Letter From Center for Competitive Democracy (CCD) Blasts CNN’s Planned Biden-Trump Debate as ‘Sham’ on Public That Would Violate Campaign Finance Law

NEW YORK, May 21, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Center for Competitive Democracy’s Oliver Hall today sent a certified letter to CNN and campaign managers for Biden and Trump demanding they set criteria that would permit third-party and Independent candidates such as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. an opportunity to debate. The letter was sent in the shared interests of American Values 2024, More Voter Choice Fund, and voters across the country.



The letter comes in response to the news that CNN will host a debate exclusively between Biden and Trump on June 27, 2024, in its Georgia studios. It takes issue with the ‘propriety’ and ‘legality’ of CNN’s debate criteria. “It is all but certain that Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump will not qualify under CNN’s criteria,” Hall states in the letter.

Hall notes that a debate-staging organization such as CNN must adhere to pre-existing, objective debate criteria to comply with the Federal Election Campaign Act. He calls CNN’s scheduled debate “an unlawful corporate contribution to the participating candidates,” and states that Biden and Trump will be violating the law if they participate in the debate as planned.

Hall details how Biden and Trump “are all but certain not to” qualify under the five debate criteria CNN announced: (1) full the requirements outlined in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States; (2) file a Statement of Candidacy with the Federal Election Commission; (3) appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to reach the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidency prior to the eligibility deadline; (4) agree to accept the rules and format of the debate; and (5) receive at least 15% in four separate national polls of registered or likely voters that meet CNN’s standards for reporting.

Crucially, writes Hall, both candidates fail in respect to CNN’s third requirement: “neither Biden nor Trump will appear on any state ballot as of June 20, 2024, the date CNN identifies as the last day to determine a candidate’s eligibility to participate.” Neither candidate, Hall further notes, has yet won his party’s nomination; that decision happens, respectively, at the Republican National Convention in July and the Democratic National Convention in August.

Hall continues, “Does CNN intend to waive criterion (3) as it applies to Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump? If not, how does CNN justify inviting them to participate, when neither candidate’s name will appear on any state ballot as of the June 20, 2024 deadline for determining their eligibility?”

Hall also takes issue with reports that a CNN producer promised a Trump campaign official that “RFK will not be on the stage.” On the same day, he notes, the Washington Post reported that “Biden advisers said that they had told CNN the president would only participate in debates that were one-on-one with Trump….”

Hall decries the demand by CNN for the 15% polling threshold.

In all, he calls CNN’s list of criteria, and its failure to comply with them, “a mere sham perpetrated upon the public.” Moving forward with this debate, he alleges, would be a clear violation of the FECA.

Finally, Hall calls on CNN to apply its criteria equally to every candidate, “regardless of their partisan affiliation” while requesting a response to his letter by May 27, 2024.

“This is yet another dirty trick by the media to censor Bobby Kennedy,” said Tony Lyons, co-chair of American Values 2024, the super PAC supporting Kennedy. “The uniparty is panicked that Kennedy will convince Baby Boomers of what tens of millions of Americans have already learned: that Washington DC is a cesspool of corruption – captured by big pharma, big tech, big oil…big everything – and that Bobby Kennedy is the only candidate who can clean it up. If he can burst through the tricks, the scare tactics, the censorship and the lies, the DNC and the RNC know that Kennedy can win.”

Theresa Amato, spokesperson for the More Voter Choice Fund, and national presidential campaign manager for Nader/LaDuke 2000 and Nader/Camejo 2004, added, “CNN’s debate qualification criteria, applied at this early date in June of the election season, is unfair to third parties and Independent candidates who have not yet even had a chance to complete the stringent ballot access requirements set by the two parties in legislatures across the country, and at a time when these candidacies are often not even included in media polls.  The criteria is even more problematic than the criteria used by the so-called ‘nonpartisan’ Commission on Presidential Debates, which – for three decades – set ‘objective criteria’ that did not permit a single third party or independent candidate to debate on the national stage since Ross Perot in 1992.”

Amato continued, “When will American voters – and would-be voters — be able to hear candidates from outside the fossilized two parties? The American people deserve to hear from and be informed by a range of presidential choices. Shame on any self-respecting ‘news’ organization that enables and perpetuates the two-party cartel in U.S. politics that prevents fair competition, innovation, and regeneration –  the same standards we seek in our economy. How many Americans would tolerate only two brands of anything for decades with no chance for others to participate in the marketplace, or in this case the marketplace of ideas for our country?”

About Center For Competitive Democracy  (CCD)

The Center for Competitive Democracy was founded in 2005 by Oliver Hall to strengthen American democracy by increasing electoral competition. CCD works to identify and eliminate barriers to political participation and to secure free, open and competitive elections by fostering active civic engagement in the political process.

About More Voter Choice Fund

The More Voter Choice Fund is a nonpartisan organization that facilitates a more fair and inclusive democracy.  The Fund advocates for healthy, diverse political competition and representation and is dedicated to election fairness in the 21st Century. https://morevoterchoicefund.org

About American Values 2024 (AV24)

American Values 2024 (AV24) is a super PAC committed to educating and mobilizing voters to elect candidates who will restore and protect the soul of democracy in the United States. Our long-term vision is to build a movement starting at the local level to create a national groundswell to address the critical issues our country faces. Today, AV24 supports Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign. AV24 is co-founded by Mark Gorton (Chairman of Tower Research Capital) and Tony Lyons (President of Skyhorse Publishing). For more information visit letkennedydebate.com.

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SOURCE Center for Competitive Democracy