On September 5, U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras, from the District of Columbia district, issued an 18-page decision about debates. The case is La Botz v Federal Election Commission, 11-1247. It says that the FEC was wrong to have dismissed a complaint filed by the 2010 Socialist Party’s U.S. Senate candidate in Ohio, Dan La Botz. La Botz had been denied participation in the U.S. Senate candidate debates, which were restricted to only the Democratic and Republican nominees. The debates had been sponsored by a consortium of eight Ohio newspapers, which are corporations. FEC rules provide that debates sponsored by for-profit corporations may exclude some candidates, but the debate sponsors must have predetermined, objective criteria as to whom should be invited.
When La Botz was refused entry to the debates, he complained to the FEC, which dismissed his complaint, even though it appeared that the debate sponsors had no objective criteria when they planned the debates. The ruling says the FEC must re-examine the case. The decision also says the case is not moot, because (1) La Botz has said he intends to run for public office in the future; (2) even if he hadn’t said that, it is likely that similar cases involving other minor party and independent candidates will arise in the future in Ohio.