns of the GPCA. Much of the 10-1.7 debate is semantics — Yager said there is no verification mechanism and that self-financing will be evident in the April FEC filing. But what then is the purpose of the requirement if it cannot be checked? The state party’s concern is not necessarily self-financing, but rather, the disregard for the rules.

At the very least rules were broken to accommodate Barr — at the very worst, laws. Many Greens support Barr’s candidacy nonetheless. Barr made her first public campaign appearance at Rally in the Valley in Los Angeles on March 23, and gave a compelling speech any liberal would love. In it she challenged critics of celebrity activists:

I hate when people say, ‘Well who does Roseanne Barr, or some other show business type, think they are that anybody should give a damn about their political views?’ Well I have a question for those people … who do I have to be?

This celebrity double standard that Barr decries did however have advantages in the determination of her recognition. Regardless of fame or fortune, transparency and accountability standards must be applicable to everyone seeking office. The question is not who you have to be, but rather what you have to be. And the answer to that is “honest.”

Watch the video below to see Barr’s response to a question from me about her donors:

 


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