Our America Initiative

Plaintiffs Take Historic Lawsuit Against the Commission on Presidential Debates to the Supreme Court of the U.S.

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December 28, 2017, Washington, DC -- Attorneys with the Our America Initiative, a nonprofit advocacy organization, have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a Writ of Certiorari asking the Justices to reinstate an antitrust suit brought against the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) by former presidential candidate Gary Johnson and others challenging the Commission’s boycott of third party and independent candidates from nationally televised debates.

Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed the case based on a putative separation of business from politics. The Our America Initiative has provided financial support for the lawsuit, originally filed in 2015, throughout the proceedings leading to this week’s filing with the Supreme Court.

The lawsuit alleges that the Commission on Presidential Debates, a joint venture between the major national political parties, unreasonably impairs fair competition in the business of campaigning for the presidency by creating insurmountable barriers to participation in presidential debates, the Super Bowl of politics, except for the nominees of the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Upon filing the petition at the Supreme Court, attorney for the plaintiffs, Bruce Fein, said, “It has been a long road that finally leads us to the highest court on the land. Few events are as singularly important to the election of the President, the most powerful office in the nation and in the world, as the televised presidential debates worth more than $1 billion in advertising or branding value to the participants. They are orchestrated by the major party nominees and the Commission to deny the American people exposure to diverse and conflicting viewpoints indispensable to avoiding political stagnation and public restiveness.

“With a plurality of voters today identifying themselves as independents and neither Republicans or Democrats, it mocks self-government to permit a private organization, created by the two major parties and funded by their corporate friends, to manipulate presidential debates to fortify their duopoly.

“Almost thirty years ago, the League of Women Voters called the CPD’s control a ‘fraud on the American voter’, a clairvoyance never exceeded.

“We believe the lower court’s dismissal of this historic lawsuit to clash with precedents of the Supreme Court. That’s why we are investing the blood, sweat and financial resources to take our argument to the Supreme Court. The issue is too important to the legitimacy of presidential elections to leave to a subordinate tribunal.”

Full text of the petition