Gary Johnson and James Gray Sue Commission on Presidential Debates, and Both Major Parties, over Debate Exclusion

On September 21, Gary Johnson, his running mate James Gray, and the Johnson-Gray Campaign filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in the central district of California against the Commission on Presidential Debates, the Democratic National Committee, and the Republican National Committee. The lawsuit alleges that the Commission on Presidential Debates and the two major parties are restraining competition. To answer the complaint that anti-trust law only relates to business, the complaint points out that the salary of the president is $400,000, and that Johnson is seeking to obtain the job of President, so economics is involved. The case is Johnson v Commission on Presidential Debates, cv-12-01600. Here is the complaint.

The case is assigned to Judge Philip S. Gutierrez, a Bush Jr. appointee. He has only had one previous case involving a minor party. He heard Libertarian Party of Los Angeles County v Bowen, a case against California’s restriction on out-of-district petitioners. In that case, he ruled that because the Secretary of State says she doesn’t enforce the law, therefore the plaintiffs lack standing to sue to overturn it. The Ninth Circuit took a somewhat different view, sending the case to arbirtration and signaling that if the arbitration doesn’t result in significant changes in state policy, the law will be held unconstitutional.

The lawsuit says that any presidential candidate on the ballot in enough states to theoretically win the presidency must be included in the debates. The venue is proper because James Gray lives in the central district of California. The attorney for the case is Paul Jensen. The lawsuit was filed a few hours after the Commission on Presidential Debates formally said only President Obama and Mitt Romney may participate in the first two debates. Here is the Commission’s announcement. Thanks to Independent Political Report for the news.


  1. Kyle Kneale · · Reply

    Richard has this been done before?

    I do believe this will make things interesting. However, the antitrust part is iffy and kinda weak methinks. I completely agree with the lawsuit however. But I think they could’ve done better as an argument.

  2. Richard Shepard · · Reply

    Has anybody ever alleged a RICO violation before?

  3. @1 Yeah, this is a very interesting move which is likely to not turn out in favor of Johnson/Gray, most unfortunately. 😦 But, let’s hope and pray for the best and that people will start to wake up from the two-party madness and folly…

  4. Richard Winger · · Reply

    There have been lawsuits filed by excluded presidential candidates against the Commission on Presidential Debates ever since 1988. Lenora Fulani filed the most lawsuits, in federal courts in both Washington, D.C., and New York. Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan, John Hagelin, and others have also sued the Commission on Presidential Debates. I don’t believe any of these past lawsuits raised Antitrust.

    Many good outcomes in noble causes took decades of lawsuits and other activism before reform came about. African-Americans filed lawsuits against governmental and social injustice starting even before the Civil War. The Amisted case, which became a big movie, was in approximately 1830, I think. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of lawsuits filed against unequal public schools. There were hundreds of lawsuits against the ban on interracial marriage, and those went on from the 1870’s til 1967. It pays to keep trying.

  5. I don’t expect Johnson & Gray to win this lawsuit, but it would be nice if the decision against them didn’t say that there are 200 presidential candidates this year. The defenders of the Commission debates use that as an excuse sometimes.

  6. Nick Kruse · · Reply

    I wish Johnson and his campaign the best of luck in this, but the fact is that the CPD, the RNC, and the DNC all have millions upon millions of dollars that they will use to defend themselves. If they flood the court with that much cash, there is no way that Johnson will win the lawsuit regardless of the merits of the case.

  7. Nick Kruse · · Reply

    “it would be nice if the decision against them didn’t say that there are 200 presidential candidates this year.”

    I completely agree. This is why I was glad that the 4 frivolous candidates were taken off the ballot in my home state of Illinois. The more third party candidates there are, the greater the chance the media will ignore all of them. If there is just one or two third party candidates, the media might mention them every once and a while.

  8. Just like it should not be up to the government to decide who can speak.

    It should not be up to the government who can be a candidate.

    One mans frivolous candidate is another first attempt to raise an issue.

    We should trust the voters to decide, not the government, not the corporate media.

  9. @1 – Maybe they’re just trying something different since CPD lawsuits have been tried before. I think it really looks awful that the polling requirement was raised from 5% to 15% after some competition actually emerged in 1992. If anyone manages to get 15% and achieve the monumental task of making the debates as a third party candidate, they’ll probably increase the requirement again to 20%.

  10. Arthur DiBianca · · Reply

    If you’re interested in this, take a look at some of the complaints I filed against CPD in 2008.

  11. If you look carefully, there are actually 25 candidates running for President.

    Is it so hard to have all 25 qualify automatically on the ballots and then run in a first round in September and then in November have the final round with the top 5 in each state?

    All candidates should get home+regional advantage, whether it’s from the Presidential or VP candidate.

    If a Presidential candidate came from New Mexico and a VP candidate came from California, the ticket per se would get automatic ballot access in: California, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Colorado.

  12. That “200” statistic is utterly phony. This comes from the list the FEC keeps of people who say they are running for president. But many of them said they were candidates for the Republican nomination or the Democratic nomination; they are not candidates in the election itself.

  13. el pee (on) R,D · · Reply

    “This is why I was glad that the 4 frivolous candidates were taken off the ballot in my home state of Illinois.”

    One of those was Virgil Goode. If he was not taken off the Illinois ballot by supporters of Jill Stein, another candidate who would have probably been removed from the Illinois ballot had her signatures been challenged and who herself opposed the challenges some of her supporters made to other candidates…Goode would have been the fifth candidate to be on the ballot for over 50% of electoral votes. As it is he is on the ballot for 48% of them, just barely missing that important cutoff.

  14. el pee (on) R,D · · Reply

    “Arthur DiBianca Says:
    September 22nd, 2012 at 4:48 am
    If you’re interested in this, take a look at some of the complaints I filed against CPD in 2008.”

    Good stuff, pure Grade A!

  15. It is 2012, and it has been a year of years as far as I’m concerned and though it’s a ‘hail mary’ tactic, I give kudos to GJ and his team for taking their commitment and for their initiative. At a minimum the suit will stir the pot and get people talking about the issue. We really need GJ’s voice and point of view in the debate. Romney, BO is worse and the choice is clear in my mind. Either go with the two establishment candidates and continue the march towards less freedom or check the box in November next to Garys name and vote for freedom, free markets, sound money, a balanced budget and a sane foreign policy. Not to mention and end to the Patriot Act and all the other liberty destroying policies of the past. If you support Gary being in the debate grab the Android app, donate and share, share, share and share –

  16. Cyric Renner · · Reply

    Arthur, I looked at your complaint. Its a no brainer to me. Of course the CPD is involved in political activities. The two people that run it are a Republican and a Democrat ! By ensuring no other candidate gets debate they are ensuring the monopolization of power by the corrupt duopoly.

    Do you ever receive any formal response from the IRS besides the canned template letter ?

  17. The Truth Hurts · · Reply

    Nick Kruse is an embarassment to himself and to the third party movement. He’s just another elitist Green with delusions of granduer.

  18. Arthur DiBianca · · Reply

    Cyric: No, the IRS is apparently not allowed to divulge anything about the status of complaints. CPD still claims to be a 501c3 organization, so obviously the IRS did not act.

    Here is the current IRS page on filing complaints:


    We may not be able to get a surge going for this election, but let’s keep working for 2012 and 2016!!

    I am so tired of the same 2 choices each election.

  20. Cornelius · · Reply

    I want to second Lisa and post the direct link to the grassroots, trans-partisan petition to sign:

    Share this link wherever you can. Let’s make something happen!

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