The participants if this year’s presidential debates are set – Republican nominee Mitt Romney will face off against President Obama in a matchup that’s been obvious for months. But there are still other presidential candidates, and one in particular is keen on elbowing his way into the debates. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson earlier this month filed a lawsuit against the Commission on Presidential Debates, claiming that the organization’s practices violate antitrust laws and alleging collusion between the commission and the country’s two dominant political parties. In the suit, Johnson and his campaign accuse the commission, along with the Republican and Democratic national committees, of a “conspiracy” to meet in secret and create the rules for the debates, excluding third-party candidates and participating in what the lawsuit contends is a “restraint of trade” violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
The CPD has been attacked before for its stance toward lesser-known nominees, most prominently in 2000 for its decision to exclude third-party candidates from even being members of the audience at the debates. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader sued the commission for allegedly violating the Federal Election Campaign Act. Nader’s contention that the CPD violated the law’s stipulation that it not “endorse, support or oppose political candidates or political parties,” was eventually shot down by a D.C. Circuit Court in 2005. Johnson has been approved to appear on the ballot for 47 states and Washington, D.C., with pending efforts in Oklahoma, Michigan and Pennsylvania, giving him a pool of 495 potential electoral votes, well above the commission’s requirement of 270 for admission into the debates.