Our America Initiative

Sign the Petition for Fair Debates!

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Debates are the one element of modern campaigns and elections that should be immune to unfair advantages based upon funding and political party structure. Yet, the private Commission on Presidential Debates, created in 1987 by the Democratic and Republican parties, has created a debate duopoly that makes it virtually impossible for candidates other than the Republican and Democrat nominees to participate.

This exclusion is accomplished by applying criteria for participation -- agreed to between the two "major" parties -- that include a requirement that a candidate be polling at 15% in arbitrarily-selected national surveys. The Our America Initiative believes this requirement to be not only unfair, but illegal. That's why Our America is leading a challenge to the Commission on Presidential Debates in Federal Court.

Any candidate who is 1) qualified to be President under the Constitution and 2) has qualified for enough states' ballots to receive at least 50% of Electoral College votes should be included. Those requirements alone will insure that participation will be limited to only the most serious candidates.

The vast majority of Americans who rely on the nationally-televised Presidential Debates to help make their voting decisions have no idea that the "official" General Election debates are, in fact, productions of a private, nongovernmental organization comprised of representatives of the Democrat and Republican parties who exercise complete and exclusive control over the process. That is just wrong, and Our America is committed breaking up the duopoly and giving voters real choices.

Read the Press Release

The Presidential Debates Are a Fraud

Most political experts agree that the most important, and sometimes pivotal, events in modern presidential campaigns are the nationally-televised debates. Given that importance, shouldn’t they be fair? Shouldn’t they be nonpartisan? And shouldn’t they include ALL the candidates who are qualified and credible enough to appear on enough states’ ballots to be elected in the Electoral College?

Of course they should be fair -- and of course they should include all the qualified candidates. After all, independent voters are today the majority in America, surpassing each of the Democrat and Republican parties. But as you have probably noticed, when Americans tune in for those all-important debates every four years, the only candidates on the stage are the Democrat and the Republican.

Why is that? It’s simple: The Republican and Democratic Parties OWN the debates. The Commission on Presidential Debates was created in 1987 by the two “major” parties to seize control of the debates and keep other candidates out.

When the Chairs of the two Parties announced the incorporation of the CPD at a news conference, they didn’t even pretend to describe the CPD as a non-partisan organization. Their press release called it a “bipartisan” organization “formed to implement joint sponsorship of general election presidential and vice-presidential debates by the national Republican and Democratic committees between their respective nominees.”

Frank Fahrenkopf, then the chair of both the RNC and the CPD, stated that the CPD would not likely look favorably on including third-party candidates in the debates. His counterpart at the DNC likewise stated that the CPD should exclude third-party candidates.

The Republicans and Democrats control the debates by requiring their respective nominees, like Clinton and Trump in 2016, to agree that they will ONLY participate in the CPD-sponsored debates, and no others.

With the debates under its control, the CPD is then free to decide who is allowed to participate, coming up with rules for inclusion that are designed to insure that only the Democrat and the Republican will appear.

Before 1987, the League of Women Voters sponsored most of the presidential debates. But when the Republicans and Democrats took control, the League of Women Voters withdrew their support, saying the rigged debates “ would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter."

This is no small fraud.

As one of the nation’s leading voices for liberty and real limits on government, the Our America Initiative is committed to breaking up the two-party control of presidential debates. Opening those debates to ALL candidates whose names appear on enough states’ ballots to potentially be elected in the Electoral College will change the political landscape -- for the better.

And if we can change the politics, we can change the policies that have given us too much debt, too much war and too much government trampling of our freedoms.

That’s why Our America is challenging the Commission on Presidential Debates in Federal Court in Washington, D.C. Our legal case is strong, but perhaps even more important, our challenge is bringing the secret dealings of the CPD out into the open. Thousands of Americans have protested the CPD and its corporate sponsors for their exclusion of qualified candidates. Feeling the pressure, several long-time sponsors of the debates have withdrawn their support.

We have a nationally-respected legal team and we have a strong case, but just as important as the legal battle is mobilizing millions of Americans at the grassroots level to demand fairness. Accomplishing that requires funding. Significant funding. We must take this fight not just to the courtroom, but to social media, to the Internet, and to the airwaves.

The opposition, with their deep-pocketed special interest backers, will spend whatever it takes to try to stop us.

But this is a battle that must be waged.

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