Nov. 6, 2000 -- In one of the more gruesome developments of the campaign, a hunter in Pennsylvania awoke to a severed deer head on his lawn after speaking out in favor of Al Gore and criticizing the National Rifle Association.
James Ellenberger of Norvelt in western Pa., was interviewed after waving a “Hunters for Gore” sign at a Democratic rally last Friday. When asked if he was a member of the NRA, Ellenberger replied, “Not anymore.”
He told reporters the NRA (which has been blanketing the state with anti-Gore ads) was trying to scare traditionally Democratic union members into believing that a Gore administration would strip them of their rights to own any kind of gun.
“They are misstating the facts about a lot of people that are running for office,” Ellenberger (himself the director of servicing for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades) told The Associated Press. “Al Gore is not taking guns away from anyone; the idea is to make guns less accessible for children, for one thing.”
A couple of days later, Ellenberger found the deer head, perched on a stick on his front lawn. Local law enforcement would not comment on the message left for Ellenberger that was attached to the animal’s antlers.
ABC affiliate WISN-TV in Milwaukee, Wis., reported that homeless citizens who were offered rides to City Hall to cast absentee ballots on Saturday were given cigarettes by Democratic volunteers.
While there is nothing wrong with offering free rides to the polls — both parties provide the service as part of their “get out the vote” drives — Republicans have charged that offering the cigarettes was tantamount to a bribe, and have filed a formal complaint with the state’s election board, and a criminal complaint with the District Attorney.
“Anything that gets some kind of value, be it a $20 bill on the street out here or a pack of cigarettes, we think is wrong,” said State Rep. Scott Walker, a Republican.
A few of the homeless who talked with reporters said they didn’t feel pressured to vote for a particular candidate. “They just came and asked us to go and vote,” Bob Socha said.
“They had a couple vans, and said they’d give us a ride. So I took a ride,” George Scharf said. Scharf is a homeless voter who said 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.
However, a Milwaukee Rescue Mission employee told WISN he had to ask Democratic campaign volunteers to leave the property after he caught them trying to bribe potential voters with packs of cigarettes.
A representative of the Gore Campaign in Wisconsin issued a statement saying, “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,“ wrote Susan Lagana, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Coordinated Campaign. “They have left the state and we will not invite them to return.”
Connie Milstein, one of the volunteers who gave the cigarettes, said in a statement, “My actions were wrong and I deeply regret them.”
Jason Derusha of WISN-TV, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.