Shapiro Arato Files Summary Judgment Motion in Case Against FEC

On Wednesday, April 6th, Shapiro Arato filed a motion for summary judgment on behalf of Plaintiffs Level the Playing Field, Peter Ackerman, the Green Party of the United States, and the Libertarian National Committee, Inc. in their lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission (“FEC”). Plaintiffs’ motion challenges the FEC’s dismissals of two administrative complaints alleging that the Commission on Presidential Debates (“CPD”), the organization responsible for sponsoring the general election presidential and vice-presidential debates, violates federal election law requiring debate-sponsoring organizations to be non-partisan and to use “objective criteria” in determining who may participate in the debates. The motion argues that the FEC’s dismissals were contrary to law because they were based on the FEC’s adoption of an interpretation of its debate-staging regulation that conflicts with the plain meaning of that provision. Plaintiffs also argue that the FEC failed to take a “hard look” at the evidence marshalled in the administrative complaints, which demonstrated that the CPD is a bipartisan, not non-partisan, organization whose leaders actively support the Democratic and Republican parties, and that the CPD’s use of a polling criterion to select debate participants is designed to and does discriminate against third-party and independent candidates.

In addition, the motion also challenges the FEC’s denial of Level the Playing Field’s petition for a rulemaking to revise the FEC’s debate-staging regulation to limit the use of polling as an exclusive means of accessing the general election presidential and vice-presidential debates. The motion argues that the denial was arbitrary and capricious because the FEC fundamentally misconstrued the petition, ignoring how the exclusion of third-party and independent candidates from the CPD’s debates contributes to an appearance of corruption by permitting corporate sponsorship of the CPD’s debates to amount to illegal contributions to the two major parties.

Alexandra Shapiro and Chetan Patil authored the brief in support of the motion, which can be found here. The federal court complaint against the FEC can be found here and more information about the case and Plaintiffs’ initiatives to change the presidential debate rules can be found here and here.