On February 1, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan issued a 28-page opinion in Level the Playing Field v Federal Election Commission, 1:15cv-1397, D.C. She ruled that the FEC clearly did not look at the evidence presented by the plaintiffs Peter Ackerman, the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, and Level the Playing Field. The evidence is voluminous and shows that the Commission on Presidential Debates, and particular commissioners, are not non-partisan when they act to keep all presidential candidates (except for the Democratic and Republican nominees) out of the general election debates.
The decision says that when the FEC refused to investigate the behavior of the Commission on Presidential Debates, it did not even acknowledge the evidence, nor did it explain why it is disregarding the evidence. Here are a few samples of the evidence mentioned in the decision: a quotation from Alan Simpson, a Commissioner for the Commission on Presidential Debates, who said, “Democrats and Republicans on the commission are interested in the American people finding out more about the two major candidates — not about independent candidates who mess things up.” Also, Commissioner John Lewis said, “There’s no question that the two major parties have absolute control of the presidential debate process.” Commissioner Newt Minow said, “The responsibility for the debates should rest with the political system — with the Democratic and Republican Parties.”
The decision orders the FEC to reconsider the complaint against the CPD within sixty days. The decision says that the judge will not now order the FEC to change its debates ruling, and that the FEC now has a second opportunity to give the complaint the attention it deserves.
Two of the six FEC commissioners already voted to act on the complaint, so it is not difficult to imagine that the FEC will take the hint and revise its earlier ruling that the CPD is not breaking the campaign finance laws.