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  • Libertarian Party of Orange County

Fair Presidential Debates Update: Plaintiffs in lawsuit blast FEC

In a continuing lawsuit aimed at forcing the FEC to strike prohibitive criteria for debate inclusion imposed by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), Level the Playing Field (LPF) blasted the FEC when it filed for injunctive relief on May 26.

The Libertarian Party is a co-plaintiff in the case Level the Playing Field (LPF) v. Federal Election Commission (FEC). LPF’s new filing was a response to the FEC’s flimsy response to a federal court decision in February.

In its original lawsuit, LPF argued that, without spending many hundreds of millions of dollars to gain name recognition, independent and third-party candidates cannot achieve the 15% threshold for participation in presidential debates set by the CPD.

In LPF’s new filing, lead attorney Alexandra A. E. Shapiro asserts that the FEC continues to disregard much of the evidence presented in the case, and its treatment of the remainder is frivolous. It notes, “What is even more telling about the FEC’s [court filing] is how little they do to actually defend the 15% polling criterion. It offers no justification of its own for a polling criterion so high that, since the CPD’s inception, no independent presidential candidate has satisfied it. The FEC does not and cannot refute the fundamental mathematical principles that make the 15% rule biased against independent candidates.”

“The FEC has tried to address our arguments through cherry-picking, manipulation, and inaccuracies,” said Peter Ackerman, chairman of LPF. “That’s all they can do. There is no objective, nonpartisan reason for the rule that the CPD uses.”

“If these rules are not changed, we might as well write into the Constitution that only Republicans and Democrats can be president,” he said.

Both filings were a response to a blistering adverse decision by a federal court on Feb 1 issued by U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, who ruled “the FEC acted arbitrarily and capriciously and contrary to law” when it summarily rejected LPF’s original administrative complaints to the commission. Chutkan decided that the FEC “appears to have stuck its head in the sand and ignored” what she called a “mountain” of evidence that the debate-selection criteria were rigged in favor of Democrats and Republicans and against challengers.

“We hope the courts continue to rule against the blatant bias of the FEC and CPD and demand fair debate inclusion criteria,” said Nicholas Sarwark, Chair of the Libertarian National Committee. “If they do, voters will have a chance to elect a president who will work to bring about the liberty, justice, peace, opportunity, and prosperity that Americans crave.”

If the FEC fails to act in response to the latest filing, LPF has asked the judge to authorize Plaintiffs to bring a civil action against the CPD and its executive directors.

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