On September 12 the founder and chairman of the board of Free and Equal Elections (FEE), Christina Tobin, announced that FEE would be hosting a presidential debate in Chicago. The announced date and time was 8.00 pm Central time (9:00 p.m. Eastern) on October 23, the day after the third and final debate held by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).(1) UPDATE, October 17- Fee has announced that the venue, originally the University Club, has been moved to the HIlton Chicago.
FEE is a 501(c)3 non-profit foundation “formed to ensure a fair and open electoral process for all.” Its goal is to give every candidate a chance to win (something it believes is “vital in a democracy”), and every voter a chance to vote for a candidate who reflects his or her values and beliefs. To that end it provides training for independent candidates, and helps candidates across the political spectrum to achieve ballot access.(2)
Unlike the CPD debates, which are restricted to the Democratic and Republican nominees (Barack Obama and Mitt Romney), FEE invited all candidates with a mathematical chance of winning the presidency. Obama and Romney are expected not to participate, though, as both have signed contracts with CPD prohibiting them from engaging in other debates. (The existence of those contracts may be why the FEE debate is taking place only after the CPD debates have concluded.)
There was initially some question as to whether Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson would participate in the FEE debate, as his priority was to be included in the CPD series. Johnson’s campaign has launched an anti-trust suit against the CPD over his exclusion.(3) The campaign has also been urgng its supporters to bombard the CPD debate sponsors with calls and emails, which has resulted in two sponsors – the YWCA and Phillips Electronics – dropping their sponsorships.(4)
In a September 18 interview on the Josh Tolley Show (a FEE debate sponsor), host Josh Tolley invited Johnson to commit to the FEE debate. Johnson replied that he was “not aware” of the event, but added that he “would certainly commit” to it.(5)
On September 27, Ballot Access News reported that four candidates had confirmed for the October 23 debate: Johnson, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode, and Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson. (Goode and Anderson both have ballot access or write-in status in enough states to win an Electoral College majority.)(6)
Johnson and Stein squared off for a 10-minute radio-only debate on NPR October 9,(7) and are scheduled for an internet-only rematch hosted by the Independent Voter Network on October 17.(8) The FEE debate, though, will be the first time the candidates will appear together.
This event is the second attempt by Tobin and FEE to organize an all-candidates’ presidential debate. A 2008 effort to hold an October all-candidates’ debate fell apart at the last minute due to scheduling conflicts.(9) However, FEE did arrange an October 23 debate between independent Ralph Nader and Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin in Washington, D.C., which Tobin notes was “the only presidential debate featuring third-party candidates to be broadcast live to a nation-wide audience via C-SPAN”.(10)
There was also an October 30, 2008, debate at the City Club of Cleveland (also carried on C-SPAN), between Nader, Baldwin, and Libertarian candidate Bob Barr.(11)
There is no word yet on whether C-SPAN will carry the 2012 debate; at present C-SPAN is announcing only the CPD debates on its site.(12) It was announced on Oct. 9 that, in addition to being live-streamed on the Free and Equal website (as well as on several of the sponsors’ sites), the FEE debate will be televised in the United States by digital channel Link TV, and worldwide by Al Jazeera English TV.(13) Further information on coverage will be added as available.
As of October 9 the FEE debate had attracted almost 50 sponsors, including The Nation, Link TV, Fair Tax Nation, Humboldt Sentinel, Before It’s News, The Josh Tolley Show, Ballot Access News, Come Home America, Owl Creek Gazette, Free Talk Live, Securing Liberty Radio, 1787 Network, Voice of Russia, Freedom’s Phoenix, Muslims for Liberty, National Constitution Party, The Justice Party, Blue Republicans, Restore the Republic, Re-Tea Party, Free the Vote NC, We the People, Grassroots for Liberty, New Progressive Alliance, Libertarian Party of Illinois, Liberty Candidates, Liberty Avengers, Liberty Chat, Cook County Green Party, Marin Libertarian Party, Rockford Tea Party, Dangerous Conversation, End the Lie, Wide Awake News, Freedom Files, Kelly Truth Squad, 1787 Flags, The Liberty ViewsLetter, Liberty Hour, Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution, Through the Mirror with Larry Sinclair, ROJS Radio Live, The Drudge Retort, Freedom Informant Network, Gadsden Rising on Freedomize, and Irregular Times.(14)
UPDate, October 17: FEE announced on October 17 that celebrity interviewer Larry King, formerly of CNN and now host of Larry King Now on Ora-TV and Hulu.com, would be moderating the debate. It was also announced that internet television channels ORA TV and Russia Today would also carry the event live; and that viewers could submit questions at the Free and Equal website or on Twitter using the hashtag #AskEmThisLarry.(15)
UPDATE, October 23: It was finally being reported on the day of the debate, October 23, that C-SPAN would be televising it live; (16) this was confirmed by checking the Debate Hub on C-SPAN’s website.(17). UPI also reported that FEE was asking online viewers to vote among the candidates, in a poll that would run for 24 hours after the debate’s closing. The top two candidates would reunite for a second debate on Tuesday, October 30.(16)
Photos (top to bottom): Gary Johnson (Libertarian), by Gage Skidmore; Jill Stein (Green), by S.N. Ardee; Rocky Anderson (Justice), by Don LaVange; Virgil Goode (Constitution), Congressional photo. All pictures courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
(1) Joe Buchman, “All-Presidential-Candidates-Invited Debate Set For October 23rd, Chicago,” Independent Political Report, Sep. 12, 2012, Web, Oct. 14, 2012. http://www.independentpoliticalreport.com/2012/09/all-presidential-candidates-invited-debate-set-for-October-23rd-chicago/
(2) “About F&E,” Free and Equal Elections, Web, Oct. 14, 2012. http://freeandequal.org/about-f-e
(3) “Gary Johnson sues the Commission on Presidential Debates – Charlotte Libertarian | Examiner.com,” GD’s Political Animal, Sep. 23, 2012, Blogspot, Web, Oct. 14, 2012. http://gdspoliticalanimal.blogspot.ca/2012/09/gary-johnson-sues-commission-on.html
(4) “Two Sponsors Pull Out From Debates Over Exclusion Of Gary Johnson – U.S. News & World Report,” GD’s Political Animal, Oct. 2, 2012. Blogspot, Web, Oct. 14, 2012. http://gdspoliticalanimal.blogspot.ca/2012/10/two-sponsors-pull-out-from-debates-over.html
(5) “BREAKING: Gary Johnson IN THE DEBATE!!,” The Josh Tolley Show, Sep. 18, 2012, 6:50. YouTube, Web, Oct. 14, 2012. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hb4VBuyjSpQ
(6) “Free & Equal Presidential Debate Will Include Four Candidates,” Ballot Access News,
Sep. 27, 2012. Web, Oct. 14, 2012. http://www.ballot-access.org/2012/09/27/free-equal-presidential-debate-will-include-four-candidates/
(7) “The NPR Third-Party Candidate Debate,” All Things Considered, Oct. 9, 2012. NPR, Web, Oct. 14, 2012. http://www.npr.org/2012/10/06/162438686/the-npr-third-party-candidate-debate?sc=fb&cc=fp
(8) Matt Metzner, “IVN.us to Host First Online Presidential Debate,” Independent Voter Network, Oct. 11, 2012. Web, Oct. 14, 2012. http://ivn.us/2012/10/11/ivn-us-to-host-first-online-presidential-debate/
(9) George Dance, “Third-Party Debate Fiasco: Oct. 19 debate(s) cancelled,” Nolan Chart, Oct. 18, 2012. Web, Oct. 14, 2012. http://www.nolanchart.com/article5242-thirdparty-debate-fiasco-oct-19-debates-cancelled.html
(10) “Huge Announcement: Presidential Debate To Allow Third Party Candidates!!! Get the Word Out!”, Josh Tolley Show, Sep. 12, 2012, 1:25. Web, Oct. 14, 2012. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNAqK3Vrn-k
(11) George Dance, “Barr / Nader / Baldwin debate,” Nolan Chart, Oct. 29, 2012. Web, Oct. 14, 2012. http://www.nolanchart.com/article5329-barr–nader-baldwin-debate-2008.html
(12) “Debate Schedule / Video,” Campaign Hub, C-SPAN. Web, Oct. 14, 2012. http://www.c-span.org/Debates/
(13) “Free and Equal Presidential Debate to be Broadcast Live on Link TV, Al Jazeera,” Independent Political Report, Oct. 9, 2012. http://www.independentpoliticalreport.com/2012/10/free-and-equal-presidential-debate-to-be-broadcast-live-on-link-tv-al-jazeera
(14) Zak Carter, “‘3rd Party’ Presidential Debate to be Broadcast Worldwide on Al Jazeera, Link TV, and Free & Equal!”, Daily Paul Liberty Forum, Oct. 9, 2012. Web, Oct. 14, 2012. http://www.dailypaul.com/258048/3rd-party-presidential-debate-to-be-broadcast-worldwide-on-al-jazeera-link-tv-and-free-equal
(15) Aaron, “Larry King to Moderate Third-Party Presidential Debate,” Free and Equal, Oct. 17m 2012. Web, Oct. 17, 2012. http://freeandequal.org/updates/larry-king-to-moderate-third-party-presidential-debate/
(16) “3rd-party presidential nominees to debate,” UPI.com, Oct. 23, 2012. Web, Oct. 23, 2012. http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2012/10/23/3rd-party-presidential-nominees-to-debate/UPI-81511350977400/#ixzz2AAB5TI4E
(17) “Third-Party Presidential Debate,” C-SPAN. Oct. 23, 2012. Web, Oct. 23, 2012. http://www.c-span.org/Events/Third-Party-Presidential-Debate/10737435220-1/Tweet