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lawsuit: Green + Libertarian vs FEC/CPD on Presidential Debates – upcoming US District Court hearing Jan 5th

December 21, 2016

Something I would like to see more coverage on…

Summary: this lawsuit has to do with the CPD and FEC, and whether they are really non-partisan, or whether they are locking in the Democratic and Republican parties as the only choices presented to voters.

“LPF vs FEC”

Plaintiff: Peter Ackerman, the “Level the Playing Field” (LPF) organization, also Green Party and Libertarian party

Defendant: Federal Election Commission (FEC), a 6-member (3 Dem + 3 Rep) body charged with carrying out certain US laws having to do with the integrity of US elections.

Lawsuit initiated in 2015. The issue is the Corporation on Presidential Debates (CPD), which some years ago took over organizing the national Presidential election debates from the League of Women Voters. The CPD was set up to be a bipartisan (D+R) body. Among other criticisms, the plaintiffs here are saying that the law requires the FEC to ensure that the election is overseen by a nonpartisan process, which is different from a bipartisan process in that bipartisan means 3rd parties get locked out, in practice.

The FEC is not new to controversy. Most famously, the Citizens United supreme court decision was justified in part by saying that FEC can function as a check on any abuse of the system. In reality, the FEC’s 3-Dem vs 3-Rep composition means it is perpetually deadlocked on any partisan issue, typically failing to even get the 4 votes needed for a quorum to even discuss a matter brought to it.

In this case, where third parties appear to be at an intentionally systematic disadvantage in US politics, the bipartisan compositions of the FEC and CPD are naturally united. The CPD set a “15%” threshold to allow third party candidates to participate in debates, creating a chicken-and-egg problem (you need national exposure to get that 15%), and making it easy for the national media to discount any third parties by reasoning that they’ll be locked out of the debates anyway.

The actual substance of the lawsuit is much more technical however, so if you have lots of time and patience, see the first link below. There has been almost no reporting of this that I am finding, other than a brief mention by Dylan Ratigan appearing on MSNBC on Dec 2nd (talking about Bernie Sanders). (includes court docs)

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