Tomorrow, September 29, 2015, the Libertarian Party and other plaintiffs will file a lawsuit against the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The nature of the lawsuit is that the CPD engages in excluding qualified candidates for President of the United States during their debates in an effort to marginalize and limit American’s ability to see all the candidates who are qualified to be elected president. The CPD is being accused of operating a bi-partisan organization rather than non-partisan as it claims in an effort to keep the Democrats and Republicans in power.
Besides the Libertarian Party’s national committee, other plaintiffs include 2012 Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson; Jim Gray, 2012 Libertarian vice-presidential nominee; Jill Stein, 2012 Green Party presidential nominee; Cheri Honkala, 2012 Green Party vice-presidential nominee and the Green Party of the United States. Bruce Fein, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, will file the complaint tomorrow morning at 10:30 a.m.
The lawsuit challenges the exclusion of candidates from CPD-sponsored debates and is backed by the Our America Initiative, a not-for-profit advocacy organization, through their Fair Debates project. Former New Mexico Governor and 2012 Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson is the Honorary Chairman of the Our America Initiative. As a Libertarian Party candidate, Johnson was denied permission to debate candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney at the 2012 presidential debates even though he was on enough state ballots to mathematically be elected President of the United States. Johnson argues that the CPD is operating a “rigged system” of exclusion to keep the two-party duopoly in power.
The last third party candidate to appear on the debate stage with a Democrat or Republican presidential candidate was over 20 years ago with Ross Perot who garnered over 19 percent of the vote. When that happened, there was a sweeping change to how presidential debates were handled to make certain that never happened again — and it hasn’t. Americans have been led to believe they only have two candidates to choose from for president, even though in most states several candidates appear on the ballot on election day. But since the other candidates have been marginalized by the CPD and the general media, most people feel candidates other than a Republican or Democrat are not really qualified to be president because they’ve never heard of them.
Studies have proven that the more exposure candidates receive, the better chance those candidates have a chance of winning an election. Most recently we see what has happened with Donald Trump in the current presidential election cycle. Trump has not had to spend any money on television ads because the general media is covering him extensively for free and his poll numbers reflect that massive media coverage. It has been argued that if another candidate, say, Gary Johnson was covered in the news as much as Trump, he would likely have similar poll numbers. According to the lawsuit to be filed tomorrow, the fact that the CPD purposefully excludes qualified candidates for the office of President, puts third party candidates at an unfair advantage for equal exposure alongside the Democrat and Republican candidates.