On Tuesday, a Federal Appeals Court ruled that third-party candidates Gary Johnson‘s and Jill Stein’s rights were not violated when they were excluded from participating in presidential debates.
The pair claims that their First Amendment rights had been violated, saying that they were denied participation “because of hostility towards their political viewpoints.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit quickly rejected their argument.
Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote:
“Every four years, we suffer through the celebration of democracy (and national nightmare) that is a presidential election. And, in the end, one person is selected to occupy our nation’s highest office. But in every hard-fought presidential election, there are losers. And, with quadrennial regularity, those losers turn to the courts.”
Johnson and Stein also brought antitrust claims up as well. They said that the two-party system and overall requirements for participation in presidential and vice presidential debates represent a monopoly of some sorts.
One of those requirements was receiving 15 percent of voter support. They said that the threshold is an “unreasonable burden on free speech or political association in violation of the First Amendment.” They stated that the 15 percent is meant to “boost the political speech of the two major party nominees.”
They also stated that the rules represent an “unlawful agreement to monopolize and restrain competition.”
Brown said that Johnson and Steins’ complaints failed to “articulate a clear legal claim, let alone identify a cognizable injury.”
She went on to say, “The complaint omits entirely any allegation of government action [to suppress First Amendment rights], focusing entirely on the actions of the non-profit defendants,” in reference to the non-profit Commission on Presidential Debates.
The court concluded by rejecting alleged violations of antitrust law, specifically the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Brown said, “To understand the scope of antitrust standing, we focus on the bedrock principle of this field: antitrust laws protect market (i.e. economic) competition. Plaintiffs, however, define their injuries as millions of dollars in free media, campaign donations, and federal matching funds — injuries to them as individual candidates in a political contest for votes. Square peg, meet round hole.”
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Credit: The Hill