William Saturn: Review of the 2016 Free & Equal Debate

William Saturn at Saturn’s Repository:

On October 25, the Free & Equal Elections Foundation held a debate on the campus of the University of Colorado in Boulder, moderated by actor Ed Asner and Free & Equal founder Christina Tobin. This was the organization’s third election cycle hosting a presidential debate. Constitution Party presidential nominee Darrell Castle, Party for Socialism and Liberation presidential nominee Gloria La Riva, and Reform Party presidential nominee Rocky De La Fuente all took part in the near two-hour event. Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and Evan McMullin were each invited but did not attend.

“Shame on Jill Stein and Gary Johnson in particular for not coming”, said Castle, reflecting the overall feeling of the three debaters. La Riva described the absences as “a lack of respect for those of us who have fought so hard in this electoral year to have a voice for the people.”

Although major party candidates have never participated in the event and are barred from doing so by the Commission on Presidential Debates, the absence of Johnson was controversial. Reportedly, Stein and McMullin did not attend because of Johnson’s absence. Johnson, who participated in the same debate in 2012 along with Stein, was said by Tobin to be concerned about appearing credible to the media.

“They are so high and mighty. They want to be Democrats and Republicans so badly,” proclaimed Castle about Johnson and Stein, “They are afraid to come out and get down on the same level with people like us.”

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10 thoughts on “William Saturn: Review of the 2016 Free & Equal Debate

  1. Zachariah Wiedeman

    Gary Johnson and Jill Stein didn’t go to the debate because Christina Tobin is a scoundrel and her dishonest antics this summer nearly sunk the Green/Libertarian parties ballot access in all 50 states. In my personal opinion Free & Equal is a slush fund scam for Christina Tobin to personally profit off of as she raids her donors funds without taking a salary so she can avoid paying out on the lawsuit judgements against her. That’s just my personal opinion though after get an up close look at how she (mis)manages her personal and the foundation’s finances.

    http://blog.mrzach.com/2016/06/working-for-free-treated-unequal/

    Don’t just take my word for it, see what Johnson himself says: https://youtu.be/v4ECnn7Zmrk

  2. Andy

    Zacahariah, there have been multiple complaints about Christina Tobin in the world of ballot access going back at least 8 years, so none of this surprises me.

  3. D. Thomas

    Thanks for the info Zachariaj and Andy. Still, for third party solidarity, I wish they would have gone to the debate. Just my two cents.

  4. Zachariah Wiedeman

    Agreed. Which is why, if Christina Tobin really believes in promoting third party choices and not just her own legacy, she will step aside and let another organization lead the way instead of her possibly criminal certainly untrustworthy enterprise. But she won’t.

  5. D. Thomas

    Zachariah,
    I find this most interesting. Do you have any more links on Christina Tobin’s faults? Do you have any links on what she has done correctly? I would like to read more about it, as I have been wanting to support those who support third parties, but I also want to be careful on whom I support. Glad that we agree that Johnson, Stein, and McMullin should have gone. Thanks again for your help in finding out more information. If anyone else has info on Free and Equal, please share! Thanks.

  6. paulie Post author

    In my personal case, I did not have any of the problems dealing with Christina on the Green Party contract in Alabama, where we piggybacked it off the Libertarian deal that I already had on a verbal contract. She paid me everything she promised on time and with no hassles, and tried to get a contract with the LP with more protection for the contractor (me, through proxy) than what we ultimately settled on. But regardless of what happened or did not with other petitioners/petition contractors, I don’t think it had much to do with her ability to put together and host a debate.

  7. Andy

    Yeah, Paul had no problems with Christina in Alabama this time, other than the fact that Paul allowed himself to be unnecessarily suckered into working under her for no legitimate reason, which meant that a cut of the money that SHOULD HAVE gone to Paul (and other petitioners that worked in Alabama), went to Christina Tobin, WHO NEVER EVEN SET FOOT IN ALABAMA, AND WHO BASICALLY GOT PAID TO DO NOTHING. Paul did not need Christina Tobin for anything as Paul has far more experience in ballot access than she does, and Paul has in fact worked on Green Party petitions well before this. The problem at the time was that Paul could not find a phone number for Jill Stein 2016, but I told Paul before he talked to Christina Tobin that i was looking for a number for them. I finally found one and I called them up and got a direct deal in another state. I called Paul to tell him and give him the number, but he had made the MISTAKE of talking to Christina Tobin a few days before this and agreeing to work under Christina for a CHUMP pay rate where Christina was pocketing a cut of the money (for doing little work, and not even being present in the state). I suggested to Paul that he back out of the deal with Christina because he was getting offered a lower payrate than what most people were getting, and Paul did not want to do it because he was afraid of rocking the boat with Christina. Once again , Christina was NOT present in Alabama and the job would have been successfully completed without her, so she added no real value to the petition drive, but she pocketed a bunch of money off of it for not doing much of anything. If Paul had listened to me, he would not have answered Christina’s call, and he could have gotten a direct deal like I did a few days after he talked to Christina, or he could have simply invested some more time and effort into searching for a phone number for Jill Stein 2016 like I did.

    I would have thought that Paul would have learned his lesson about not dealing with Tobin after she screwed us out of .50 cents a signature in Alabama in 2008 on the Ralph Nader petition. What happened was that in May or June a person who worked for the LP National office gave Christina a list of phone numbers of people who had petitioned for the LP (the LP and Nader were referring petitioners to eachother in several states). One name on that list was a guy named Mark, who is an associate of Paul and I. Christina called Mark and offered him work on the Nader petition, and they discussed the possibility of working the petition in Alabama. Mark told me about the conversation (note that he NEVER mentioned my name to Christina at any point during this). I asked Mark what rate of pay she offered him. He said $1.50 a signature. I said that was a joke, because I knew damn well that there were other people working the Nader petition during this time frame, plus during the 2004 election (note that Christina was NOT involved with the Nader campaign in 2004), Mark, Paul, and I had all worked Nader in 2004, and we had received higher pay rates than what Christina was offering in 2008 (the last Nader petition we did in 2004 was in Virginia, where we got paid $3 a signature, plus motel) So I told Mark he should call her back and ask for more money. He did, and she insisted to Mark that nobody was getting paid more that $1.50 for Ralph Nader petition signatures anywhere in the country. I KNEW that this was a LIE because I knew several people who were working on Ralph Nader petitions other places who were getting paid more than this. So I told Mark that I would call our mutual contact inside the Nader campaign (who Mark, Paul, and I had all dealt with in 2004) to see if I could negotiate a higher rate of pay. I called this person (who was one of the top people on the campaign) and they remembered me from 2004. We discussed several states, one of which was Alabama. I asked this person if they could pay $2 for Alabama. This person said yes. So I said that I would go to Alabama and work the Nader petition for $2. I then said that Mark was interested in working in Alabama, and I asked if it was OK if Mark also got paid the $2 rate (note that this person remember Mark and Paul from 2004). This person said yes. So we went to Alabama (Mark and I were in Colorado at the time) and started working, thinking that we were getting paid $2. We worked for a week, and then we turned in our signatures to a a guy who was a Nader volunteer in Huntsville (note that the above events transpired over a few weeks, and that Mark’s only contacts with Christina were those two phone conversations, and I never spoke to her, and neither did Paul, and we never heard from her after that, and that she was never in Alabama, and she never did anything to facilitate the completion of the drive). We got paid a few days later, but our pay was short by .50 cents a signature. I called up the Nader headquarters to see why our pay was short, and to see if they would send the rest of our money, and I was told that Christina had found out we were getting $2 and she complained about it, so they lowered our pay to $1.50. I told them that I had never even spoken to Christina, and had never agreed to work under her, or to get paid $1.50. This person said that Mark had spoken to Christina, and I said that this was several weeks ago, and that he had not solidified a deal with him, and that she had mislead him about the pay rate, since we found out that other people were getting more than $1.50, and then I reminded this person that they had agreed to pay me $2, and that I asked if Mark could also get the $2 rate and they had approved it, and that we had made the journey to Alabama, and then worked for a week, based on this agreement. This person responded that they did not want to upset Christina Tobin, so they had to pay us $1.50. I reminded this person that I had NEVER even communicated with Christina, and that Mark had never even mentioned my name to her the two times they spoke. I said that if you want to pay Mark $1.50 just because he had made the mistake of talking to Christina on the phone a few weeks before this, then this should not effect my pay, because I had NEVER spoken to her, and my name had NEVER even come up in conversation. This person said that they were concerned about not offending Christina, so they were not going to keep their word to me, but that I could sue them if I wanted to do so. Filing lawsuits can be more trouble than they are worth, especially under this situation, so given that I had already made the trip to Alabama, I had to either “grin and bear it” or stop working on it and lose even more money. So I continued to work on it, but I was NOT happy about it, and neither were Mark and Paul. We successfully completed the drive (no thanks to anything Christina did), and Christina lumped this in with her over-inflated, exaggerated resume from the 2008 Ralph Nader campaign.

  8. Andy

    There were also major controversies surrounding Christina Tobin in 2010 after petition drives in Texas and Georgia (note that the one in Texas made the ballot, but the candidates in Georgia failed to qualify due to not having enough signatures), which left a lot of petitioners angry after being stiffed out of money and/or otherwise mistreated. This is what lead to Christina Tobin shutting down the Free and Equal “petition company” (which is separate from the Free and Equal Elections Foundation), and dropping out of ballot access drive work for 6 years.

  9. paulie Post author

    Good God. Wall of text + YELLING IN ALL CAPS. Great job.

    First of all…once again…we are talking about Christina’s ability to organize a debate. It’s not about her petition contracting.

    Second… she did not screw me over in Alabama. I had spent years talking to a guy on the national Green Party ballot access committee, even consulted their whole committee once on a conference call about the possibility of piggybacking off the LP in Oklahoma, and was finally told they had no money. The Greens wanted to pay $1 per signature, while the Libertarians have a rule in their contract not to accept a lower rate from another party or candidate at the same time. Yes, I agree that rule violates independent contractor status, but I didn’t have the means to fight it. They suggested that the GP and LP pay $1 each, and I told them it wouldn’t fly. They said Stein campaign would be running her ballot drives. I tried repeatedly to get them to hook me up and was getting nowhere for months and months.

    I had been through this dance with them with Alabama in 2008 and 2012. I don’t remember anymore what happened in 2008 – I think McKinney just didn’t do Alabama. In 2012 Stein had someone – iirc Erika Wolf – that ended up giving the Alabama contract to someone else, and didn’t bother to tell us until after the fact, even though she knew we were on our way to Alabama to work on the Johnson and Goode petitions. This time around I only had a verbal agreement on one petition, had had no luck in getting a hold of anyone at Stein’s campaign, and had been told by Andy that he had tried a few times and hadn’t had luck either.

    Now, Andy did eventually get a hold of Rick Lass with the Jill Stein campaign, so if I had held out I could have been paid more, but I wanted to have at least two petitions so I had already made a deal with Christina. We already had a contract, and I did not want to go back on my word. I try to keep my end of a deal when I make one. Christina also kept her end of the deal, which did not require her to be in Alabama. As I said, she paid everything on time and in full with no hassles, and even arranged for me to receive an advance deposit before I got there, which I needed to get started due to personal circumstances. That’s something that I don’t know that I would have ever gotten from Rick Lass even if I had known who he was at the time.

    So once again, not that our business dealings have to be discussed here when they are very tangential to the subject of the post, my personal dealings with Christina were nothing like what Zach described. I was long gone from Illinois before he got there – actually, I had originally hooked up Don Wren who is mentioned in his blog post originally to work through me or other proxies I had, but then cut him loose to get his own deal when I left. So I can’t speak on that situation. My experience was different.

    And more to the point, it still has nothing to do with putting on a debate. Christina did good with putting on debates in 2008, 2012, and 2016. If there were any problems with the debates, I either never heard about them or have forgotten. They appeared to be well produced from what I remember seeing. Do we really have to play 20 rounds about petition business disputes when they are not all that relevant? All that does is annoy our readers.

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