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CAMPAIGN 2000

Buchanan Pushes for Inclusion in Debates

March 21, 2000|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Reform Party presidential candidate Patrick J. Buchanan on Monday demanded to participate in this year's presidential debates, saying that Republicans and Democrats are conspiring to rob the third party of any chance to win the White House.

Buchanan, a candidate for the Reform Party's presidential nomination, filed a complaint Monday with the Federal Election Commission challenging a rule adopted in January by the debate sponsors that allows only candidates with 15% standing in five national public opinion surveys to participate in the events.

"All we're asking is a chance to be heard in those debates and make the case for a new American foreign policy, a new trade policy, a new immigration policy," said Buchanan, who stands in single digits in national polls. "It is, if you will, a conspiracy by the two parties to keep third parties out of the presidential debates and therefore to maintain a hammerlock on the presidency of the United States.

"Without the debates, there really is no chance, I believe, that the Reform Party can win the presidency of the United States, and that is grossly unjust," he added.

Officials at the Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization established in 1987 to sponsor the candidate forums, said their rules are "fair and clear."

"The CPD's mission is to sponsor debates that will present the leading candidates for president of the United States to the public in an informative manner," said Janet Brown, the commission's executive director. "We are confident that our plan . . . will allow us to achieve that objective."

The FEC has 90 days to respond to the complaint. If it does not allow Buchanan and the Reform Party to participate, the conservative commentator says he will take his case to federal court.

Buchanan and Reform Party Chairman Pat Choate said the 15% threshold is arbitrary as well as skewed by the fact that commission leaders are members of major parties.

"There's not a single member of the Reform Party on the commission itself," Buchanan said.

The sample sizes and the questions asked in the polls vary from news outlet to news outlet, none of which are "hotbeds of Buchananism," he said.

"We think that perhaps they are not objective institutions to be deciding whether or not I ought to be in a presidential debate," he added.

Additionally, Buchanan said, the rules would hurt voters by excluding his views on such issues as immigration and trade.

"My views, our views, Reform Party views, the views of millions, the majority in some cases, a significant minority in others, won't get heard in the presidential election if we're denied access to that debate, and fairness demands it," Buchanan said.

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