Election 2012

Presidential Debates Lose Sponsors Over Exclusion of Third-Party Candidates


Debate podiums

The Commission on Presidential Debates, a bipartisan project of the Republican and Democratic parties, was established, at least in part, to make sure that major party presidential candidates would be unlikely to suffer the indignity of sharing a stage with an outsider. The effort hasn't been completely successful — Ross Perot actually managed to meet the CPD's nearly prohibitive criteria for inclusion in 1992 — but the two parties now have a lot more control over the ritualistic meetings between their chosen contenders than they did back in the wild and woolly days when they might be thrown curve balls by such unpredictable loose-cannon debate hosts of the past as the League of Women Voters. That stage-managed, private-club quality taken on the by the CPD's debates may not be working out in their favor this year, with three debate sponsors pulling out explicitly to avoid being seen as endorsing Republicans and Democrats at the expense of candidates from other political parties.

In response to my query, Mark A. Stephenson, Head of Corporate Communications for Philips North America, sent me this statement:

The Commission on Presidential Debates is a nonprofit, 501(c) (3) corporation dedicated to providing a platform to the U.S. public – in the form of presidential and vice-presidential debates – which serves to inform voters on a variety of issues.  Philips, a company with roots in the U.S spanning more than eight decades, supports the goals and ideals of having a more engaged and informed electorate.  Philips also has a long and proud heritage of being non-partisan in the many countries it serves around the world.  While the Commission on Presidential Debates is a non-partisan organization, their work may appear to support bi-partisan politics.  We respect all points of view and, as a result, want to ensure that Philips doesn't provide even the slightest appearance of supporting partisan politics.  As such, no company funds have been or will be used to support the Commission on Presidential Debates.

This is remarkably similar to a statement released by the YWCA, signed by the organization's CEO, Dara Richardson-Heron:

On behalf of the YWCA USA, I would like to thank you for your recent letter expressing concerns about the Commission on Presidential Debates and the YWCA's sponsorship of the 2012 debates next month.

As a nonpartisan organization dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all, we have decided to withdraw our sponsorship effective immediately.

Again, we thank you for alerting us of your concerns and appreciate your support of the YWCA and our mission.

BBH New York, an arm of the international Bartle Bogle and Hegarty advertising agency has also dropped its support for the CPD's media events, although that company is struggling and may no longer be in a position to throw money at politicians. All three organizations have disappeared from the CPD's official list of sponsors. That list, by the way, is now down to seven, which is the shortest the organization has listed over the years of its existence for the debates it has organized.

Third-party supporters — Gary Johnson-backers, in particular — as well as advocates of open debates have leaned on the CPD especially hard this year. Part of their effort has been to put pressure on sponsors. That tactic is obviously working.

I wouldn't expect the CPD to cave anytime soon and admit candidates like Gary Johnson, of the Libertarian Party, and Jill Stein, of the Green Party, just because they're on the ballot in enough states to, conceivably, win and running for the same office as the two anointed politicos who have been approved for participation. But I suspect that advocates of open political dialogue are getting much more exposure this year then the Republican and Democratic establishment would like, and that their creature, the CPD, is leaking credibility, not to mention financial viability, with the departure of check-writing sponsors.

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  1. Aren’t Philips the screwdriver guys? If so, it’s the makers of actual screwdrivers opposing metaphorical screwing.

    1. Not sure if serious.

      If so: No, Philips makes electronics, such as the computer monitor I’m staring at right now. A Phillips screwdriver is a type of screwdriver, created by Henry Phillips, and not a brand.

      1. I knew someone would clarify that.

        1. What you did is the equivalent of ringing Pavlov’s bell.

      2. Last time I checked, Phillips is a registered trademark for the drive system and there’s a company that exists almost solely to license the technology.

    2. Philips is one of the biggest multinationals out there. They probably have a division making screwdrivers, but they’re in everything from lightbulbs to cat scans.

  2. The Commission on Presidential Debates is a nonprofit, 501(c) (3) corporation dedicated to providing a platform to the U.S. public ? in the form of presidential and vice-presidential debates ? which serves to inform voters on a variety of issues.

    It depends on what the definition of “inform” is.

    1. Why the fuck is an organization like this eligible, not just for tax-exempt status, but for the best kind, where donations to it are tax deductible?

  3. Frankly, I’m not too outraged about Gary Johnson hitting these guys with an anti-trust lawsuit. Yeah, anti-trust laws shouldn’t exist, but neither should the myriad ballot access laws that both parties love. I view it as akin to calling the cops on a hardline drug warrior because you saw him smoking pot. Fuck ’em.

  4. It’s important to remember that bi-partisan is still partisan.

    1. God frowns on tri-partisan relationships.

      1. The definition of “debate” has always been one man on one man.

        1. What would you call the primary debates?

          I suppose none of them are really debates as debates involve using logic and reasoning to argue a point.

          1. Uni-partisan, so technically it’s masturbatory. A no-no for Catholics, but mildly acceptable for Protestants.

            1. And since it involved several people at a time, technically doesn’t that make it a circle jerk? I’d say that’s a pretty apt description.

      2. If they let Gary Johnson in the debates, what’s next? A child in the debates? A dog or a sheep? Where does it end!

        1. Yeah, imagine the embarrassment of Obama and Romney getting beaten by a sheep.

          1. It’s hard. They’re both incapable of embarrassment.

            1. Yeah, but their supporters would get surprise by the turnaround. They’re not use to sheep fucking THEM.

        2. Probably some other 2-term governor running on a national party ticket will want in too next time.

  5. that company is struggling and may no longer be in a position to throw money at politicians.

    How the fuck do they expect to get bailed out?

  6. How can the organization be tax exempt when it only invites two political parties?

    1. It invites every political party that achieves their completely reasonable and objective criteria.

    1. I always vote for the turd.

      1. You are everything that is wrong with this country.

        1. It’s nice to be appreciated.

  7. I can’t help but wonder what the “major” parties are afraid of. After all, they’re always going on about how third party candidates are “fringe loonies” and the like. So our intrepid “major” party candidates should have absolutely no trouble demolishing these crazies in a debate, right?

    1. They’re afraid of providing even a shred of legitimacy to any third party. It’s the one area of politics where I think there is a true conspiracy.

      1. LOL, yeah, because even with just a shred of legitimacy the third party would have more than the Republicrats.

    2. Their biggest fear is that one shows up and sounds sensible. End of the duopoly.

      1. That, and a third party would show just how similar Obamney and Obamney are.

    3. Perot got 19% with his crazy dropping out/coming back in act.

      And his ears.

      Now take someone who talks the same game and doesnt look weird and has both business and political experience?

      Im not saying Johnson “talks the same game” as Perot, but the concept is still there, for someone out there.

      Perot ’92 scared the 2 party system to death. Who knows what he would have done from the Oval Office…he wouldnt have followed orders of the parties and he might have said bad things about both, instead of just 1. He might have expected them to act a individual legislators instead of collective parties.

      And does anyone think he would have given a damn about reelection? I think he would have tried for a 2nd term, but I dont think he would have sold out his agenda for it.

      1. Yeah, but Perot got fawning treatment from the major media at first, including a softball interview on Larry King back when that was a big deal, and a puff piece on 60 Minutes back before cable was king.

        No chance anyone will treat Gary Johnson as a serious candidate, even though he’s more qualified than Obama was last time, and has a better record than either Obama or Romney.

    4. There is an unspoken agreement between the two major parties that certain subject matter is taboo.

      A third party candidate would violate this.

      Things like the war on drug users, ethanol mandates, farm subsidies, and other things that the majors absolutely will not entertain.

  8. It will be interesting to see what wins out in the long run. The two big parties have control over the debates now, but the debates last time were just terrible. I can’t imagine there would be any more viewers this time around. Adding two more parties would bring in a lot more viewers, even if it’s just because of the novelty.

    That’s assuming that whoever airs the debates even cares about ratings.

    1. They don’t.

      The debates exist to give the chattering classes and the DemOp media a launching pad for their prefab analysis and horserace stories.

    2. There will be plenty of viewers. It’s “the most important election of our lifetimes”, remember?

  9. According to the CPD, George Washington would not be allowed to participate in a presidential debate, given the fact he belonged to no party and actively hated them.

  10. http://www.independentpolitica…..nsors-etc/

    Resources for Contacting the Commission on Presidential Debates, Sponsors, etc.

  11. I like seeing the issue of third party exclusion published here. In Perot’s early days, only 5% was required and then this facist organization raised it to the truly difficult 15%. Gary Johnson’s campaign manager knew all this and should have used the $2M collected by the campaign to promote Johnson harder all the way from the GOP convention until last week. I know the GOP cost the Libertarians plenty of dough in litigation but not that much to prevent some TV spots in battleground states. I am saddened that we are being outplayed from without and perhaps from within.

  12. Why not have a debate between Johnson, the Green Party, and any other of the third-parties? I know it’s not the big stage, but could help to get the disparate ‘none of the above’ groups talking together. Also, I feel that logic will prevail and the libertarians may actually be able to pick-up / convert some of the others who are disenchanted. Just a thought.

    1. A good idea (and it’s been done before), but no one watches.

  13. Now you just need a couple of empty suits to match those empty podiums. Just wait til Wednesday though, and you’ll have ’em.

  14. There is little chance the establishment will allow either to get on the ballot. I don’t imagine this lawsuit goes anywhere. Even more reason to not like or vote for the two candidates given us.

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