NEWS AND OPINION:
Enough, already. The Libertarian Party is fed up with its ongoing exclusion from officially sanctioned presidential debates and the national broadcast exposure which comes with them. The party has already organized a public petition of protest and now plans a lawsuit against the “duopoly” of Republican and Democratic candidates who have a guaranteed national forum — when alternative candidates do not.
“Most Americans have no idea that the official-sounding and acting Commission on Presidential Debates is, in reality, a private organization created by the Republican and Democrat Parties and funded by special interests whose goal is to protect the status quo,” the Libertarian Party says in its mission statement. “Thus, it is no surprise that the Debate Commission has adopted ‘rules’ that make it virtually impossible for independent or third-party candidates to ever participate in the all-important presidential debates.”
The rules? To qualify, candidates must garner at least 15 percent of national voter support in national surveys — though the Libertarians say these surveys are “arbitrarily selected.” They also call this requirement “not only unfair, but illegal,” and contend that any candidate who is qualified to be president under the Constitution and has qualified for enough states’ ballots to receive at least 50 percent of Electoral College votes should be included.
“The legal challenge will maintain that the Commission on Presidential Debates, a private organization, formed by the chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties, unfairly and intentionally limits participation in the nationally-televised debates to the Democratic and Republican nominees — placing other national party nominees at a severe and unjust disadvantage,” notes Ron Nielson, an adviser to Our American Initiative, an interest group that is mounting the challenge and counts former Libertarian presidential hopeful Gary Johnson as its chairman.
“With polls showing that independent voters now constitute a majority of the American electorate, this duopoly simply isn’t fair — and must be changed,” Mr. Nielson says.
The ultimate goal is a chance on the mighty 2016 podium for the aforementioned Mr. Johnson and his former running mate Jim Gray, plus Green Party nominees Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala. The Libertarians are also taking their first public steps with the effort on Wednesday night, staging a two-hour Google-plus hangout at 9 p.m. ET to discuss the lawsuit, fundraising and future strategy. Find the hangout here
SPRINGTIME IN ARIZONA
A big item this week: The Republican National Committee springtime gathering in Arizona which begins Wednesday and ends Friday. Of course there are a presidential hopefuls due to appear: Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee will be along for an agenda that includes business matters, party protocol, rules and the praising of rising Republican stars. Dinner with Jeb Bush is also a major draw
And heavens. Such an appealing venue. The Republicans will take up residence for their 48 hours of strategy at The Phoenician, a five-star golf resort in Scottsdale with a “mother of pearl” pool and a steak house that serves 24-ounce porterhouse and cucumber martinis — among many, many other things.
The watchdogs are at work. Citizens Against Government Waste will release the “2015 Congressional Pig Book” on Wednesday with the help of Sens. John McCain, Joni Ernst, Pat Toomey and Rep. Tom McClintock plus PigFoot, an emphatic guy in a pink pig suit. The group will unveil “the book Washington doesn’t want you to read” at a hotel on Capitol Hill
The aforementioned Pig Book is an annual expose of pork-barrel earmarks in the appropriations bills that fund government operations. The organization, the lawmakers and the pig guy hope to illustrate “how Congress has once again circumvented the earmark moratorium established in 2011 in order to waste vital taxpayer dollars on parochial and non-essential pet projects.”
There are required moves on the presidential hopeful’s game board and this is one of them: “Sen. Marco Rubio will deliver his first policy speech as a 2016 presidential candidate at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. Marco will discuss the international security challenges facing America in the 21st century, and the need for American leadership around the world. Following the speech, PBS and CBS News’ Charlie Rose will join Marco onstage for a discussion, followed by a question-and-answer session with members.”
The Florida Republican makes this appearance on Wednesday.
MR. DEBLASIO GOES TO WASHINGTON
There has been serious talk that New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio could run for president. Well, he has already gone to Iowa. But on Wednesday, he’ll be at the U.S. Capitol, leading a coalition of 30 mayors, seeking to “urge Congress to enact a long-term renewal of the federal transportation law, that significantly increases investment in our roads, bridges, and transit.” Will Mr. DeBlasio look presidential? Well, maybe. He will at least display his prowess dealing with national issues at a press conference afterwards.
Current federal transportation funding — conveniently titled “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” expires on May 31.
TRILLION DOLLAR REGULATIONS
The Competitive Enterprise Institute has dreary but sobering findings about government regulations. “The Ten Thousand Commandments” — an annual review of such things — frames those regs as the “hidden tax” of America’s regulatory state. Both regulations and federal intervention cost consumers and businesses $1.88 trillion in lost economic productivity and higher prices last year, says author Clyde Wayne Crews, vice president of policy at the nonprofit organization.
“If U.S. federal regulation was a country, it would be the world’s 10th largest economy, ranking behind Russia and ahead of India. This regulatory cost works out to be an average of $14,976 per household, or 29 percent of an average family budget of $51,100,” the analysis states. And oh, yes. The George W. Bush administration averaged 62 major regulations annually over eight years, while the Obama administration has averaged 81 major regulations annually over six years.
There’s more to come: 60 federal agencies and commissions currently have 3,415 new regulations in development. The top six of these agencies account for 48 percent of all federal regulations; they are the Departments of the Treasury, Commerce, Interior, Health and Human Services, Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Federal agencies do not answer to voters. Yet in a sense, regulators and the administration, rather than Congress, do the bulk of U.S. lawmaking. Years of unbudgeted growth of the federal regulatory system are worrisome when no one can claim with assurance that regulatory benefits exceed costs,” Mr. Crews says. The 92-page report is available for free online here: CEI.org.
POLL DU JOUR
• 65 percent of likely U.S. voters support the idea of the military conducting training exercises in their state.
• 63 percent say the U.S. military should be deployed to the U.S./Mexico border to prevent illegal immigration.
• 62 percent are not worried that military exercises would infringe on the rights of citizens.
• 52 percent are not concerned that the government has “an ulterior motive” in conducting these exercises.
• 45 percent say they are concerned the government will us the operations to “impose greater control over some states.”
Source: A Rasmussen Reports poll of 1,000 likely U.S. voters conducted May 7-10.
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