FEC sued for bias against third parties in presidential debates

A lawsuit was filed Monday against the Federal Election Commission (FEC) by a third-party advocacy group “Level the Playing Field”, along with both the Green Party and the Libertarian National Committee,┬ácharges that the FEC has violated its own rules in regards to guidelines that govern the eligibility of candidates to participate in presidential election debates, and are prohibitive to third-party contenders.

The specific requirements of eligibility are determined by a private, non-profit organization called the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), founded in 1987 at the behest of the Republican and Democratic national parties.

CPD requires that in order for a presidential candidate to be invited to their debate(s), he or she must have sufficient ballot access to receive at least 270 electoral votes (the amount required to win), and have at least 15% support in national polls.

However, FEC rules for national debates stipulate that sponsors (like CPD) not “endorse, support, or oppose political candidates or political parties.”

Level the Playing Field has filed complaints with the FEC regarding CPD’s violation of this rule and the 15% polling requirement.

Both requests have been effectively ignored by the FEC, a violation of federal law which says that the FEC must respond to complaints within 120 days.

CPD have sponsored 19 presidential debates, spanning seven elections.

Ross Perot is the only third party candidate who has has had the chance to debate the Democratic and Republican candidates since 1988.

He made three appearances alongside President George H.W. Bush and Gov. Bill Clinton in 1992.

Plaintiffs in the suit claim that their request to change the 15% rule was supported by more than 1200 public comments to the FEC, while the one comment opposed to changing the requirement was made by CPD itself.