Presidential Debate

Libertarian Debate News: L.P. To Get a Day in Court Against Debate Access Restrictions, But Too Late for 2016; Florida Senate Candidate Paul Stanton Excluded from Debate


The Libertarian Party, as I detailed back in May, was involved in two distinct lawsuits that could have resulted in presidential candidate Gary Johnson getting into the presidential debates.

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One of them, Johnson v. Commission on Presidential Debates, against the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) itself, was tossed in August by U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer for the D.C. Circuit.

That case is now, according to lawyer Bruce Fein in an email today, "on appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. No briefing schedule has yet been issued and thus no oral argument date."

A second lawsuit, targeted specifically at the Federal Elections Commission for its alleged failures to properly curb the Commission on Presidential Debates, had been awaiting a decision on motions for summary judgment from both parties for months. Its official name is Level the Playing Field v. FEC.

Level the Playing Field is a "nonpartisan, nonprofit corporation not affiliated with any candidate or candidate committee…[whose] purpose is to promote reforms that allow for greater competition and choice in elections for federal office, particularly for the Presidency and Vice Presidency." The Libertarian Party and Green Party are also plaintiffs in that suit.

This week, a date was announced for oral arguments on the motions for summary judgment. The catch: they are set for January 7, 2017, too late to affect the debates before the 2016 election.

From my past reporting, a quick summation of the arguments in that case, also in U.S. District Court for D.C.

The latest motion for summary judgment argues that the CPD has always been a deliberated duopoly for the two major parties and has "been violating FECA and FEC regulations limiting debate-sponsoring organizations' ability to use corporate funds to finance their activities" since its efforts are not truly "nonpartisan." The suit accuses the FEC "refus[ing] to enforce the law and ignored virtually all of this evidence in conclusorily dismissing the complaints even though there is plainly reason to believe that the CPD is violating FECA…."

The suit accuses the CPD's 15 percent polling requirement to be admitted to the debate as being effectively "impossible for an independent candidate who is not a self-funded billionaire to achieve."

The suit further claims the FEC is derelict in its duties, behaving as if its job is somehow:

to protect the CPD and the major parties. The FEC relied on an interpretation of its debate staging regulation that is at odds with the text of the regulation and inconsistent with FECA. The FEC ignored virtually all of Plaintiffs' allegations that the CPD is biased in favor of the two major parties. Its cursory analysis of Plaintiffs' detailed evidence that the polling criterion disproportionately disadvantages independent candidates was conclusory and illogical, and failed to actually consider Plaintiffs' allegations. This was arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law…..

The motion for summary judgment finally requests that:

The Court should grant summary judgment for Plaintiffs, and direct the FEC to do its job, which is to enforce the law and put an end to the CPD's biased, anti-democratic, and fundamentally corrupt and exclusionary polling rule.

Those arguments will now be made in court in front of Judge Tanya Chutkan, alas too late to matter for 2016 no matter the outcome.

In other L.P./debate access news, I reported last week how, by at least one seemingly legitimate interpretation of the stated rules, the L.P.'s Florida Senate candidate Paul Stanton might qualify to be invited to a public debate on October 26 with incumbent Republican Marco Rubio and Democratic challenger Paul Murphy.

Now, the group running the debates has officially said no go to Stanton's campaign.

Their reasons, in a letter I've obtained, sent from Dean Ridings of the Florida Press Association which co-hosts the debates?

First, that the Public Policy Polling poll in which Stanton earned 9 percent (which, along with what sounded like a 3.5 percent margin of error the hosts would give candidates, places him exactly at the 12.5 percent that should have earned entrance) does not qualify as a "credible and reputable independent poll."

That's because the poll was commissioned by a group called Action Fund, one known to have supported Democrat Patrick Murphy financially. Thus, Ridings says they conclude "that the PPP Poll was performed on behalf of a supporter of a candidate in the United States Senate Race and is not an independent poll."

Ridings also points out that they consider the poll illegitimate because it only listed three candidates by name, Rubio, Murphy, and Libertarian Stanton. In fact, though, "the ballot will list seven candidates by name. A poll question that contains a false or misleading premise and that only mentions some of the candidates who will appear on the ballot cannot, in our opinion, be considered a credible or fair assessment of likely voter intent."

Further, Ridings applies the ambiguity I wrote about last week against Stanton. While part of their requirements said that they would apply a uniform 3.5 percent margin of error in a candidates favor, here Ridings falls on the poll's own margin of error, a mere 3.4 percentage points.

The Stanton campaign's only comment today was, via email: "With Hurricane Matthew about to make landfall on the East Coast of Florida, Paul is concerned only for the safety of Floridians and has no further campaign statement today."

NEXT: CEO Carl Ferrer Arrested in Texas for Pimping, Conspiracy

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  1. L.P. To Get a Day in Court Against Debate Access Restrictions, But Too Late for 2016

    How convenient that in this case “the wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine”.

    1. Your day in court isn’t until tomorrow.

      1. No need for that farce.

        Just send me straight to my homies in CB4.

  2. The LP is asking the federal government to crack down on a private organization for being too partisan?

    Where shall I start – the philosophical objections, or the practical objections?

    Philosophically, why does the LP want the government to be in the business of monitoring private groups to make sure they’re nonpartisan, and to visit them with government penalties if they’re partisan? What happened to the First Amendment right to be partisan?

    Practically, a government with the strength and the will to restrict the 1st Amendment rights of a duopoly organization is a government with the strength and the will to really go after third smaller, non-duopoly organizations, with a vengeance.

  3. reposting –

    File Under= Right Message, Wrong Messenger

    Prager U. sums up the declining credibility of major news-media over 2 decades, reflected in both the steady decline in newspaper revenues, as well as reader perceptions of major news outlets (% w/”trust/confidence in news media” – down from 60% in 1990s, to ~40% today)

    The process seems to have become a vicious cycle… where as revenues fall, news-outlets increasingly rely on far more junior staff, which in turn further degrades people’s perception of their credibility… as well as increasingly focusing on tabloid-style content- breathlessly chasing whatever story of the split-second happens to be trending in a desperate attempt to attract eyeballs…

    Mergers with larger corporate entities also means almost all are regularly re-purposing entertainment-industry PR/Marketing as “news product”.

    And of course there has been the steady blending of Editorial content within news-reporting itself; while some still pretend to some theoretical journalistic objectivity, the degree of partisan spin now routine in the smallest of stories has reached comical levels.

    All 100% true. The only odd part? is that they got “aluminum tubes” Judith Miller to be the narrator of this story.

    1. where as revenues fall, news-outlets increasingly rely on far more junior staff, which in turn further degrades people’s perception of their credibility… as well as increasingly focusing on tabloid-style content- breathlessly chasing whatever story of the split-second happens to be trending in a desperate attempt to attract eyeballs…

      Or, put more succinctly, “Robby Soave”.

      1. meh. Is “Petty-Outrage Journalism” a subset of Tabloid, or is it a separate category?

        I wasn’t thinking of Robby/Reason in that context (*they’re not really the “news media”) so much as the quote by Ben Rhodes in that NYT profile (*which you’d think the NYT might have actually responded to at some point via their ‘public editor’, but i never saw it)…

        It is hard for many to absorb the true magnitude of the change in the news business ? 40 percent of newspaper-industry professionals have lost their jobs over the past decade …. “All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

        Robby’s just a color-commentator; i think the real difference in the news business is that the “Play By Play”-people? the ‘reporters’ covering actual ‘real news stories’ (eg. like US conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia etc.)… are all a bunch of dumbfuck kids no better than Robby. At least what Robby covers is trivial. The shit the news media covers is serious, but they’re hardly any more experienced or capable.

        1. +10 faint praise

          1. Though, technically, the linked video is more dancehall, to a reggaeton track, nonetheless!

          2. My principal Youtube distraction lately has been “African disco/funk

            There’s lots of good stuff

            Much is reliant on 2-3 dated blogs. This guy did a nice doco on his own african record-digging, Dr Livingston style

            1. On the Kiki track, @1:15, is that a riff from Soul Makossa?
              If so, I’m sold.

              1. is that a riff from Soul Makossa

                i doubt anything is a direct shout out, but that anything from the 70s in africa uses a lot of the same horn-style riffs.

                interesting bio of the guy

                He dropped out of secondary school at 14 and after a tour of London with a local Ghanaian band called Pagadija,[1] he joined the UK-based Afro-rock group Osibisa. He was only 15 years old when he started playing with Osibisa in 1972, replacing the keyboardist who had just left, and he travelled internationally with the band during the 1970s, playing to large audiences around the world.[3]

                By the age of 18 Gyan had made more than a million dollars, “had hung out with Elton John and Mick Jagger, played for Britain’s queen and cruised on champagne-drenched luxury ocean-liners to island-hop in the Caribbean”.[1] In 1977, he met Marvin Gaye, Peter Tosh, Stevie Wonder, and Third World during the FESTAC event in Nigeria.[3] He left Osibisa to go solo in 1979 and recorded the single “24 Hours in a Disco”, which hit the charts in the United States and the UK.

                Osibisa was actually a pretty popular international band in the early 70s. I have like 3 of their records. But they had blends of jazz/psych rock/folk... more like a novelty act, trying to sound like WAR or Mandrill… Definitely not “pop-disco-funk”.

      2. That’s completely unfair to Soave – ‘the other side kinda sorta has a point’ disclaimers aside.

        At least his reporting is fairly complete and doesn’t consist of posting 15 times a day clickbait headlines, an annoying GIF, and half a paragraph of text – which seems to be the standard in the rest of the media.

    2. where as revenues fall, news-outlets increasingly rely on far more junior staff, which in turn further degrades people’s perception of their credibility… as well as increasingly focusing on tabloid-style content- breathlessly chasing whatever story of the split-second happens to be trending in a desperate attempt to attract eyeballs…

      And they’re still missing the ball. Yes, having a bunch of fresh-out-of-Columbia J-school students means that you have lower quality product. Yes, tabloid-style “bullshit of the day” news reporting means you have a lower quality product.

      However, they’re missing the simple economics of the situation. It used to be that I had 3 or 4 different ways to get local news and 6 or 8 different ways to get national/international news. They were all pretty similar, despite format differences and the occasional ideological difference here or there. Now I can go online and customize a news feed from hundreds of different content providers. Watching the evening news or reading the local newspaper is simply out of date.

      On top of that, we are able to better judge the content that Big Journolist Journalism is putting out, and we’re finding that it sucks compared to the newer content providers.

  4. Just when you think the Libertarian Party couldn’t get any less libertarian.

    But hey, keep shilling for it, Reason. Put aside any principles you have to cheer for your team.

  5. Libertarian Debate News: L.P….

    Condensed version: Newsflash: There is no libertarian in any debate. End newsflash.


  6. Now, I’m not a fan of the CPD and definitely think the FEC should be abandoned but . . . what criteria should the CPD use to decide where the cutoff is?

    I think its perfectly fair to say that we can’t include everyone who’s on even a single ballot – so many no-hopers and crazy nuts that it would destroy what little utility these debates have now.

    What’s the Libertarian Party’s solution here? The poll cut-off should be just below whatever the LP candidate is drawing and fuck everyone else? We can’t include everyone and wherever you put the cutoff line there will be someone crying that it should be just a little further over there – just far enough that they get included also. And then the next guy wants the line moved just a little past him.

    What’s ‘fair’ here?

    And keep in mind – 15%. 15 percent is shit. Right now the other two candidates are neck-and-neck and Johnson isn’t even able to get a solid 1/3 the support that *either* Trump or Clinton has. 15% is juuuuuuust about enough to get people taking you seriously on a national level.

    15% is, IMO, sufficient. You’re not going to get elected, but people are talking about you and your platform, and its not so high a burden that a serious third party candidate can’t make it. Johnson can’t *this time around* – next cycle I bet he or whoever takes the LP nomination in 2020 will.

    1. I think the optimal solution would be to have a debate with the candidates who can theoretically get 270 electoral votes (possibly limiting it to some top number of candidates greater than 3), and then subsequent debates with a percentage threshold.

      1. That crazy requirement would allow a whopping 2 more candidates on the stage. Chaos!

  7. The Libertarian party is suing FEC for not regulating enough? And Reason thinks this is a good thing? It makes you realize that all the complaints about “Team ” politics in the past by the writer’s here were bullshit. Debates are not a requirement of US Presidential politics, so no candidate has a legal right to force their opponents to onstage to debate them. About the only thing you can really get the CPD on is that any claims they may make about being “nonpartisan” are fraudulent.

  8. like Heather answered I am startled that any one can make $5557 in 4 weeks on the internet
    see more at———–>>>

  9. At the local level here — city and county — all Libertarian and independent candidates are invited to the debates. Of course, there aren’t several dozen of them…

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