The 2012 presidential and vice-presidential nominees of both the Libertarian and Green parties are joining forces to challenge the Commission on Presidential Debates and its use of selection criteria that limit participation in general election presidential debates to the Republican and Democratic nominees.
The Our America Initiative, a non-profit advocacy organization, is coordinating the legal challenge. In addition to announcing the plaintiffs in the legal action, Senior Advisor for Our America Initiative, Ron Nielson, also announced the legal team that will handle the lawsuit. The plaintiffs will be represented by Rocky Anderson, former Salt Lake City mayor, 2012 Justic Party presidential nominee, and respected public interest attorney, and Bruce Fein, a nationally-known constitutional lawyer who served as Associate Deputy Attorney General and General Counsel of the Federal Communications Commission under President Reagan.
In addition to 2012 Libertarian presidential and vice-presidential nominees Gov. Gary Johnson and Judge Jim Gray (Ret.) and Green Party nominees Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, plaintiffs in the lawsuit will also include the candidates’ campaign organizations and both the Libertarian and Green national parties. When finalized, the lawsuit will be filed in federal court in Washington, DC.
The legal challenge will maintain that the Commission on Presidential Debates, a private organization, formed by the chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties, unfairly and intentionally limits participation in the nationally-televised debates to the Democratic and Republican nominees — placing other national party nominees at a severe and unjust disadvantage.
The proposed remedy will be that the debates include candidates who are legally qualified to serve and whose names appear on enough states’ ballots to potentially secure a majority in the Electoral College. In 2012, that threshold would have allowed participation by the Libertarian nominee Johnson and the Green Party’s Stein, as well as the two parties’ vice-presidential nominees.
Nielson stated, “Broadening the debates to include other qualified candidates will dramatically and democratically change the discussion on national issues by including opinions and solutions that are not currently being heard.”
Commenting on the planned litigation, Anderson, who ran for President as the Justice Party candidate in 2012, said, “Having been through the process, I have seen first-hand the extent to which the campaign process, including the presidential debates, is manipulated to constrain meaningful, diverse political dialogue and to rob voters of the opportunity to hear points of view and information often at odds with the insipid and substantially identical speaking points offered by the two major-party candidates, particulary on matters relating to foreign policy, national security, protections against Wall Street abuses, and civil and human rights atrocities. The CPD’s exclusive control of the nationally-televised debates serves to disenfranchise the majority of Americans who believe that neither the Republican nor Democratic party represents them.”
Fein, a noted constitutional lawyer, added, “We believe federal courts will be alarmed that two private organizations with ulterior motives, the Republican and Democratic parties, dictate the presidential debate agenda for the entire electorate by intentionally excluding third party or independent candidate participation. The consequence is political stagnation. It is universally acknowledged that exclusion from the Super Bowl of debates is the death knell for a presidential candidate of any stripe.”