Sept. 21, 2012, Saint Paul, Minn. — Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson's campaign today filed an anti-trust lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California challenging Johnson's exclusion from upcoming debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The Commission announced earlier Friday that invitations to the debates were being extended only to Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.
Announcing the campaign's legal action, senior Johnson advisor Ron Nielson said, "There is nothing remotely surprising in the fact that a private organization created by and run by the Republican and Democratic Parties has only invited the Republican and Democratic candidates to their debates. It is a bit more disturbing that the national news media has chosen to play the two-party game, when a full one-third of the American people do not necessarily identify with either of those two parties.
"American voters deserve a real debate between now and Election Day. By excluding Gov. Johnson, the Commission on Presidential Debates has guaranteed that there will be no one on the stage challenging continued wars, calling for a balanced budget now — as opposed to decades down the road, and who has never advocated government-run health care.
"Someone has to stand up and call this what it is: A rigged system designed entirely to protect and perpetuate the two-party duopoly. That someone will be the Johnson campaign. We are today filing a lawsuit in Federal Court charging that the National Commission and the Republican and Democratic Parties, by colluding to exclude duly qualified candidates outside the Republican and Democratic Parties, are in violation of the nation's anti-trust laws.
"It is unfortunate that a successful two-term governor who is already assured of being on the ballot in 47 states and the District of Columbia is forced to turn to the courts to break up a rigged system, but it appears that fairness is not to be found otherwise."
Johnson's running mate and retired California Superior Court Judge Jim Gray, who is also a plaintiff, will argue the motion on the campaign's behalf.
The lawsuit, filed only hours after the Commission's announcement, charges that the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee and an organization they set up, the Commission on Presidential Debates, have conspired together to restrain trade, both in ideas and in commerce. The lawsuit maintains that the Republican and Democratic Parties, through the CPD, indefensibly limits access of other candidates to the marketplace of ideas and the opportunity to be employed in these highest offices in the land, and in so doing are violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890.
The lawsuit seeks an order of the Court enjoining the debates from proceeding unless all candidates who will appear on the ballot in enough states to win in the Electoral College are allowed to participate.
Nielson said the Johnson campaign would likely file additional lawsuits in additional jurisdictions challenging the exclusion of Johnson and Gray from the debates on other grounds.
Prior to 1988, the League of Women Voters sponsored nationally-televised presidential debates. The League withdrew its debate sponsorship after the Republican and Democratic campaigns negotiated an agreement to determine which candidates could participate, who would be panelists, and other details of the debates. The League withdrew its support for the debates because "the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetuate a fraud on the American voter."