News Release - Tuesday, April 16, 2002

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Commission on Presidential Debates Settles Dispute, Apologizes to Ralph Nader for Removing Him From UMASS Campus During First Presidential Debate.

For Immediate Release April 16, 2002. 
Contact: Ralph Nader (202) 387-8030

Washington, D.C. - On the eve of trial in federal district court in Boston, Janet Brown, the executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), and Paul Kirk and Frank Fahrenkopf, the CPD's Democratic and Republican co-chairs, have sent a letter of apology to Ralph Nader and made a monetary payment to his attorneys in order to settle the case Nader filed against them for the events on October 3, 2000, the night of the first presidential debate. The Commission's security consultant during the first debate has also sent a letter of apology and is also paying a portion of Nader's attorneys' fees.

On the night of the first debate, Nader had a valid ticket to an auxiliary viewing room and an interview with Fox News, but he was met at the university campus by the CPD's security consultant and state police and forced to leave the event under threat of arrest. The CPD had instructed the consultant that Mr. Nader could not attend the debate, but Nader was attempting to attend a separate viewing event that was sponsored by the University of Massachusetts, not the CPD presidential debate. Others allowed on campus without any ticket were invited to attend the university event. Nader promptly sued the CPD on October 17, 2000.  

Reacting to the letters of apology, Nader said, "This expression of contrition was what I asked for in a letter to the Commission soon after the expulsion on October 3, 2000, and this is what the Commission finally agreed to, however delayed. After our victory, they will think thrice before doing this again to any ticketed third-party candidates in the future." Nader has repeatedly accused the CPD of being a deplorable, exclusionary tool of the two-party duopoly, performing an antidemocratic screening function in our system, and forcing excluded candidates to the sidelines in media attention and public appraisal."  

The Commission on Presidential Debates was formed in 1987 to replace the non-partisan League of Women Voters, which included independent candidate John Anderson in the first 1980 presidential debate and prohibited the major party candidates from selecting the debate panelists in 1984. Frank Fahrenkopf, then chairman of the Republican National Committee and now the leading lobbyist for the gambling industry, and Paul Kirk, then chairman of the Democratic National Committee and now a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry, created The Commission on Presidential Debates.  

Financed by Anheuser-Busch, Philip Morris and other multinational corporations, the Commission on Presidential Debates has excluded popular third-party candidates, most of whom are critical of the Big Business agenda. Although he received $29 million in public funds, captured 19 percent of the popular vote in the previous 1992 election, and 76 percent of eligible voters wanted him included, Ross Perot was excluded by the two parties from the 1996 presidential debates. Both Pat Buchanan, who collected over $12 million in federal matching funds, and Ralph Nader, who attracted the largest paid audiences during his campaign appearances, were excluded from the 2000 presidential debates, although in a national poll, 64 percent of eligible voters wanted them included.  

Nader's legal team survived three motions to dismiss, two summary judgment motions by the Commission defendants and was prepared to go to trial today in Boston. During preparation for trial, it became clear that the lawyer for the allegedly "non-partisan" CPD had created a "face sheet" that was distributed to security personnel to bar several well-known third-party presidential and vice-presidential candidates from attending the debate. Howard Friedman, Nader's lead counsel, said "the Massachusetts civil rights law does not allow a corporation through police power to use threats, intimidation, or force to violate the First Amendment rights of people because they disagree with the Commission."  



1. Text of Letter of apology 
from the Commission on Presidential Debates To Ralph Nader

2. October 5, 200 Letter From Ralph Nader to CPD Co-Chairs Over Debate Admission Rejection 
Text of Letter of apology  from the Commission on Presidential Debates To Ralph Nader 

Dear Mr. Nader:

In October 2000, you filed a lawsuit against the Commission on Presidential Debates and its co-chairs, Paul Kirk and Frank Fahrenkopf, in which you asserted claims concerning your ticketed right to enter an auxiliary viewing auditorium on the UMass campus on October 3, 2000, the night of the presidential debate. 

The Commission and its co-chairs did not know about your interest in attending the auxiliary viewing auditorium. If we had had a clear understanding of your intentions, every effort would have been made to protect your right to attend that event. We apologize for the misunderstanding of John Vezeris, the security consultant for the Commission, on the night of October 3 that resulted in your being required to leave the campus so that you could not attend the auxiliary viewing event and for any inconvenience to you. 

For the Commission and its co-chairs, Paul Kirk and Frank Fahrenkopf, 
Janet Brown
Executive Director

October 5, 200 Letter From Ralph Nader to CPD Co-Chairs Over Debate Admission Rejection 

October 5, 2000 
Mr. Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. 
Mr. Paul G. Kirk, Jr. 
Co-Chairmen Commission on Presidential Debates

Dear Mssrs. Fahrenkopf and Kirk: 
On Tuesday night October 3, 2000, I attempted to view the first presidential debate hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) at the University of Massachusetts. Though I have been excluded from participating in the debates by the arbitrary and unfair standards set by your private, bi-partisan company, I was given a transferable ticket by a university student to observe the debates in a separate auditorium reserved apart from the corporate-sponsored audience in attendance for the two-party show. I planned to view the debates so that I could appear as a guest to comment on the debates later that evening on a live broadcast by Fox News Channel from a trailer occupied by them, at the debate site, with the full permission of the CPD. 

En route to the event, ticket in hand, and members of the press present and recording everything at my side, I was met by a security consultant, Mr. John Vezeris, who was flanked by three uniformed state troopers. The security consultant, while declining to present any credentials, told me that he was ""instructed by the Commission"" to advise me that ""it''s already been decided that, whether or not you have a ticket, you are not invited."" One of the police officers told me that I would face arrest if I continued to remain on the premises. The security consultant repeatedly refused to divulge who from the CPD ordered this action and subsequent attempts by my campaign to establish who ordered this coercive expulsion with the aid of police officers have not resulted in any names. I was stopped a second time by the same police when I attempted to visit the news trailer for a broadcast I was formally invited to do by Fox News Chief Executive Roger Ailes and which had been arranged from the premises. According to today''s media reports, Mr. Kirk claims I was excluded as a ""point man for the protests,"" when I took no part in those protests and when demonstrations by pro-Gore supporters did not result in similar exclusionary treatment for Vice-President Gore. 

As the Green Party candidate for the office of President, I am not used to being barred by police officers from attending public events for which I hold a ticket. Nor am I accustomed to being physically prevented from attending approved on-site newscasts and reaching national audiences from venues where I am invited to appear. Indeed, the Commission''s decision to deploy public officers at a public university to bar me from viewing the presidential debates and participating at a subsequent onsite newscast because of my political viewpoints and affiliation with the Green Party violates both Massachusetts State and federal civil rights laws. 

Accordingly, in the spirit of a proposed settlement offer for this outrageous and unlawful behavior, I am seeking the following by 10 a.m. Tuesday morning October 10th: 

1) An official, written apology from both of you, on behalf of Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Albert Gore, Jr. 

2) A contribution of $25,000 to the nonprofit The Appleseed Center for Electoral Reform at Harvard Law  School. 

3) An assurance that I will not be barred from attending any other CPD presidential debate venues for which I have an invitation from the press or a ticket. Should you not respond by Tuesday morning to these three requests, the Nader 2000 Campaign will pursue its legal remedies on Tuesday, October 10th.  

Sincerely yours, 
Ralph Nader 

Cc: Ms. Janet H. Brown, Executive Director; Vice-President Albert Gore, Jr.  Governor George W. Bush 

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News Release - Tuesday, April 16, 2002

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