If you’re planning on watching the first so-called presidential “debate” tonight, just remember this:
1 . Presidential “debates” are organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), a private bi-partisan (as opposed to non-partisan) corporation financed by Fortune 500 companies like Anheuser-Busch http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000042510 and Southwest Airlines http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000785 .The lobbying activities of both companies over the course of the 2012 election cycle have disproportionately benefited the Republican Party and conservative candidates.
2 . The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) is co-chaired by Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. and Michael D. McCurry. Fahrenkopf chaired the Republican Party from 1983-1989 and currently serves as the president and CEO of the American Gaming Association (AGA). He’s the pre-eminent national advocate for the commercial casino industry and de facto affiliate of the alcohol lobby. (Anheuser-Busch is by far the largest sponsor of tonight’s “debate.”) Michael McCurry served as White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton from 1994-1998 and chief lobbyist for “Hands Off the Internet,” a now defunct organization that opposed net-neutrality and was supported by major telecommuncations giants such as Verizon http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000079 and AT&T http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000076 . Both companies, as well as the anti-net neutrality lobby, disproportionately contribute to congressional republicans.
3 . One CPD criterion http://www.debates.org/index.php?page=candidate-selection-process for debate participation is evidence of at least 15 percent electoral support prior to the first debate. Electoral support, according to the CPD, is “determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recent publicly-reported results at the time of the determination.” The problem? Third-party candidates are rarely, if ever, publicized by the polling agencies on which the CPD relies. Over the last two years Gallop http://www.gallup.com/poll/election.aspx has polled public support of third-party candidates just twice, CNN http://www.cnn.com/POLITICS/pollingcenter/index.html once, and Rasmussen, http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/obama_administration/daily_presidential_tracking_poll not at all. These structural limitations subvert any meaningful opportunity for an open and broad political debate.
The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) represents yet another reason why corporatism is radically incompatible with truly democratic values like transparency, accessibility, and accountability.