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Gary Johnson files anti-trust lawsuit to appear at presidential debates

Published time: September 24, 2012 20:15
Edited time: September 25, 2012 00:20
Gary Johnson (AFP Photo / Pool / Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Gary Johnson (AFP Photo / Pool / Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is determined to be included in the upcoming presidential debates, and the libertarian candidate has filed a lawsuit to try and secure a place at the podium before November’s election.

Johnson has been running on the libertarian ticket after resigning from the Republican Party race for the nomination earlier this year, but so far the presidential debates are looking to be a two-party affair only. Only incumbent Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney have been invited to speak during the upcoming arguments, but Johnson insists on being included as well. To try and secure a spot during the next televised argument, Gov. Johnson filed an anti-trust suit on Friday, asking the US District Court in Washington, DC to issue a restraining order against the debates and keep them from occurring until all “constitutionally eligible” candidates can be allowed to speak.

The first televised debate is currently scheduled for October 3 in Denver, Colorado.

“The view that presidential debates are critical to the outcome of the election is now universally held,” the suit reads. “From that premise, it follows that the participation by a candidate in the nationally-televised debates is equally critical to his or her candidacy.”

The suit argues that, because the title of president is a salaried position, it can be defined as commerce and thus can be regulated by the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Ron Nielson, a spokesperson for Gov. Johnson, says that the current process of democratically electing a commander-in-chief is flawed, and that the libertarian candidate has a good chance of changing the procedure. If his suit is unsuccessful, though, Johnson stands a good chance of at least showing the mainstream political establishment that a third-party candidate can have a fighting chance at being elected to the presidency.

“There is nothing remotely surprising in the fact that a private organization created by and run by the Republican and Democratic Parties has only invited the Republican and Democratic candidates to their debates. It is a bit more disturbing that the national news media has chosen to play the two-party game, when a full one-third of the American people do not necessarily identify with either of those two parties,” Nielson says.

"Someone has to stand up and call this what it is—a rigged system designed entirely to protect and perpetuate the two-party duopoly," Nielson adds. "That someone will be the Johnson campaign."

Since 1987, the organization and overseeing of the arguments is masterminded by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a group that was jointly formed by the Democratic and Republican parties. According to the rules they have put in place, a candidate must show that they’ve polled favorable by at least 15 percent of Americans in any five major election questionnaires, a feat that Gov. Johnson has failed to do during his run for the White House. Johnson has, however, made a splash with voters dissatisfied by the GOP and Democratic candidates, and believes he has a viable chance at the November election. As of Friday, a Reason-Rupe poll had Gov. Johnson as the favorite among 6 percent of likely voters.

Of course, that chance might be a lot better if the Commission on Presidential Debates considered him, he argues.

In order to achieve a “level, honest playing field” amongst presidential contenders, the Commission on Presidential Debates should be “enabling all constitutionally eligible candidates who are on ballots in states whose cumulative total of Electoral College votes is 270 or more” to be considered a speaking spot, the suit claims.

Instead, voters are being subjected to choose between only two candidates.

“The defendants are conspiring and contracting to restrain the plaintiffs from participating in the electoral process,” Johnson’s lawsuit alleges, “actions to conspire or contract to prevent plaintiffs from election by excluding them from debates is actionable ‘restraint of trade.’”

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