By Andres Del Aguila
WASHINGTON – Gary Johnson, the former 2016 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, plans to petition the Supreme Court to hear his “Fair Debate” lawsuit against the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).
“The more choices we have the better,” Gary Johnson said during a Thursday rally in front of the Supreme Court. “Regardless of political party, this will improve politics in America.”
Johnson and former Green Party candidate Jill Stein filed the lawsuit Sept. 15, arguing the CPD violates anti-trust laws and the First Amendment.
The D.C. Court of Appeals upheld a 2016 dismissal of Johnson’s case in August.
Johnson, who is not planning to run for public office again, blamed the CPD for his failure to win the White House. He argued the national attention garnered by competing in the national debates could have propelled him to victory.
Our America Initiative, an organization founded by Johnson, hosted a “money bomb” fundraiser during the rally. As Johnson was speaking, the organization said it raised more than $68,000 to assist their legal fight.
The CPD, a private and nonprofit organization, requires political parties to receive 15 percent in five national polls to get a spot on the stage. Johnson fell short of achieving that threshold by peaking at 13 percent support in July 2016.
The 15 percent threshold strikes a balance between inclusivity and saturating the debates with a large amount of political parties, according to the CPD website. The CPD added saturation can “jeopardize” voter education.
The CPD issued the 15 percent rule in 2000. Critics say the rule is the Commission’s effort to prevent another Ross Perot situation, which is the last time a third party competed in the national debates. Perot received 18.9 percent of the national vote, one of the largest percentages ever achieved by an independent candidate.
Bruce Fein, a distinguished (veteran) constitutional lawyer, is leading the legal fight against the CPD. Fein argued the two major political parties collude to squelch the possibility of third parties gaining enough traction to compete.
“This is supposed to be a debate where there are differences but they are all marching to the same drummer…,” he said. “The American people don’t have any choices out there. That’s why you get the same old, same old.”