OPEN DEBATES CRITICIZES PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE COMMISSION FOR INFORMING CANDIDATES OF DEBATE TOPICS
For Immediate Release
September 20, 2012
Contact: George Farah (202-688-1340), firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, D.C. – Election watchdog group Open Debates criticized the Commission on Presidential Debates for revealing the subject matters to be covered during the first presidential debate on October 3.
Yesterday, for the first time in history, the Commission on Presidential Debates informed the candidates ahead of time of what topics will covered by the moderator during the first presidential debate. The Commission announced that three questions will be devoted to the economy, one to health care, one to the “role of government” and one to “governing.” Never before have the candidates been notified of the subject matters of the questions prior to the presidential debates.
“The candidates shouldn’t be told what the questions are before the exam,” said George Farah, Executive Director of Open Debates. “Obama and Romney are running for the highest office in the country and, like their predecessors, should be compelled to think on their feet during the debates, rather recite a series of memorized sound-bites. This radical departure from previous debate formats stems from the willingness of the Commission on Presidential Debates to submit to the antidemocratic demands of the major party candidates.”
In July 2012, lawyers of the Obama and Romney campaign negotiated a detailed contract that dictates many of the terms of the 2012 presidential debates, including how the format will be structured. The Commission on Presidential Debates, a private corporation created by and for the Republican and Democratic parties, agreed to implement the debate contract. In order to shield the major party candidates from criticism, the Commission on Presidential Debates is concealing the contract from the public and the press. As a result, voters have been kept in the dark about anti-democratic provisions contained in the contract.
The previous debate sponsor, the League Women Voters, refused to implement debate contracts negotiated by the candidates. When the Republican and Democratic campaigns presented the League of Women Voters with a contract in 1988, the League rejected the contract, made the document public and accused the campaigns of "perpetrating a fraud on the American voter." The Commission on Presidential Debates, which had been formed a year earlier by the two major parties, readily implemented the 1988 contract and has sponsored every presidential debate since. The Commission exercises a monopoly over the presidential debates and has implemented every contract drafted by the Republican and Democratic campaigns. Each contract contained provisions that sanitized the debate formats, excluded third-party challengers and prohibited candidates from participating in other debates.
A copy of the 2004 debate contract is available at: http://www.opendebates.org/news/documents/debateagreement.pdf