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WASHINGTON – Ralph Nader takes little stock in corporate America – convinced, as he is, that big business is the root of all societal ills.

Or at least that’s what he says.

His personal investment portfolio, worth millions of dollars, tells a far different story.

But before I tell you about all the corporate stock he owns, let me tell you why I’m even bothering to expose such a cartoon-caricature of an unreconstructed market-bashing liberal for the hypocrite he is.

Nader has always been more of an entertaining sideshow to me than anyone to be taken seriously. I actually derive some secret pleasure from the supposedly anti-establishment gadfly’s shtick of puncturing the self-righteous rhetoric of the stuffed-shirts in both parties, because it injects a refreshing honesty – perverse, misguided and, as it turns out, phony, as it may be – into the otherwise stale presidential campaigns of poll-tested platitudes. I had hoped he’d run again for kicks.

But recently Nader has become the liberal media elite’s go-to guy for bashing corporate management in the wake of Enron’s pension-robbing collapse. And, frighteningly enough, he’s starting to make sense to reasonable people – particularly scared pre-retirement workers who normally would have turned him off before he could plunge into another of his eye-twitching fulminations against capitalism (and not just Enron’s corrupt brand of crony capitalism).

On ABC’s “This Week,” Nader charged that Enron is not a bad apple, but “part of a corporate crime wave.” On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he again attempted to demonize all corporations by arguing that “Enron is symbolic of the corruption of corporate politics,” whatever that means.

His host, Tim Russert, a former aide to liberal Democrat Mario Cuomo, just nodded, giving him an open field, whereby Nader demanded that government crack down on corporate “crooks” and “crime in the [executive] suites.”

This was bad enough.

But then I found out that my uncle, whom I’ve always admired, even idolized, was one of the 2,882,955 Americans (2.7 percent of the total turnout) who voted for Nader in 2000.

That blew my mind.

After playing professional football for the Patriots (congratulations, by the way, to the franchise and all its players, past and present, and its long-suffering fans, such as myself, on the Pats’ first national championship), my uncle made a small fortune on Wall Street as a senior executive with Merrill Lynch.

So what’s his fascination with Nader? I’m not quite sure, but the fact that he studied socialism – er, sociology – at Dartmouth could explain part of it.

Still, there’s no doubt Nader holds some weird attraction for many Americans, who clearly aren’t all environmental wackos picketing World Trade Organization summits. And that attraction is growing amid the mushrooming Enron scandal. At this rate, Senate Democrats may invite Nader to testify.

My uncle and other Nader fans, however, might be surprised to learn that Ralph the Mouth doesn’t put his money where his mouth is. At the same time he’s bad-mouthing corporations, he owns stakes in them. Most of his money, in fact, is parked in stocks and commercial paper – not Appleseed Foundation or other bleeding-heart groups that defend the downtrodden.

That’s right. After hearing Nader cast one too many corporate aspersions, I marched down to the Federal Election Commission headquarters here and pulled a copy of the financial disclosure report he filed in 2000, knowing full well that Nader was no pauper.

In it, I found the tweedy do-gooder’s pin-striped underbelly.

On page 15 of Schedule A, Nader was forced to disclose his shares of Cisco Systems, valued at the time at $1,158,750; Fibercore Inc., between $15,000 and $50,000; Iomega Inc., $15,000-$50,000; 3 Com Corp., $50,000-$100,000; and Ziff-Davis Inc., $50,000-$100,000, among other corporate holdings.

Those were just his direct investments.

Nader held an additional $2 million-plus in Fidelity and other mutual funds.

You’d think that someone who so loosely throws around epithets like “corporate criminals” and “corporate crooks” would never trust corporate brass with so much of his own money.

But having said that, where did millionaire Nader get so much money to invest in the first place? Answer: by publicly demonizing the supposedly evil, greedy and exploitative corporate system that he uses to further enrich himself.

Turn to page 1 of his income statement.

There, you’ll find the start of a long list of payola Nader got from various lefty groups, colleges and media to bash corporations in speeches and columns from 1999 through the summer of 2000. Total: $378,726.

Is that all of his income, besides the $100,000-plus he made off his corporate investments in that reporting period? We don’t know for sure. Nader refused to release his income-tax returns.

But he did say this in an addendum to his filing: “Monies I earn are for strengthening civil society.”

Really? Looks like a lot of those “monies” have helped strengthen, in the form of stock investments, the very corporations that he claims are hurting society.

Truth is, Nader benefits from the same corporate establishment he condemns, while his acolytes suffer on the sidelines and agonize on the fringe, sacrificing personal wealth for “social justice” and forgoing the American dream for his fake dream.

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