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Effort to Reform Presidential Debates Intensifies

Effort to Reform Presidential Debates Intensifies

Open Debates,
National Press Building,
529 14th St. NW, Suite 1201,
Washington, DC 20045

October 20, 2003

EFFORT TO REFORM THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES INTENSIFIES

Open Debates launches new website

WASHINGTON, DC -- Open Debates -- a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that was recently established to reform the presidential debate process -- has launched a new website: http://www.opendebates.org

Open Debates is initiating simultaneous campaigns to inform the public, the news media, and policy makers about the fundamental and irreparable problems with a bipartisan-controlled private corporation called the Commission on Presidential Debates. It is also promoting the creation of an alternative presidential debate sponsor --­ the nonpartisan Citizens Debate Commission --­ comprised of national civic organizations committed to maximizing voter education.

"We want the Commission on Presidential Debates to be exposed for what it truly is: a tool of the national Republican and Democratic parties that undermines voter education," said George Farah, Executive Director of Open Debates.

Open Debates campaign to reform the presidential debates has just begun. We are committed to establishing presidential debates that serve the American people first, said Open Debates Organizing Director Chris Shaw.

Open Debates has supporters on the left, right, and center of the political spectrum. This is reflected by the composition of Open Debates board of directors: John B. Anderson, former Republican Congressman; Angela Bay Buchanan, president of The American Cause; Randall Robinson, founder of TransAfrica; Larry Noble, Executive Director of the Center for Responsive Politics; Jon Hanson, Harvard Law professor; Pat Choate, former Reform Party vice-presidential candidate; Paul Weyrich, founder of the Heritage Foundation; and Professor Jamin Raskin, author of Overruling Democracy.

Presidential debates were run by the civic-minded nonpartisan League of Women Voters until 1988, when the national Republican and Democratic parties seized control of the debates by establishing the bipartisan, corporate-funded, Commission on Presidential Debates. Co-chaired by the former heads of the Republican and Democratic parties, the Commission on Presidential Debates has sought to "protect" the major party candidates from challenging questions, difficult issues, and popular third party candidates. As a result, under the Commission on Presidential Debates control, the presidential debates have been reduced to "glorified news conferences," where the candidates merely recite prepackaged soundbites and avoid discussing important issues.

"Open Debates website will inform the public about the anti-democratic practices of the Commission on Presidential Debates, and the need for debate reform, said Farah.

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