- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Independent and third party candidates have yet to stand on flashy podiums of officially sanctioned presidential debates. Now the Libertarian Party is pushing back. Fed up with ongoing exclusion and the valuable national exposure that is beyond their reach, the Libertarians have launched 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 “unfair and 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 advisor to Our America 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. Neilsen 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 have already launched a public petition to help their cause, and staged a two-hour Google-plus hangout to discuss the lawsuit, fundraising and future strategy.

The Libertarian Party has, however, staged “The Third Party Presidential Debate” in 2012, featuring Gary Johnson, Ms. Stein, Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode, and Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson. The well received event was moderated by Larry King and aired on Ora TV and RT - Russia Television - headquartered in Moscow.

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