Perot sues to stop presidential debates
September 23, 1996
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Clinton and Dole campaigns made a "closed door" agreement to lock presidential hopeful Ross Perot out of televised presidential debates, the Reform Party alleged Monday.
The Reform Party made its accusation as Perot and running mate Pat Choate filed suit in federal court seeking a court order barring the debates without his participation. The Commission on Presidential Debates decided last week to keep the Reform candidates out of the debates because, it said, they lacked a reasonable chance of winning.
Reform Party officials and attorneys said the lawsuit is aimed at making the electoral process fair. "On behalf of every United States' citizens rights to a fair and open election, we are filing a lawsuit in federal court today charging our government, through their federal election commission, with interfering and tilting the election in favor of the Republicans and Democrats," Russell Verney, the Perot '96 national coordinator, said at a news conference.
Verney alleged that Clinton, despite publicly denouncing the commission's decision, "allowed his negotiators to conclude an agreement with Bob Dole's campaign behind closed doors locking Ross Perot out of the presidential debates."
The lawsuit contends that the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates violated its own rules in barring Perot from participating in two scheduled presidential debates and Choate from participating in debates of the vice presidential candidates. Those rules require that the commission use objective standards
Verney charged that the commission, composed of both Republicans and Democrats, based its decision on subjective reasoning -- that they don't want a third party to emerge.
"We are asking the federal court to intervene because grave and irreparable harm will occur if a staged debate takes place as planned," Verney said.
The federal court will likely hear the case Thursday.
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