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Debate Commission Co-Chairs Cross Ethical Line with Political Donations

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Created: 16 September, 2016
Updated: 21 November, 2022
2 min read

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Friday that only Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and their respective running mates will be included in the first presidential debates. The announcement comes less than two weeks before the first debate in New York.

The Commission on Presidential Debates is registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. According to the commission's website, its mission is:

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners. Its primary purpose is to sponsor and produce debates for the United States presidential and vice presidential candidates and to undertake research and educational activities relating to the debates. The organization, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) corporation, sponsored all the presidential debates in 1988, 1992, 19962000, 2004, 2008, and 2012.

Yet, as many are now aware, the commission is led and composed of former leaders and elected officials of the two dominant parties in the United States, the Republican and Democratic parties.

In fact, co-chair Michael McCurry previously served as the director of communications for the Democratic National Committee and was the press secretary for President Bill Clinton. Co-creator and Co-Chair Frank Fahrenkopf served as the chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1983 to 1989.

However, of great interest is not only their political resumes, but the fact that they have and continue to contribute large sums of money to major party organizations and their respective presidential nominees. Fahrenkopf has given tens of thousands of dollars to the RNC and has contributed thousands to Republican nominees, including George W. Bush and John McCain.

Source: OpenSecrets.org

Screen Shot 2016-09-15 at 8.16.23 PM

Michael McCurry has a long history of giving money to Hillary Clinton, even donating to her campaign on the day she announced her candidacy on April 12, 2015.

Source: OpenSecrets.org

Screen Shot 2016-09-15 at 8.15.42 PM

The donation history of both CPD chairmen, as well as other members of the commission's board, raises obvious ethical concerns and even brings to question whether or not the organization can legally have its 501(c)(3) status.

After all, the stated purpose of the CPD is to educate the public in a nonpartisan manner and conduct quality debates. Yet, it is controlled by people who have both a political and financial investment in the success of the Republican and Democratic parties.

The CPD is not nonpartisan, nor is its criteria for debate entry. It is bipartisan. The American people deserve better.

Open the debates.

Photo Credit: Jason Reed / Reuters

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