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Gary Johnson Files Anti-Trust Lawsuit for Entry to Debates

by Wes Messamore, published
Photo: Gage Skidmore

Gary Johnson filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit Friday in California's central district court against the Commission on Presidential Debates for excluding the Libertarian Party presidential candidate from the three presidential debates scheduled for next month prior to the November general election.

The Libertarian Party ticket's vice presidential candidate, Jim Gray, a retired California Superior Court judge and a plaintiff in the case, will argue the motion on the campaign's behalf.

Ballot Access News reports:

"The case is assigned to Judge Philip S. Gutierrez, a Bush Jr. appointee. He has only had one previous case involving a minor party. He heard Libertarian Party of Los Angeles County v Bowen, a case against California’s restriction on out-of-district petitioners. In that case, he ruled that because the Secretary of State says she doesn’t enforce the law, therefore the plaintiffs lack standing to sue to overturn it. The Ninth Circuit took a somewhat different view, sending the case to arbirtration and signaling that if the arbitration doesn’t result in significant changes in state policy, the law will be held unconstitutional."

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Friday that only the Democratic and Republican presidential tickets have satisfied its criteria for inclusion in the nationally-televised debates next month:

"Pursuant to the criteria, which were publicly announced on October 31, 2011, those candidates qualify for debate participation who (1) are constitutionally eligible to hold the office of President of the United States; (2) have achieved ballot access in a sufficient number of states to win a theoretical Electoral College majority in the general election; and (3) have demonstrated a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate, as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations' most recent publicly-reported results."

Gary Johnson Files Anti-Trust Lawsuit

In an unexpected, and-- some commentators have said-- unprecedented legal maneuver, the Gary Johnson campaign is suing the Commission on Presidential Debates, the Democratic National Committee, and the Republican National Committee on anti-trust grounds, alleging that the three private organizations have conspired in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to limit competition, causing material injury to the American electorate and the Gary Johnson campaign.

The Commission on Presidential Debates is a private, non-profit organization founded in 1987 by the Republican and Democratic parties. Part of the Johnson campaign's argument is that the Libertarian Party ticket will be on the November ballot in forty-seven states, enough to conceivably secure the 270 electoral college votes necessary to win the presidential election. The campaign accuses the CPD and the two national party committees of illegal collusion to exclude it from the presidential debates.

In a press release from the campaign, Johnson advisor Ron Nielson said:

"There is nothing remotely surprising in the fact that a private organization created by and run by the Republican and Democratic Parties has only invited the Republican and Democratic candidates to their debates. It is a bit more disturbing that the national news media has chosen to play the two-party game, when a full one-third of the American people do not necessarily identify with either of those two parties... Someone has to stand up and call this what it is: A rigged system designed entirely to protect and perpetuate the two-party duopoly."

The last presidential candidate to share the debate stage with the Republican and Democratic nominees was independent candidate Ross Perot in 1992, who received 18.9% of the popular vote on election day. He later went on to found the Reform Party and ran for president again on the Reform Party ticket in 1996.

The full document containing Gary Johnson's anti-trust suit can be read below:

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