WASHINGTON - August 13 - Green Party leaders hailed last night's decision by Federal Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., which struck down as "contrary to the law" the Federal Election Commission's (FEC) refusal to allow challenges to the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).
Advocates of clean elections have long complained that the establishment parties have used the CPD to avoid the federal ban on corporate contributions. Judge Kennedy's ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Green Party of the United States and several other political parties and presidential candidates.
The CPD is owned and operated by the Democratic and Republican Parties, and is funded primarily by corporate sponsors, which have an interest in restricting the participants and issues promoted in the debates.
A finding of partisanship would disqualify the CPD from future debate sponsorship. Corporate contributions are prohibited in federal elections, although such funds be used for presidential and vice presidential debates if those debates are sponsored by a nonprofit, non-partisan organization.
The Court based it's ruling on plaintiffs' allegations that the CPD was 1) founded by the two major parties; 2) since its founding in 1987, CPD has been co-chaired by the two former DNC and RNC chairmen; 3) nine of eleven CPD directors are prominent Republicans and Democrats; 4) no third-party member is a CPD director; and 5) that the CPD's current conduct shows it to be a partisan organization.
The Court agreed that the CPD showed its level of partisanship when it barred third party candidates from the debates as audience members with valid tickets, and ordered the FEC to proceed with an investigation based on the third party complaint without delay. The ruling may affect the upcoming 2004 presidential debates, the first of which is scheduled for September 30.
"Voters deserve to know which candidate for President best represents their interests, their hopes, and their ideals," said Maya O'Connor, national co-chair of the Green Party of the United States. "Voters deserve to hear all the candidates debate, not just the two approved by corporate benefactors. Any candidate whose name will be on enough ballots to win an election deserves to participate in the debates. Today's decision is a major step towards fair debates and fair elections."
Green national nominees David Cobb and Pat LaMarche are expected to appear on as many as 40 state ballots, more than any other progressive presidential ticket in 2004.
Greens support the transfer of control over the presidential debates to a publicly accountable, inclusive nonpartisan citizens' commission, asproposed by the organization Open Debates.