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Another Plaintiff Joins Lawsuit Against Commission on Presidential Debates

Created: 29 June, 2016
Updated: 17 October, 2022
2 min read

Better for America (BFA), a nonpartisan organization seeking ballot access for an independent presidential candidate, announced Wednesday that it filed a motion in federal court to join Level the Playing Field's (LPF) lawsuit to open the fall presidential debates to a candidate outside the two major parties.

“Level the Playing Field’s effort to change the rule and allow a third candidate into the national debates has provided an important component to the success of BFA’s mission of creating ballot access for an independent candidate to run. Not having access to the debates severely diminishes an independent’s ability to be competitive with the two parties’ nominees,” said John Kingston, founder and chair of BFA.

READ MORE: John Kingston: Clearing a Path For an Independent Alternative

LPF, joined by the national Green and Libertarian parties, filed the lawsuit in June of last year against the FEC, charging that despite federal election law requiring debate staging organizations to be "nonpartisan" and use "objective criteria" to determine who can be in the debates, the CPD is not nonpartisan and has created rules to keep candidates outside the Republican and Democratic parties from participating in the national dialogue and getting the face time needed to build up name recognition.

“The way our system works, if you are not known to be in the debates or have the prospect of being in the debates, you’re not considered legitimate by the media, you won’t be covered by the media, and therefore you have no way to get name recognition, unless you buy it through your own advertising,” Level the Playing Field CEO Peter Ackerman explained on C-SPAN in December.

Ackerman added that in order to get the same media exposure that candidates of the two major parties do not have to pay a dime for, third party and independent candidates would need to spend approximately $260 million in ad buy. A steep price for candidates who struggle to get their name out to potential donors.

"The current regulatory framework serves only the interests of the Democratic and Republican parties, helping these two parties maintain a duopoly over presidential debates," BFA stated in a press release. "It relies on polls that are biased against third party and independent candidates and are grossly inaccurate in predicting a three-way race. Non-partisans should have equal access to the debate stage. It is crucial to creating more choices for the American people not only this election but for those in the future."

"BFA’s participation in this lawsuit underscores our belief that the rules which govern who can and cannot participate in the presidential debates are unfair and inconsistent with the law," said Mohammad Jazil, general counsel for BFA.

[Read more about the lawsuit.]

[Read more on Level the Playing Field’s efforts.]