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Inside the Presidential DebatesTheir Improbable Past and Promising Future$
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Newton N. Minow and Craig L. LaMay

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780226530413

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226530390.001.0001

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The Dilemma: Who Debates?

The Dilemma: Who Debates?

(p.81) 5 The Dilemma: Who Debates?
Inside the Presidential Debates
University of Chicago Press

The most serious criticism of the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) is that it conspires with the major parties to deny candidates other than the Republican and Democratic nominees the opportunity to participate in the debates. Having exhausted their legal arguments before the Federal Communications Commission, minor-party candidates have now taken their legal challenges elsewhere, to the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service. The new approach is to argue that the CPD is a “bipartisan” rather than “nonpartisan” organization and is therefore illegal. If the CPD were a bipartisan organization—nothing more than an extension of the Republican and Democratic parties—then the various corporate contributions it receives would amount to illegal campaign contributions to the candidates under federal election law. In 2000 and 2004, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader made this charge repeatedly. That he was able to do so effectively owes in part to his rhetorical gifts, but even more to the controversy surrounding Reform Party candidate Ross Perot in 1996. This chapter examines the problem of whom to include in televised presidential debates.

Keywords:   Commission on Presidential Debates, televised presidential debates, Federal Election Commission, Internal Revenue Service, Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, Reform Party, Green Party

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