The first of three presidential debates is set for Wednesday night (Oct. 3) in Denver but two sponsors of the nationally televised showdown have pulled out, due to pressure from backers of Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and critics of the commission in charge of the event.
From US News and World Report:
Multinational corporation Philips Electronics and the women’s organization the YWCA both dropped their sponsorship after being flooded with E-mails and letters from supporters of former Republican New Mexico Gov. Johnson, as well as two election watchdog groups, Open Debates and Help the Commission.
“I’ve been trying this since 2004 … and this is first time any sponsor has peeled off from supporting the commission,” says George Farah of Open Debates, who wrote the book No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates. “For this to happen on the eve of the first presidential debate is a remarkable act.”
Johnson, a former two-term governor of New Mexico, filed a lawsuit a little more than a week ago against the Commission on Presidential Debates, which shut him out of the Obama-Romney event because Johnson has not received at least 15 percent support in at least five national polls.
“Guess what, the presidential debate commission is private and they’re made up of Republicans and Democrats with absolutley no interest whatsoever in seeing a third voice onstage,” Johnson said Monday morning while appearing on C-SPAN.
As first reported by Capitol Report New Mexico, the Johnson campaign has criticized the commission as a “rigged system designed entirely to protect and perpetuate the two-party duopoly” and the lawsuit, filed in California, argues that by denying Johnson a place on the podium, the debate commission is violating the Sherman Anti Trust Act by “indefensibly limit[ing] access of other candidates to the marketplace of ideas and the opportunity to be employed in these highest offices in the land.”
According to the US News and World Report article appearing in its Washington Whispers column on Monday, “In a letter announcing its sponsorship withdrawal, Philips wrote that it was concerned the commission’s work ‘may appear to support bi-partisan’ instead of ‘non-partisan’ politics. YWCA similarly wrote that it was dropping out because it is a ‘non-partisan’ women’s organization.”
Politico contacted Phillips Electronics on Monday to get more specifics about why they pulled their sponsorship, with corporate communications spokesman Mark A. Stephenson saying:
Philips “has a long and proud heritage of being non-partisan in the many countries it serves around the world. While the Commission on Presidential Debates is a non-partisan organization, their work may appear to support bi-partisan politics,” Stephenson said in a written statement. “We respect all points of view and, as a result, want to ensure that Philips doesn’t provide even the slightest appearance of supporting partisan politics. As such, no company funds have been or will be used to support the Commission on Presidential Debates.”
Phillips and the YWCA were two of nine sponsors for the presidential debates. According to Politico, the seven remaining sponsors are the Anheuser-Busch Companies; The Howard G. Buffet Foundation; Sheldon S. Cohen, Esq.; Crowell & Moring LLP; International Bottled Water Association (IBWA); The Kovler Fund; and Southwest Airlines.
A spokesman for the Commission on Presidential Debates said, “we are deeply sorry to see them [sponsors] attacked by people who have issues with the CPD.”
The last third-party candidate to appear onstage with the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees was Ross Perot back in 1992.
Back in 2000, Ralph Nader filed a lawsuit against the debates commission, arguing that corporate contributions violated the Federal Election Campaign Act. A circuit court in Washington DC decided in 2005 that it would not overrule the Federal Election Commission’s ruling that Nader and other third-party candiates had failed to prove that the debates were controlled by the Democratic National Committee or the Republican National Committee.