News Release

Who Runs the Presidential Debates?

Frank Fahrenkopf and Mike McCurry

The Commission is co-chaired by Frank Fahrenkopf, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Mike McCurry, former press secretary to Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Last week the Commission on Presidential Debates named the moderators for the scheduled presidential and vice presidential debates. While some criticized the lack of ethnic diversity and other aspects of the debates, largely unexamined is the group that sponsors the debates.

GEORGE FARAH, gfarah at opendebates.org
Farah is executive director of Open Debates and author of the book No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates.

The group Open Debates today called on the Commission on Presidential Debates to “make public the secret debate contract negotiated by the Obama and Romney campaigns.”

Farah said today: “Robert F. Bauer of the Obama campaign and Benjamin L. Ginsberg of the Romney campaign negotiated a detailed contract that dictates many of the terms of the 2012 presidential debates. The Commission on Presidential Debates, a private corporation created by the Republican and Democratic parties to serve their interests, has agreed to implement the debate contract. In order to shield the major party candidates from criticism, the Commission on Presidential Debates is concealing the contract from the public and the press.

“In denying voters access to critical information about our most important electoral events, the Commission on Presidential Debates is more concerned with the partisan interests of the two major party candidates than the democratic interests of the voting public.

“Previous debate contracts negotiated by the major party campaigns have contained anti-democratic provisions that weakened debate formats, excluded third-party candidates and prohibited additional debates from being held.

“Despite claiming to ‘have no relationship with any political party or candidate,’ the Commission was created by, and for, the Republican and Democratic parties, effectively taking the debates away from the League of Women Voters, which had sponsored the debates until 1984. In 1986, the two parties actually ratified an agreement ‘to take over the presidential debates,’ and the Commission has sponsored every debate since 1988. The Commission is co-chaired by Frank Fahrenkopf, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Mike McCurry, former press secretary to Democratic President Bill Clinton.”