A long-shot lawsuit by the Libertarian and Green Party candidates for president has been tossed out by a federal judge, lowering the odds of a third-party candidate making it into this year’s televised debates.
“We are exploring our options, with the firm resolve that this case and the larger issue of fair debates are too important to simply allow such an arbitrary dismissal,” said Ron Nielson, the campaign manager for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson.
Late last year, the largest third parties teamed up to argue that the Commission on Presidential Debates protected a de facto monopoly. Bruce Fein, the lawyer who drafted the lawsuit, hoped that a judge would see the private CPD as a gatekeeper for millions of dollars in free publicity, and its 15 percent polling threshold as a threat to the First Amendment. That, thought plaintiffs Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, would distinguish their cause from previous failures to open the debates.
“The difference between this case and other cases is our theory of relief and complaints,” Fein told The Washington Post at the time.
But in a decision released Friday morning, U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer picked apart that argument.
“Plaintiffs’ alleged injuries are wholly speculative and are dependent entirely on media coverage decisions,” wrote Collyer. “The alleged injuries — failure to receive media coverage and to garner votes, federal matching funds, and campaign contributions — were caused by the lack of popular support of the candidates and their parties sufficient to attract media attention.”
The legal setback does not eliminate the third parties’ options for debate access, but it displays how long their odds are. In the relatively short history of televised presidential debates, only one third-party candidate ever shared a stage with the Democrat and Republican. That was in 1992, when businessman Ross Perot appeared and occasionally shined in face-offs with George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. In 1980, independent candidate John Anderson appeared in one debate with Ronald Reagan, but never one with incumbent President Jimmy Carter. There were no televised debates in 1968, the last year that a third-party candidate won electoral votes.
READ MORE HERE: Third-party candidates lose legal fight to get into presidential debates – The Washington Post