Former New Mexico Governor and Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson, determined to get a place on the stage during the upcoming Presidential debates, has filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the Democratic and Republican parties.
Johnson’s campaign contends that the parties are working in collusion, despite his having satisfied the requirements to be included in debates, to block third-party presence at the events. The Commission on Presidential Debates and the Johnson campaign disagree on polling results.
The Libertarian candidate’s campaign alleges that the Commission on Presidential Debates, the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee have conspired in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to limit competition, thereby causing material injury to the American electorate and the Johnson campaign.
“Someone has to stand up and call this what it is—a rigged system designed entirely to protect and perpetuate the two-party duopoly,” said Johnson spokesman Ron Nielson in a press release. “That someone will be the Johnson campaign.”
In the suit, the plaintiffs argue that because the Presidency is a salaried position, pursuit of the position can be treated as commerce. The pertinent portion of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act is stated in the suit as follows:
Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $100,000,000 if a corporation, or, if any other person, $1,000,000, or by imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.
In agreeing to these rules to exclude the plaintiff from participating in the debates, the defendants are conspiring and contracting to restrain the plaintiffs from participating in the electoral process.
The suit is unlikely to gain much traction. Some pundits have described it as an unprecedented move for a third-party candidate, but it could increase Johnson’s visibility to voters who are still disenchanted with the Mitt Romney/Barack Obama choice they face in November.
Johnson, in a recent interview, described his appeal to those voters: “The majority of Americans are fiscally responsible and socially accepting. I’m in that category of people – I think I’m representative of the majority of people in this country.
“Yet these people are let down by the two-party system. You’ve got Democrats that are supposed to be good on civil liberties but haven’t been so good of late, and Republicans who are supposed to be good on dollars and cents but I’m not sure they have ever really been good at that. Combine them both, and arguably that’s me.”
In 2000, third-party candidates Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan both sued in an attempt to be included in the debates; both were unsuccessful. The last third-party candidate to share the stage with the Republican and Democratic candidates during a Presidential debate was Ross Perot in 1992. Perot went on to win 18.9 percent of the popular vote on Election Day.