Peter Camejo Dies - Helped Found Green Party
San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Third-party political activist Peter Camejo, a perennial
candidate for state and national office who helped
pioneer the financial market niche of socially
responsible investments, died Saturday. He was 68.
Mr. Camejo, who had been battling a recurrence of
lymphoma, died at home in Folsom ( Sacramento County ).
He helped found the California Green Party in 1991 and
ran three times for governor of California . He also ran
as independent Ralph Nader's vice presidential running
mate in the 2004 presidential election in which
President Bush won a second term. In 1976 he ran for
president as the Socialist Workers Party candidate.
Mr. Camejo described himself as a watermelon - red on
the inside, green on the outside.
"Peter used his eloquence, sharp wit and barnstorming
bravado to blaze a trail for 21st century third-party
politics in the U.S. ," Nader said in a prepared
statement, which described Mr. Camejo as a "politically
courageous champion of the downtrodden and mistreated of
the entire Western Hemisphere ."
Active in the Free Speech Movement and in protests
against the Vietnam War as a student at UC Berkeley in
the late 1960s, Mr. Camejo landed on then-Gov. Ronald
Reagan's list of the 10 most dangerous people in
California. School officials eventually expelled him,
two quarters shy of a degree.
The spark of activism stayed with him as he became a
leader in the movement to give voice to third-party
candidates. He fought for universal health care,
election reform, farmworker rights, living wage laws and
against the death penalty and abortion restrictions.
His forum was often electoral politics, where he
challenged Republicans and Democrats alike.
He ran for California governor in 2002, 2003 and 2006,
only once breaking past the mark of 5 percent of the
vote in grassroots campaigns in which he was vastly
outspent by his Democratic and Republican rivals. He
once told a reporter that he never expected to win, but
wanted to help elevate the Greens to the mainstream political stage.
Mr. Camejo earned his living as a financier and helped
start an investment firm, Progressive Management Asset
Inc. in Oakland . Clients can arrange their portfolios so
that their investments, for example, are not linked to
animal testing, weapons or sweatshop labor.
He created the first environmentally screened fund - the
Eco-Logical Trust - for a major Wall Street firm,
Merrill Lynch. He also founded the Council for
Responsible Public Investments and wrote the book, "The
SRI Advantage: Why Socially Responsible Investing Has Outperformed Financially."
Peter Miguel Camejo was born on New Year's Eve 1939 at a
hospital in Queens , N.Y. , where his mother had flown
from Venezuela to use the American health care system
and to give her son dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizenship. He
spent the first part of his life in his parents'
homeland. He moved to New York at age 7 with his mother
when his parents divorced but spent summers in Latin
America. He said the poverty he saw as a youth in
Venezuela drove his passion for social and economic justice.
After graduating from high school with a perfect score
on his math SAT, he studied mathematics at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and later
transferred to UC Berkeley. He never earned a degree.
Matt Gonzalez, a former San Francisco supervisor who is
running for vice president with Nader as an independent,
said that Mr. Camejo once told him that when he
interviewed for his job at Merrill Lynch, "the only
thing that was true on my resume was my name and phone number."
Gonzalez said Mr. Camejo was a success at Merrill Lynch,
but was pushed out after the firm found out that one of
its star employees had been arrested for protesting and
had run for president as a socialist. Gonzalez said his
friend continued to be a pioneer in the socially
responsible investment movement and made a political
mark, even though he did not win in any state or national election.
In the days leading to his death, Mr. Camejo completed
"We will all be able to get a vivid sense of the great
measure of Peter Camejo as a sentinel force for civil
rights and civil liberties, and expander of democracy.
His lifework will inspire the political and economic
future for a long time," Nader said.
He is survived by his wife, Morella Camejo; stepdaughter
Alexandra Baquera of San Diego; stepson Victor Baquera
of Folsom; brothers Antonio and Daniel Camejo and Danny Ratner.
Details for a memorial service will be announced.