Perot denied bid for debate access
WASHINGTON, D.C.–A federal district judge in early October denied Reform Party presidential candidate Ross Perot’s demand to appear in presidential debates hosted by a private, bipartisan commission.
Saying that his hands were tied, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan said that the matter was one for the Federal Elections Commission and Congress to handle, not the courts.
Hogan listened to oral argument from attorneys for both Perot and Natural Law Party candidate John Hagelin, as well as attorneys for the defendants, the Commission on Presidential Debates and the FEC, before issuing a bench ruling on the matter.
Perot’s attorneys had argued that the criteria for selecting the debate participants was subjective rather than objective, that 76 percent of the American people wanted to see Perot debate, and that the CPD was a quasi-government agency that should be considered a “state actor.”
Hogan rejected these arguments and said the presidential debates are not a public forum in which qualifying candidates are automatically entitled to participate. He also said that while he recognized the “frustration and unfairness in the process,” it was not appropriate for a judge to interfere in an issue that should be dealt with by the FEC.
Attorneys for Perot and Hagelin filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington on October 1. (Perot v. Federal Election Commission, et al.; CPD counsel: Lewis Loss, Washington, D.C.)