Friday, August 13, 2004

Open Debates

Today my new Ralph Nader Buttons, tee-shirt, & bumper stickers came in the mail.
Plus, some information was posted about this November's Presidential Debates which is very exciting. Here it is:
Federal Court Rules That Commission on Presidential Debates is a Partisan OrganizationCPD not credible to run non-partisan debatesNader urges support of Citizens' Debate

CommissionWashington, DC: Independent Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader today applauded a federal court decision that found the FEC acted contrary to the Federal Elections Act by ignoring evidence that the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) is a partisan political organization.

"This decision is the first step toward getting real presidential debates this Fall. A federal court, looking at all the evidence, found that the FEC has been ignoring evidence that the Commission on Presidential Debates is a partisan organization," said Nader. "How can a partisan organization sponsor impartial debates? How can they set up fair rules to determine who should be allowed to participate? They can't. And, they shouldn't. The CPD should be prevented from sponsoring these debates under their partisan auspices."

The decision was the result of a case filed by Ralph Nader, John Hagelin, Pat Buchanan, Howard Phillips, Winona LaDuke, the Natural Law Party, the Green Party, and the Constitution Party. In an 18-page decision, US District Court Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. ruled that a dismissal of a complaint filed by Nader with the FEC was wrong because the FEC was incorrect in finding the CPD was non-partisan. He sent the case back to the FEC, ordering the FEC to remedy the situation.

In reaching its decision that the evidence does not justify the FEC's dismissal of the plaintiffs' complaint of CPD partisanship, the court relied on plaintiffs' allegations, namely:

  • CPD was founded by the two major parties
  • CPD has been co-chaired by the two former DNC and RNC chairmen since its founding in 1987
  • Nine of eleven CPD directors are prominent Republicans and Democrats
  • No third-party member is a CPD director
  • CPD's current conduct shows it to be a partisan organization (Decision, at page 4)

The court found persuasive that CPD decided to exclude all third-party candidates from entering the 2000 presidential debates (even as ticket-holding audience members), absent any evidence that the third-party candidates would cause disruption. The CPD used a facebook of all third-party candidates to instruct security to bar their entry into the debates.

Nader noted: "There is a new presidential debate commission, the Citizens' Debate Commission, which is clearly non-partisan. It should be responsible for this fall's debates, so that the corporate political duopoly does not control the information highway to tens of millions of Americans. With a prestigious board of directors from across the political spectrum, the Citizens' Debate Commission is clearly non-partisan, free from the the control of any candidate or any party. The FEC and the media should work with the Citizens' Debate Commission in planning the 2004 presidential debates."

Polls have consistently shown that voters want more voices and choices in the debates. Among other similar polls, a FOX News poll showed that, in 2000, 64% of the public wanted Ralph Nader and Patrick Buchanan included in the debates.

"The media, and especially the television networks, should now look away from this two-party-dominated debate commission, funded by beer, tobacco, auto, and other corporate interests, and look toward the Citizens' Debate Commission as a much more democratically representative institution to sponsor these debates. Otherwise, the networks will be producing ever-lower ratings while relaying parallel interviews, passed off as debates, by a very partisan and exclusionary CPD," said Nader.

The case was Hagelin et al v. the Federal Election Commission, Civ. Act. No. 0400731 (August 12, 2004). The Citizens' Debate Commission is at http://www.opendebates.org/.

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