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Open Debates, National Press Building, 529 14th Street. NW, Suite 1201

Washington DC, 20045

August 23, 2004

Contact: Chris Shaw (202) 628-9195

WASHINGTON -- Eleven pro-democracy civic groups – the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, The Center for Voting and Democracy, Common Cause, Democracy Matters, Democracy South, Judicial Watch, the National Voting Rights Institute, Open Debates, Public Campaign, Rock the Vote, and the Southern Voting Rights Project – jointly released a report today titled “Deterring Democracy: How the Commission on Presidential Debates Undermines Democracy.”

The report was released in the wake of the August 12th U.S. District Court ruling ordering a Federal Election Commission investigation of the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), and documents both how the CPD is unduly influenced by the Democratic and Republican parties, and the harm to democracy that results from the CPD's partisan practices.

The Report, which covers the CPD's performance since its founding by the Republican and Democratic National Committees in 1986, documents how the corporate-sponsored CPD implements and conceals secret contracts drafted by the Republican and Democratic campaigns at the expense of voter education. The Report addresses the “distressing consequences” of such “deceptive major party control.”

“Candidates that voters want to see are often excluded, such as Ross Perot. Issues the American people want to hear about are often ignored, such as free trade and child poverty. And the debates have been reduced to a series of glorified bipartisan news conferences, in which the Republican and Democratic candidates merely exchange memorized soundbites,” stated the Report.

The conclusion reached by the Report is that an independent, genuinely non-partisan debate sponsor is required. The Report identifies the Citizens' Debate Commission – which is comprised of diverse civic leaders such as Heritage Foundation co-founder Paul Weyrich, Chellie Pingree of Common Cause, TransAfrica Forum founder Randall Robinson, Angela “Bay” Buchanan, John B. Anderson, Tom Gerety of the Brennan Center for Justice, Ambassador Alan Keyes, former FEC General Counsel Larry Noble, and Jehmu Greene of Rock the Vote – as such a genuinely nonpartisan sponsor, and the Report concludes that “the major party nominees should participate in debates proposed by the Citizens' Debate Commission.”

The Report is available at: