June 21, 2003

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John Hagelin and Other Third-Party Leaders File FEC Complaint Against Commission on Presidential Debates

Dr. John Hagelin
Dr. John Hagelin  

Natural Law Party 2000 presidential candidate Dr. John Hagelin and other leading third party candidates and their parties joined together on June 17 to file a legal complaint with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) that would block the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) from sponsoring the 2004 presidential debates—and would also require the return of millions of dollars in corporate contributions made to the Republican and Democratic parties in the 2000 elections.

The FEC complaint cites new evidence showing that the CPD’s conduct is partisan and thereby violates election laws requiring that debate-staging organizations be non-partisan.

In particular, the complaint describes a “face-book” of major third party candidates that was used by the CPD to exclude these candidates from even attending the October 2000 presidential debate in Boston. This and other evidence demonstrates that the CPD deliberately excluded all third party candidates from the debates—and even from the debate audience—thus showing that the CPD is partisan.

Since the CPD provided the Democratic and Republican parties and their candidates with valuable campaign and press opportunities, the complaint holds that the CPD—a nonprofit organization—violated federal laws prohibiting nonprofit organizations from aiding or opposing any political parties or candidates. The complaint also holds that CPD use of corporate funding for partisan activities violates a federal ban on corporate campaign contributions.

“This is not the conduct of a nonpartisan organization,” said John Hagelin. “Not only was the CPD expressly created as a partisan organization, but its Board is made up of leading Democrats and Republicans, with no third party representation. The icing on the cake is that the CPD’s leadership decided to exclude all third party candidates from even attending its debate, and documented this partisan act by creating a picture book of candidates and parties marked for exclusion from its event.”

The FEC complaint was filed by the Natural Law Party and its 2000 candidate John Hagelin, the Green Party of the United States and its candidates Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke, and other 2000 candidates and their parties. All these candidates were pictured in the CPD’s face-book and targeted for exclusion from the debate audiences.

Co-counsel Bonita Tenneriello of the National Voting Rights Institute said, “The CPD’s conduct flouts laws that prevent corporations from using their treasuries to influence elections. The FEC must now investigate these complaints and should stop this back-door subversion of democracy.”