A Closer Look at Gary Johnson’s Anti-Trust Lawsuit

As noted Sunday by another IVN contributor, Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson filed an anti-trust lawsuit Friday against the Commission on Presidential Debates, the Democratic National Committee, and the Republican National Committee.

Here’s a closer look at the legal reasoning and aspects of Gary Johnson’s anti-trust lawsuit:

Challenging Johnson’s exclusion from the presidential debates, the suit claims the rules have been designed by the two major parties to intentionally exclude third parties from the only nationally-televised debates.

It is widely believed that participating in the presidential debates is necessary to have a chance of winning the election. “From that premise, it follows that the participation by a candidate in the nationally-televised debates is equally critical to his or her candidacy,” states the suit.

Since the president and vice president are paid a salary, the suit argues that their run for the White House can be considered commerce and can be pursued under the Sherman Antitrust Act.

“The defendants are conspiring and contracting to restrain the plaintiffs from participating in the electoral process,” further stating, “actions to conspire or contract to prevent plaintiffs from election by excluding them from debates is actionable ‘restraint of trade.’”

Johnson and his running mate, Jim Gray, ask that the courts provide a temporary restraining order, preventing the debate from occurring unless “all constitutionally-eligible candidates are included whose names will appear on the ballots in states whose cumulative total of electoral college votes is 270 or more.”

The debate sponsor, the Commission on Presidential Debates, issued invitations Friday only to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, announcing that the two candidates were the only ones who qualified to appear in the debates under their “Nonpartisan Candidate Selection Criteria for 2012 General Election Debate.

Johnson qualifies under the commission’s first two criteria, and is one of four candidates who has a mathematical chance of winning the election. The fourth is Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

The problematic and seemingly arbitrary criterion in question establishes that candidates must “have a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recently publicly-reported results at the time of the determination.”

According to a Reason-Rupe poll released Friday, Gary Johnson currently has the support of 6% of likely voters.

Senior Johnson adviser Ron Nielson said in a campaign press release:

“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.”

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