Open Debates

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The board of the new organization Open Debates, according to one source, "is an alliance of agitators: former independent presidential candidate John Anderson, Angela Bay Buchanan (Pat Buchanan's sister), former Reform Party vice presidential candidate Pat Choate, Harvard Law Professor Jon Hanson, Harvard Law student George Farah (and Open Debates' executive director), executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics Larry Noble, American University law professor Jamin Raskin, the founder of TransAfrica Randall Robinson, and Paul M. Weyrich, chair of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation."

In their November 12, 2003 Op-Ed for the New York Times "End the Debates Before They Start," Weyrich and Robinson provide an overview of what they see as a bipartisan (versus non-partisan) stance of the Commission on Presidential Debates established in 1987:

The Commission's co-chairmen are "Frank Fahrenkopf and Paul Kirk, former chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively."
"The commission's bias toward the two major parties is most evident during the debate negotiation process. Every four years, the commission publicly proposes a debate schedule and publishes candidate selection criteria. Questions concerning third-party participation and debate formats, however, are ultimately resolved behind closed doors among Republican and Democratic negotiators. The commission, posing as an independent sponsor, then enforces these rules, shielding the major-party candidates from public criticism."

In its stead, Weyrich and Robinson suggest "a new, genuinely nonpartisan debate sponsor -- a Citizens Debate Commission -- operating with full transparency and resisting the antidemocratic demands of participating candidates. Popular third-party candidates that the American people want to see participate in the debates would be included. Exchanges among the candidates and follow-up questions would be allowed. Our organization, Open Debates, is working to make this dream a reality."

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