Kevin Zeese is an American political activist who has been a leader in the drug policy reform and peace movements and in efforts to ensure a voter verified paper audit trail. He was on the ballot as the nominee of the Maryland Green Party for a U.S. Senate seat during the 2006 election, receiving 1.5% of the total vote.
Zeese was born in New York City in 1955. He grew up in Queens, New York where he attended public schools. He received a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He graduated from the George Washington University Law School in 1980.
Zeese began his advocacy career as Chief Counsel for National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in 1980 and served as NORML's Executive Director from 1983 to 1986. During his time at NORML he helped stop the spraying of herbicides on marijuana in Mexico and the United States, and he became a leading advocate of the medical use of marijuana.
He has since been involved in helping found such drug policy reform efforts as the Harm Reduction Coalition and the Drug Policy Foundation (later merged with other organizations into the Drug Policy Alliance), and he worked with Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's "Mayor's Working Group on Drug Policy Reform", and the "Journey for Justice," a protest march on Washington. He worked to bring public attention to the death of Esequiel Hernandez Jr, a high school student killed by Marines on the U.S.-Mexico border in Redford, Texas. Zeese is currently president of Common Sense for Drug Policy an organization dedicated to reforming drug policy and expanding harm reduction.
Zeese was director of the Ralph Nader-connected group Democracy Rising, an organization which worked to prevent and then end the 2003 Iraq War. From December 2007 to April 2011, he directed the Campaign for Fresh Air and Clean Politics which includes as projects two efforts TrueVoteMD and VoteTrustUSA, both of which work for a voter verified paper audit trail with electronic voting.
In October 2008 TrueVote.US encouraged an email letter writing campaign in response to a report the previous week finding Virginia was one of the least prepared states for Election Day problems such as long lines, broken machines and software malfunctions. However, the hundreds of emails crashed the system, making it more difficult to get out electronic absentee ballots. Zeese stated the purpose of the campaign was for "elections officials to know people are watching and for people to know they want adequate voting machines." In response to election officials request they call off the email campaign, Zeese did so saying "We made our point."
As reported by the Washington Post, Zeese has entered into the debate over the allegations of impropriety by Justice Department lawyers in opinions being used to justify the Bush Administration's "advanced interrogation techniques". Zeese has filed a formal request with the D.C. Office of Bar Counsel for the disbarment of the lawyers who wrote the memos used as justification for interrogation methods that many consider to be torture.
Zeese writes for CounterPunch. He has been published in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post as well as on web outlets like Common Dreams, AlterNet, Dissident Voice, The Raw Story, LewRockwell.com, and Z Magazine. He is the author of several books.
2006 U.S. Senate election
After months of campaigning, Zeese received the senate nomination of the Maryland Green Party was also nominated by the Libertarian Party of Maryland in April 2006 and the Populist Party of Maryland in June, the first time all three parties had nominated the same candidate. However, in early April 2006, the Maryland legislature passed SB 129, which held a candidate can be nominated by only a party with which he is registered. Therefore he ran on the Maryland Green Party ticket.
Zeese called his campaign the "Unity Campaign" and ran on a reform platform that advocated the withdrawal of U.S. troops and corporate interests from Iraq, economic justice and end to corporate welfare (which he calls "big business socialism") and electronic voting reform. He also was a vocal critic of the "hawkish" Israel lobby in the United States and the Israel's 2006 bombing campaign against Lebanon. He challenged incumbent U.S. congressman Ben Cardin, who has close ties to the Lobby, to break his silence on Israeli wrongdoing.
Zeese received the endorsement of several leading third party figures including his former employer Ralph Nader.
Zeese was included in the publicly televised final Senatorial debate on Friday, November 3, 2006. In it urged the audience to reject the major parties, saying: "Change has not come from status quo parties, it's come from the outside." Zeese finished third in the voting receiving 27,564 votes for 1.5% of the total vote.
- Drug Testing Legal Manual and Practice AIDS, Clark Boardman Callaghan (1996)
- Drug Law Strategies and Tactics, with Eve Zeese, Clark Boardman Callaghan (1993)
- Drug Prohibition and the Conscience of Nations, with Arnold Trebach, The Drug Policy Foundation (1990)
- Maryland State Board of Elections Board web site
- Kevin Zeese biography at KevinZeese.com; Kevin Zeese biography at Common Sense for Drug Policy[dead link]
- Tim Craig, Massive E-Mail Campaign Freezes Absentee Ballots, Washington Post, October 22, 2008, B03.
- Dana Milbank,Dana Milbank - Washington Sketch: Kevin Zeese Is Mad as Heck About the Whole Torture Thing Washington Post, May 19, 2009.
- Joshua Frank,Swing Along With Ralph Nader in the Battleground States, CounterPunch, September 16, 2004.
- David Nitkin on state politics issues; Editor addresses energy rates, upcoming elections, personnel probe, Baltimore Sun, May 16, 2006.
- John Wagner, Zeese Wins the Triple Crown, Washington Post, June 13, 2006.
- Kevin Zeese for U.S. Senate web site.
- John Wagner, Independent Announces Run for Senate in Md., Washington Post, September 13, 2005, B05.
- William Hughes, Kevin Zeese: "Hawkish Israeli Lobby Wants War with Iran!", MediaMonitors.Net, April 25, 2006.
- Ron Cassie, Counter-demonstrators speak out against Israeli attacks, Baltimore Examiner reprinted at KevinZeese.Com, July 26, 2006.[dead link]
- William Hughes, Kevin Zeese Challenges Rep. Cardin on Israel, American Chronicle, August 04, 2006.
- Ann E. Marimow and John Wagner, Debate Targets Death Penalty, Washington Post, November 4, 2006, B01.
- Recording of November 3, 2006 Senatorial debate including Kevin Zeese.
- Real Video from the Cato Institute featuring Kevin Zeese along with Alan Bock speaking on The Law and Politics of Medical Marijuana, March 27, 2001.
- Kevin Zeese, Mishandling Nader, Dissident Voice, November 2004.
- Kevin Zeese, A Pretext for War; An interview with James Bamford, Antiwar.com, May 24, 2005.
- Kevin Zeeze, They're Staying in Iraq, Antiwar.com, April 22, 2006.
- Zeese for U.S. Senate 2006 campaign website
- Kevin Zeese on MySpace
- Kevin Zeese, The Real Cost of the Bailout, CounterPunch, November 26, 2008.