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Group Sues FEC to Open Presidential Debates to Independent Candidates

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Created: 22 June, 2015
Updated: 15 October, 2022
2 min read

Level the Playing Field (LPF), the group that is trying to improve the health of American democracy by opening up the fall 2016 presidential debates, filed a lawsuit on Monday in federal district court against the Federal Election Commission. LPF was joined in the historic lawsuit by the Green Party and the Libertarian Party.

The plaintiffs are represented by Alexandra Shapiro, who was Ruth Bader Ginsburg's law clerk and is now with the Shapiro Arato firm. Ms. Shapiro has won several high-profile cases lately, including an appeals court ruling in April that overturned two insider-trading convictions.

The LPF lawsuit charges that the

Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) and certain of its directors have violated federal election law, including a Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulation requiring organizations like the CPD to be "nonpartisan" and to use "objective criteria" to determine who can be in their debates.

The federal court complaint cites extensive evidence showing that the CPD is not nonpartisan and instead promotes the candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties while excluding all others from the debates. And since 2000, it has used a criterion that only the Democratic and Republican nominees could reasonably achieve, in order to illegally exclude third-party and independent candidates from the debates.

According to the lawsuit, the failure of the FEC -- whose commissioners are members of the Democratic and Republican parties -- to act on an administrative complaint against the CPD and a petition for rulemaking was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise contrary to law.

We are asking the court to either direct the FEC to find that the CPD and certain of its directors have violated the law, or to permit us to bring a civil action directly against the CPD and those directors. The suit also asks the court to direct the FEC to open a rulemaking proceeding to revise its rules governing presidential debates.

Read the full complaint:

Here is an article that appeared on Time.com.

Here is another from Bloomberg.

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