Shapiro Arato Petition to Open Presidential Debates to Independent Candidate Receives Overwhelming Public Support

Shapiro Arato represents Level the Playing Field (“LPF”) in connection with its efforts to create an opportunity for an independent candidate to participate in the 2016 presidential debates. LPF is a non-profit, non-partisan corporation that seeks to enhance and strengthen our democracy by creating an opportunity for more competition in our political system. One major goal of LPF is to reform the presidential debate system to ensure the use of criteria that will provide an independent candidate a real chance to participate in the debates.

On November 14, 2014, the Federal Election Commission (“FEC”) published for public comment LPF’s petition for rulemaking. The petition argues that the existing rules the Commission on Presidential Debates (“CPD”) applies for selecting debate participants systematically discriminate against third-party and independent candidates.  The petition requests that the FEC amend its regulations to put an end to the discriminatory system now in place and to require the CPD to adopt an objective rule that gives an independent candidate a reasonable chance of gaining access to the debates.  A more detailed discussion of the petition can be found here.

During the public comment period for the petition, which ended on December 15, 2014, 1,247 individuals – all unknown to LPF and the firm – submitted comments on the petition.  All 1,247 rejected the CPD’s exclusionary system and all 1,247 requested that the FEC open up a rulemaking to ensure a debate system that is fair to independent and third-party candidates.

Alexandra Shapiro and Jeremy Licht drafted the petition and are leading these efforts for LPF.