Every agency of the federal government is controlled by corporate power, independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader told reporters before a public speech at a packed Town Hall Seattle on Tuesday evening.

Every agency of the federal government is controlled by corporate power, independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader told reporters before a public speech at a packed Town Hall Seattle on Tuesday evening.

Nader said the U.S. is essentially a “plutocracy” (government by the wealthy), run by “speculators and crooks” on Wall Street. He offered as evidence the $700 billion financial-rescue package that Congress approved, which, he said, rewards “deceivers” for the “looting and swindling.”

In his fourth presidential campaign, Nader is on the ballot in 45 states, including Washington, and polls indicate he has garnered about 2 percent support nationally.

Tuesday night, Nader called for the prosecution of those on Wall Street responsible for the current financial crisis.

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He also called for a transaction tax on the sale of financial derivatives — contracts whose values are linked to assets such as mortgages or stocks — to raise money to fund the rescue package. It’s a better solution than using taxpayer dollars, he said.

Nader condemned major-party candidates Barack Obama and John McCain for supporting the rescue package and said the two candidates share more similarities than differences. For example, he said their positions are similar on negotiating with Cuba and on offshore drilling.

Both candidates have set themselves up to be controlled by corporations, he said.

Nader has been critical of the two-party political system, which he says is upheld not by the Constitution but rather by “political bigotry,” corporate interests and the mainstream media.

“If I got as much national coverage as the pandas, all kinds of people would know me,” he said at the public meeting.

In campaign stops in the Northwest this week, Nader has argued that the two-party system is bound to break up. He said he hoped the blow would come as the result of a grass-roots movement but that it is more likely to come from a candidate with the money to bypass the Democratic and Republican parties and the national media.

Who could be such a candidate?

Bill Gates, Nader suggested.

“There are so many billionaires now,” Nader told The Oregonian newspaper before an appearance in Portland on Monday. “There will be one going in. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gates went in 2016. He will have seen that massive charity won’t do it. It takes public policy.”

Gates resigned from his full-time position at Microsoft this year to focus on his foundation, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

While Nader predicts a Gates run eight years from now, it is Nader on this year’s ballot. It was his 2000 bid for the presidency some Democrats say tipped the results in President Bush’s favor.

Noelene Clark: 206-464-2321 or nclark@seattletimes.com. Information from the Associated Press is included in this report.