Indianapolis, Indiana — Recently a case was filed against the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and the Commission on Presidential Debate (CPD) citing unfair criteria for candidates to be included in presidential debates. During the last election, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein were excluded due to not meeting certain benchmarks set forth by the CPD. A quick glance at the CPD's website makes the laughable claim that they are a "nonpartisan" organization but as this last election shows that is the furthest thing from the truth.
According to the CPD's website one of the major criteria for being able to participate in the debates is the ability to meet the 2016 Nonpartisan Candidate Selection Criteria which it adopted in 2015. Candidates who wish to debate must "be Constitutionally eligible, candidates must appear on a sufficient number of ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning a majority vote in the Electoral College, and have a level of support of at least 15% of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations."
In response to these unfair regulations an organization known as Level the Playing Field (LPF) filed a lawsuit in U.S.District Court of Washington D.C. Lead Attorney for LPF Alexandra Shapiro made the case that the Commission on Presidential Debates should lose its nonprofit status due to its exclusion of 3rd party candidates due to them not meeting the CPD's criteria. The CPD is actually regulated by the Federal Elections Commission and in a surprising turn of events Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled against the FEC. Judge Chutkan granted the LPF's request for summary judgement and ordered the FEC to reconsider the allegations leveled against the CPD within a 30 day time frame.
A look at Judge Chutkan's order states "The FEC is ordered to reconsider the evidence and allegations and issue a new decision consistent with this opinion within 30 days, failing which the complainant(s) may bring, in the name of such complainant(s), a civil action to remedy the violation involved in the original complaint. The FEC is further ordered to reconsider the Petition for Rulemaking and issue a new decision consistent this opinion within sixty days."
Another one LPF's main arguments claim that the FEC violated campaign finance law, consequently rigging the debates in favor of the 2 major party candidates. A cornerstone of LPF's argument is CPD raises millions of dollars in corporate funds to produce said debates, but that funding would be illegal if it was contributed to specific candidates e.g. Democrats and/or Republicans. The FEC apparently dismissed an enforcement case against the CPD which was previously brought and FEC attorney Robert Bonham could not provide a good reason to Judge Chutkan as to why it was dismissed. LPF is challenging that dismissal and making the case that current rules deprive independent and 3rd party candidates from having any chance to compete seriously for the Presidency. The last time a 3rd party candidate was included in the debates was Ross Perot in 1992.
Hopefully this ruling is a sign of things to come. Even though he was polling at 11% in some markets and on the ballot in all 50 states, Gary Johnson was left out in the cold. Looking at poll numbers this last election Johnson garnered over 4 million votes, when you think about that, the FEC and CPD silenced over 4 million persons whose votes and voices deserved to be heard but were stifled by the establishment. This election cycle gave us the 2 most polarizing figures in recent political history, and most people voted for the lesser of two evils, but voting for the lesser evil is still voting for evil. It is time for our voices to be heard and to tell the bloated government we have had enough and hopefully this was the first step. The system is rigged against us Libertarians but we will not give up the fight for what we believe in. The FEC and CPD can be summed in one very simple quote. In the words of Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"