Tag Archives: Change the Rule

Conflict of Interest? Bill Clinton Serves on Presidential Debate Commission

As the 2016 presidential election draws nearer, questions are being raised about Bill Clinton’s role as an honorary co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, a Republican-and-Democrat controlled board that determines the rules and particulars of U.S. general election presidential debates.

According to The Daily Caller, Bill Clinton serves as an honorary co-chair for the organization along with former President Jimmy Carter. The CPD also lists deceased former Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford as honorary co-chairs.

It is unclear, however, how Carter and Clinton function in these roles,” wrote reporter Kerry Picket. “Additionally, considering Jeb Bush’s run for the presidency, if it is an issue of simply lending one’s name to a board and not participating in any process, it is unknown why both former presidents George W. Bush and his father George H.W. Bush are not included as honorary chairs,” she added.

Hot Air notes that CPD chairman Michael D. McCurry served as press secretary during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

[RELATED: DONEGAN: If GOP Debate Stage Can Fit 11, Let Third Parties In General Election Debates]

If current Democratic Party presidential primary frontrunner Hillary Clinton ends up winning her party’s nomination, Bill Clinton and Michael McCurry’s roles on the board governing U.S. general election presidential debates could potentially pose a conflict of interest.

The Commission on Presidential Debates recently sparked controversy when it announced that despite the rise of independent voters as a leading portion of the U.S. electorate, it would not change the 15 percent minimum polling rule that effectively blocks most serious third-party candidates who appear on enough ballots to win the presidency from participating in general election presidential debates.

[RELATED: Pollsters Criticize Use of Polling Minimums to Exclude Candidates from Debates]

The Truth in Media Project recently released a Consider This video highlighting the fact that independent voters now outnumber Republicans and Democrats. Watch it in the below-embedded video player.


Debate Commission: No Change to 15 Percent Third-Party Polling Rule

The Commission on Presidential Debates, a Republican and Democrat controlled group that establishes criteria and rules for U.S. general election presidential debates, announced last week that it will not change its controversial 15 percent polling requirement for independent candidates.

The rule is widely seen as protecting the two-party duopoly by having the effect of preventing third-party candidates from exposing their views to voters in televised presidential debates. Only the wealthiest candidates or highest-profile celebrities could afford to purchase the type of nationwide ad campaign that would produce a 15 percent reading in national polls without first having the exposure of the debates themselves, creating a Catch-22 situation for the one or two serious third-party candidates that obtain ballot access in enough states to win the presidency each election cycle.

[RELATED: DONEGAN: If GOP Debate Stage Can Fit 11, Let Third Parties In General Election Debates]

In its announcement of the criteria for the 2016 general election debates, the Commission on Presidential Debates wrote:

[pull_quote_center]CPD Co-Chairs Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. and Michael D. McCurry noted that, ‘We are mindful of the changes in the electorate and the large number of voters who now self-identify as independents. We believe our candidate selection criteria appropriately address this dynamic. The CPD’s criteria make participation open to any candidate, regardless of the candidate’s party affiliation or status as an independent, in whom the public has demonstrated significant interest and support… It is appropriate for a debate sponsor to take the campaign as it finds it in the final weeks leading up to Election Day. The CPD’s debates are not intended to serve as a springboard for a candidate with only very modest support. Participation in the debates is determined by the level of public support a candidate enjoys as Election Day approaches.'[/pull_quote_center]

Though the Commission’s claim that the rules are evenly applied to independents and major parties is technically true, it neglects critics who say that the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries- which are funded by all taxpayers, including independent voters- serve as an extraordinarily valuable promotional opportunity for major parties in obtaining the minimum 15 percent support needed to qualify for the debates.

[RELATED: Pollsters Criticize Use of Polling Minimums to Exclude Candidates from Debates]

Election law expert Richard Winger of Ballot Access News pointed out the fact that the 15 percent rule is currently being challenged in court: “Two lawsuits are pending against the 15% rule, both in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. They are Level the Playing Field v Federal Election Commission, and [Gary] Johnson v Commission on Presidential Debates. The first one depends on campaign finance law and the second on antitrust law.

According to the Libertarian Party, a senior adviser to Gary Johnson’s Our America Initiative called the CPD’s decision to continue employing the 15 percent rule “disappointing but certainly not shocking.”

Meanwhile, WFPL notes that questions are being raised this week about the accuracy of telephone polls after Kentucky Republican Governor-elect Matt Bevin overwhelmingly won in a stunning upset despite trailing his Democratic opponent Jack Conway in pre-election polls.

In related news, Public Policy Polling included former Senator from Virginia Jim Webb as an independent candidate against Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton in its Nov. 4 general election polling for Iowa and found Clinton at 41 percent support, Trump at 40 percent, and Webb trailing with 9 percent.

The Truth in Media Project recently released a Consider This video highlighting the fact that independent voters now outnumber Republicans and Democrats. Watch it in the below-embedded video player.


DONEGAN: If GOP Debate Stage Can Fit 11, Let Third Parties In General Election Debates

Wednesday’s prime-time CNN Republican presidential debate featuring 11 candidates was the “most watched” program in the news network’s history. According to CNN, an average of 22.9 million viewers tuned in and heard Republican presidential candidates debating the issues.

Meanwhile, based on claims that doing otherwise would overload the general election stage with too many candidates, the Commission on Presidential Debates’ rule requiring third-party candidates to garner a minimum of 15 percent support in five major nationwide polls prior to being included in a general election presidential debate effectively and pointlessly excludes the one or two third-party candidates each cycle who manage to achieve ballot access in enough states to have the possibility of winning the presidency. Obtaining ballot access is a Herculean challenge for independents as is, but only a candidate with extreme wealth like Ross Perot or Donald Trump could afford to purchase the amount of advertising necessary to achieve 15 percent in nationwide opinion polls without having the initial exposure of appearing in televised presidential debates.

Ballot Access News’ Richard Winger, an election law expert, wrote after Wednesday’s debate, “It is now as clear as anything that a debate with a large number of candidates can be successful. After tonight, there simply is no coherent argument for general election debates that only include the two major party nominees.

For those who fear that including all ballot-qualified presidential candidates in general election debates will result in a chaotic melee, Winger points out, “In all U.S. history, there has never been a presidential election in which more than seven candidates had enough presidential elector candidates to theoretically win the election.

[RELATED: Commission on Presidential Debates Considers Ditching 15% Rule for Third Party Candidates]

While Winger’s analysis shows that even in worst-case scenarios a larger debate field could be managed, looking back at 2012’s presidential election, if all ballot-qualified candidates had been included, the debates would have only featured four candidates: Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, Republican Party candidate Mitt Romney, and Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama.

Currently, basing general election debate participation on the ability to obtain ballot access would likely allow Americans to hear a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, and Green candidate, four parties that encompass a broad range of ideological views in U.S. politics.

On the other hand, limiting the debates to only those candidates who have obtained at least 15 percent in five nationwide opinion polls has frozen third parties out of general election presidential debates and effectively created a two-party duopoly, disenfranchising independent voters and dimming Americans’ confidence in their political system.

The Commission on Presidential Debates should consider Winger’s analysis and accept the reality that it will always be possible to put together a coherent general election presidential debate featuring all of the candidates from parties organized well enough to achieve ballot access in enough states to where it is mathematically possible for them to obtain the 270 electoral votes required to become president.

The Republicans and Democrats in charge of the Commission on Presidential Debates can no longer claim that four candidates is too many when their own primary debates feature many more. It is time to change the rule and let voters hear from all of the small number of candidates each cycle who qualify under the law to potentially win the presidency.

For context, the Truth in Media Project recently released a Consider This video highlighting the fact that independent voters now outnumber Republicans and Democrats. Watch it in the below-embedded video player.


For more 2016 election coverage, click here.

Bipartisan Political Heavyweights Push for Third Party Inclusion in Presidential Debates

The Commission on Presidential Debates, a private group run by the Democratic and Republican parties, has controlled the US presidential debates since 1988. Given the fact that the major party duopoly runs the debate process, the CPD has effectively silenced third party candidates by setting an extremely strict rule for their inclusion which requires independent candidates to achieve 15% in 5 major public opinion polls prior to the debate, a feat requiring untold millions of dollars worth of advertising.

However, a group of elected officials and civic leaders, many of them card-carrying members of the Republican and Democratic parties, have launched a campaign called Change the Rule aimed at pressuring the CPD to adjust its rule to allow the top independent candidate who manages to attain ballot access in a sufficient number of states to achieve 270 electoral votes to participate in the presidential debates. This would allow voters to see the best-organized third party candidate who is on enough ballots to win the presidential election, which does effectively limit the number of candidates in the debate such that it would feature a Democrat, a Republican, and the third party candidate who attained the most signatures during the ballot access petition process.

Former prosecutor Alexandra Shapiro and Dr. Larry Diamond, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, are spearheading Change the Rule, which includes a long list of political heavyweights. The group originally made its intentions known by sending a private letter to the CPD, but the organization’s dismissive response led them to go public with their initiative in an effort to turn on the heat.

Ex-FBI director Michael Hayden has signed on with Change the Rule, as has former Defense Secretary William Cohen and The Atlantic and National Journal publisher David Bradley. Jonathan Easley at The Hill wrote, “The list [of signatories] also includes former Govs. Bruce Babbitt (D-Ariz.), Jon Huntsman (R-Utah), Thomas Keane (R-N.J.), and Christine Todd Whitman (R-N.J.), former Sens. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), and former Reps. John Anderson (R-Ill.), Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), and Vin Weber (R-Minn.).”

Change the Rule’s private letter to the CPD read, “Because the current rule affords independent candidates no chance to get into the debates, it dissuades men and women with extraordinary records of service to this country from running for President… As a director of the CPD, you could ignore this complaint and wait for the ensuing legal process to play out. We think that would be a missed opportunity and an unfortunate mistake.” The legal process mentioned by Change the Rule may be a reference to a separate FCC complaint that has reportedly been filed against CPD.

The CPD responded to the controversy in comments to The Hill and said, “The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates reviews its candidate selection criteria every election cycle… The CPD will review its 2012 criteria in 2015 and appreciates the interest in these important voter education events.”