Lawsuit Against Phony Debate Commission Filed

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Note: The Commission on Presidential Debates is a charade. It may have a name that sounds official but in fact it is a corporation created by Democratic and Republican political operatives and funded by big business interests to keep independent parties like the Green and Libertatian Party as well as independent candidates out of the presidential debates. Jill Stein announced that she would be running for the Green Party nomination for president in 2016 on the same day the Green Party announced it was joining the lawsuit.  In 2012 she and her running mate, Cheri Honkola, were arrested seeking to participate in the presidential debate held at Hofstra University.

The corporate media has played along with these charade debates that exclude candidates rather than insisting that all candidates with ballot access be allowed to participate. A lawsuit has been filed to require the so-called Commission become non-partisan and use objective criteria to determine debate participation.

A record number of Americans now consider themselves independent of the Democratic and Republican parties. Forty-two percent say they are independents while only 30 percent consider themselves Democrats and 26 percent consider themselves Republicans. In addition, 60 percent of Americans want a third party candidate in 2016, also a record. This makes increasingly difficult for the Commission to justify excluding candidates independent of the duopoly. This would be long overdue changes because non-participation in presidential debates is a barrier to fair elections. KZ

Green Party candidate Jill Stein along with her VP candidate Cheri Honkola getting arrested in 2012 at Hofstra University debate

Green Party candidate Jill Stein along with her VP candidate Cheri Honkola getting arrested in 2012 at Hofstra University debate

Green Party and Libertarian Party Joins Level the Playing Field Lawsuit to Open the Presidential Debates

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Green Party of the United States has joined in a lawsuit filed in a federal district court in Washington, D.C. on Monday alleging that third-party and independent candidates have been illegally excluded from the televised presidential debates in general elections.
The lawsuit charges that the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) and certain of its directors have violated federal election law, including a Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulation requiring organizations like the CPD to be “nonpartisan” and to use “objective criteria” to determine who can be in their debates.Nader Open Debates image
The federal court complaint cites extensive evidence showing that the CPD is not nonpartisan and instead promotes the candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties while excluding all others from the debates, and that since 2000 it has used a criterion that only the Democratic and Republican nominees could reasonably achieve in order to illegally exclude third-party and independent candidates from the debates.
Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and running mate Cheri Honkala were excluded from the CPD debates in 2012.
According to the lawsuit, the failure of the FEC, whose commissioners are members of the Democratic and Republican parties, to act on an administrative complaint against the CPD and a petition for rulemaking was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise contrary to law.
Plaintiffs have asked the Court to either direct the FEC to find that the CPD and certain of its directors have violated the law, or permit plaintiffs to bring a civil action directly against the CPD and those directors. The suit also asks the Court to direct the FEC to open a rulemaking proceeding to revise its rules governing presidential debates.
Level the Playing Field (LPF), the lead plaintiff, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit corporation not affiliated with any candidate or candidate committee. Its purpose is to promote reforms that allow for greater competition and choice in elections for federal office, particularly for the presidency and vice presidency. LPF is the successor to Americans Elect, which obtained signatures sufficient to qualify for ballot access in 41 states in connection with the 2012 presidential election.

Debate Nader protest at Commission on Presidential Debates  in 2000 with Christopher Hitchens speaking

Debate Nader protest at Commission on Presidential Debates in 2000 with Christopher Hitchens speaking

The Libertarian National Committee, Inc., which controls and manages the affairs and resources of the United States Libertarian Party, is also a plaintiff.
“The CPD uses its control of the debates to exclude qualified candidates and promote its favorite corporate-money candidates. Their exclusionary tactics keep voters from hearing the voices of candidates who are offering ideas outside of the two- party duopoly,” said Dr. Stein. “Polls show that American people are disgusted with the Democrats and Republicans and demand a viable third party. The actions of the CPD make the debates less informative and perpetuate the status quo. Opening up the debates will be a powerful force to revive our embattled democracy.”
(See “Americans Continue to Say a Third Political Party Is Needed,” Gallup, Sept. 24, 2014,
“Elections should be decided by informed voters, not by party insiders who manipulate debate rules to keep voters in the dark. Open and inclusive debates will revitalize American democracy. In 2016 we have a chance to get it right,” said Karen Young, co-chair of the Green Party.
Contact for the “Level the Playing Field” lawsuit: Alexandra Shapiro,
See also:
Green Party, 2012 Green presidential nominees are among the plaintiffs in the “Our America Initiative” law suit against the Commission on Presidential Debates, Press release: Green Party of the United States, April 21, 2015
  • Aquifer

    Shucks, who cares who’s in the debates if elections at that level are “unimportant” or “meaningless”?

  • kevinzeese

    Do you not want to get it? You seem to say that if we do not make elections our primary focus than we do not think elections have a role to play? It is not that black and white.

    Elections are an opportunity to put issues on the national agenda. We know we will end up with a Wall Street representative of the corporate political duopoly but that does not mean elections have no role. And, presidential debates are a key to broadening the political spectrum s tens of millions Americans watch them. If the Green Party is in the debate, or if Nader had been in the debates, the content would have been very different and the public would have heard detailed descriptions of policies that actually work and could solve problems the country faces. This political education is a first step to building the political movement.

    So yes, opening up the debates beyond two Wall Street candidates is important — not necessarily to the election oucome as there are other structural problems in our mirage elections — but widely educating people and building a movement that can change the political culture and the direction of the country.

    You still never answered me about the Civil Rights movement and how it made most of its progress before engaging in elections or running for office. After they focused on elections civil rights progress stalled. It is an interesting phenomen worth considering. Maybe MLK was right to stay out of elections and remain independent of the two Jim Crow parties (now two corporate parties).

  • Dawn Wolfson

    I wonder what the chances are that this will actually get heard and decided in time to impact the 2016 election.

  • Aquifer

    I thought I had directly addressed your point ….

    What was one of the main focal points of the Civil Rights Movement – getting the right to – vote. And wasn’t that considered one of the major successes – getting that right?

    And why did they want that right, and fight so hard for it – because they thought that they could achieve so many other things through it – If they did not achieve those things through that mechanism, why was that? Could it possibly be because they persisted in making poor choices at the polls? Could it be that the vote is like any other tool – that you have to pay attention to how you use it – that you have to focus on the what and not the who?

    I agree that MLK was right to remain independent of the two major parties, but the fact remains that as long as they were the only choices that folks made, at the end of the day, it didn’t matter that they were officially “independent” of them – as long as they persisted in voting for either, they were, in fact, very dependent on the legislation the duopoly passed. It wasn’t a focus on elections, per se, that did them in, it was on who they elected – I do not know how to make this point any clearer …

    I agree that getting in the debates would be useful – to make clear that there are other policy choices, but here, again, as long as folks don’t make those choices at the polls, they remain good talking points and nothing more …. The key is to vote the same way at the electoral polls as they do in opinion polls – and they don’t do it. Why is that? I maintain here are several reasons – and one is they have become convinced as a result of preaching from many sides, that elections don’t matter, because “We know we will end up with a Wall Street representative of the corporate political duopoly …”, so if you vote, you might as well just pick the guy/gal who you would like to have a beer with, who is the same gender or color, etc. But the only thing we really “know” is that we will end up with the people we vote for, though that idea is pooh-poohed as well; throw in the “spoiler” and “can’t win” memes and you have the perfect recipe for failure .. i have been to local debates where a Green was on stage, only to hear comments to the effect, “I like so and so, And i agree with him – but i won’t support him because he can’t win”, i.e. “I know we will end up with a Wall Street representative of the corporate political duopoly .., so it is best to choose the LOTE” – what Stein calls “the politics of fear”. I wonder where Syriza and Podemos would be if the folks who voted for them had felt that way …..

    And i don’t know why you keep saying that my position is to make elections a “primary” focus – I have always advocated only to give them an equal focus,as opposed to the short shrift they get from too many progs – the one legged man is equally ineffective no matter which leg is missing …. There are many ways to educate people …

    You are right – “it is not that black and white” but such a view of politics seems to be the order of the day, almost literally – and that world view leaves no room for green …

    I am not the one who insists on one or the other …

    I get it quite well, indeed –

  • Heather Johnson

    I care, because it may open the door legally to go at the discrimination of third parties state by state.

  • Aquifer

    Sorry, I was being sarcastic …. note my words in quotes,

    My favored candidate, Stein, is one of the folks suing to open the debates – the one who got handcuffed to a chair when she tried to enter one in ’12 …

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