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Parties Sue FEC for Limiting Political Debates

May 09, 2000|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Third-party and other groups sued the Federal Election Commission on Monday, contending it is allowing a partisan commission to limit the presidential debates to the two major parties.

Among the groups filing the lawsuit in the Southern New York District of the U.S. District Court were the Libertarian Party and the Committee for a Unified Independence Party as well as voters from the Democratic, Republican and Green parties.

The lawsuit alleges that the FEC is violating a law that bars corporate and union donations to groups administering debates unless the group is nonpartisan. In allowing the Commission on Presidential Debates to run the fall events, the FEC violates that law because the commission is a partisan group that aims to include only major party candidates, the lawsuit says.

This latest lawsuit is different from previous ones because it is against the FEC, not just the debate commission, said Steve Dasbach, national director of the Libertarian Party.

"In the year 2000, for the FEC to exclude independents is not only illegal, it is undemocratic and un-American," said Nancy Ross of CUIP. She called the fall debates the "gateway to the White House" and said current rules exclude a large portion of the populace that considers itself independent.

The debate commission established rules that aim to include only viable candidates, which would be defined, in part, by limiting access to those with at least 15% support in five national polls.

An FEC spokesman said the commission does not comment on pending lawsuits.

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