[Hpn] Gore's campaign gave packs of cigarettes to homeless voters

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Mon, 13 Nov 2000 11:33:54 -0700


Cigarette 'Bribe' Prompts Call For Criminal Charges

State Election Board Will Also Receive Complaint

MILWAUKEE, Updated 3:49 p.m. EST November 6, 2000 -- Republican Wisconsin
state Rep. Scott Walker has asked the Milwaukee County District Attorney to
review whether criminal charges should be filed after Milwaukee's WISN 12
News found Al Gore campaigners giving cigarettes to absentee voters outside
of City Hall Saturday.

WISN 12 News caught volunteers for Vice President Gore's campaign giving
packs of cigarettes to homeless voters whom they had transported to cast
absentee ballots. 

"Anything that gets something of value, be it a $20 bill on the street out
here, or a pack of cigarettes, we think is wrong," Walker said. "The trading
off of anything, something of worth, in exchange for someone's vote -- not
only is it ethically questionable, we believe it's a violation of the law."

Volunteers were visiting area shelters Saturday, offering rides to City Hall
where homeless citizens could vote by absentee ballot.

"We've been pretty busy, going to the shelters," campaign volunteer Connie
Milstein said. Milstein volunteers for the Gore campaign in New York and
came to Milwaukee to help get out the vote.

The volunteers then distributed cigarettes to voters outside City Hall.

Voters interviewed by WISN 12, however, said that they did not feel that
they were being bribed by the volunteers for their votes.

"They just came and asked us to go and vote," Bob Socha said. Socha also
said that he enjoys voting and was already planning to vote for Gore.

"They had a couple of vans, and said they'd give us a ride. So I took a
ride," George Scharf said. Scharf is a homeless voter who said that he had
planned to vote for Gore anyway, and that voters weren't told about the free
cigarettes until after they were at the polls.

"They didn't mention that until we got down there anyway," he said.

However, a Milwaukee Rescue Mission employee told WISN 12 News that he had
to ask Democratic campaign volunteers to leave the property after he caught
them trying to bribe potential voters with packs of cigarettes.

After viewing WISN 12's videotape Saturday, a local representative of the
Gore campaign issued a response to the Democratic campaigners who
distributed the cigarettes.

"This kind of activity described by Channel 12 is not the kind of help we
ask for, and it's the kind of help we flat-out reject. These volunteers were
from out of state, acting on their own, and this was not part of any
official Democratic 'get out the vote' activity in Wisconsin. They have left
the state and we will not invite them to return," wrote Susan Lagana, a
spokeswoman for the Democratic Coordinated Campaign.

In a press release, Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson criticized the Gore
campaign volunteers for their actions.

"There is no place for this despicable brand of politics in Wisconsin,"
Thompson said. "It is unconscionable that the Gore campaign would prey on
vulnerable people such as the homeless by rewarding them with cigarettes in
exchange for their votes."

The Gore campaign did not have any immediate reaction Sunday to news of the
impending Republican complaint.

Copyright 2000 by TheMilwaukeeChannel.com.

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