Timberlake: Arrest of Green Party candidates calls out problems in elections



Jill Stein,Green Party Presidential Candidate, talked with CNN’s Don Lemon.

Ian Timberlake

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and vice presidential candidate Cheri Honkala were arrested Oct. 16, the night of the second presidential debate. 

Complying peacefully, they were charged with disorderly conduct after they were refused entry into Hofstra University, the location of the debate

Stein and Honkala are the predominate Green Party candidates who show up on 85 percent of the nation’s ballot, including Iowa. After the Commission on Presidential Debates disallowed them from participating in the events, Stein and Honkala protested by sitting outside the debate hall with an American flag, surrounded by police officers preventing them from entering the facility.

Jailed for more than eight hours, the candidate’s campaign manager Ben Manski said: “The arrest was outrageous and shouldn’t be tolerated in a country that is a leading proponent of democracy. … They knew that there was the possibility that they would be arrested. Their intention was to enter the premises and bear witness to the mockery of democracy that is tonight’s debate.”

Many might argue that Stein’s behavior, especially as a presidential candidate, was of slightly too high intensity. Fair enough. That same kind of pacifistic mentality strips everything it means to be a democracy. I would like to note that when Stein debated Romney in Massachusetts in 2002, the Boston Globe claimed “[Stein] was the only adult in the room”.

Larry King has decided to be a moderator for a live-stream debate in Chicago for minor-party presidential candidates at 7 p.m. CT this Tuesday on Ora.tv/ora2012/thirdparty. The debate includes: Libertarian Party, Gary Johnson; Green Party, Jill Stein; Constitution Party, Virgil Goode; Justice Party, Rocky Anderson.

Larry King made it clear none of them will win, going on to say: “They have a story to tell. It’s a valid story. It’s a two-party system, but not a two-party system by law.” The debate is organized by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation.

To go back to Manski’s remark about “mockery of democracy,” there seems to be a very legal but very shady way our debates are organized. Here’s a not so well known secret: The Commission on Presidential Debates is actually a private corporation.

You heard that right. All the presidential elections you’ve seen televised since 1987 are formed and run by the Democratic Party and Republican Party. The commission is technically “nonprofit,” but the money comes from contributions of various foundations and corporations. And when a corporation has money flow and is under the control of the Republican and Democratic national committees, it becomes quite apparent nobody is going to devote attention or resources to a third party of any kind.

In 2000, Ralph Nader filed a lawsuit against the Commission on Presidential Debates, which cited a monetary favor to the Republican and Democratic national committees and stated that was against the Federal Election Campaign Act. He lost the lawsuit on the basis he failed to provide enough evidence the commission was favoring or denying any party.

The commission has drawn outlash over the years, leading to protests at its headquarters and demanding of contact information being posted on its website. The list of allegations is endless.

In 2004, Green Party candidate David Cobb and Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik were arrested for civil disobedience after ignoring the police request to not enter the presidential debate.

In 2008, the Center for Public Integrity found 93 percent of commission’s money came from just six donors, all of which were kept secret.

Just a month ago, Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson filed a lawsuit against the Commission on Presidential Debates for denying competition by the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, a century old act that denies business from restraining competition in the market. Johnson asked the court to put a hold on all presidential debates until the lawsuit was completed or until all presidential candidates were allowed debate time by the commission and had the 270 electoral votes to win an election. That request was denied.

Do you notice a trend here?

Two active presidential candidates and three former presidential candidates in recent times have all protested both formally and informally for the right to a fair election process, and all have lost and/or been arrested.

Regardless of what the court finds in Johnson’s lawsuit and regardless of the likelihood of a third party getting elected, all parties that have a spot on an American presidential ballot should have the right to an equal and fair election process — what is this, a democracy?