Court affirms right to keep third-party candidates out

Tracy Deutmeyer

The political debates are almost over, but congressional candidate Jay B. Marcus said his push to get on Iowa Public Television isn’t over yet.

Although a U.S. District Court Judge ruled in favor of IPTV yesterday morning, Marcus thinks he has still won. “We won. And we will win when the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rules in favor of us,” Marcus said.

On Sept. 13, Marcus, a Natural Law Party candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, 3rd District, and other third-party candidates filed a suit against IPTV for not allowing third-party candidates on the station’s televised debates.

Yesterday afternoon, the plaintiffs began filing their appeal to the Eighth Circuit in Saint Louis.

“We know that the Eighth Circuit will rule that government television cannot prefer some candidates over others for televised debates,” Marcus said.

“We are asking the Court of Appeals to grant an emergency release to prevent Iowa Public Television from going on with the next two debates without including third- party candidates,” he said.

Richard Marks, attorney for IPTV, said station officials will take this case as far as it needs to go.

Marcus argues that his First Amendment rights were violated because the First Amendment requires the government to be neutral.

“If it eventually turns out that with an interpretation of the First Amendment that Iowa Public Television cannot fulfill what it was established for, then the people of Iowa will be deprived and it will be a terrible shame,” Marcus said.

But Marks said the First Amendment permits Iowa Public Television to exercise journalistic judgment.

“Iowa Public Television must exercise journalistic judgment that any non-commercial or commercialized station can use and provide the people of Iowa with news and programs that are newsworthy,” Marks said.

Iowa Public Television Director of Programming and Production Dan Miller said the case is a question of newsworthiness.

“We don’t just invite certain candidates, we invite newsworthy guests,” Miller said.

Marcus has a different view. “For 30 years, there has never been a third-party candidate on the Iowa Press Show. It has always been open,” Marcus said.

According to court records, IPTV argued that the shows were not debates. But the court ruled that viewers understood the programs to be debates.

The court also ruled that “Iowa Press” programs were debates, but the court said the plaintiffs did not show their First Amendment rights were violated.

The defendants argued they chose the candidates that would appear on the show based on newsworthiness. The court said it was important that the “defendant network and its editors be allowed to exercise independent journalistic and editorial judgments based on newsworthiness.”

Iowa Public Television Executive Director David Bolender said station officials were pleased.

Marcus said the ruling leaves third-party candidates caught in a no-win cycle. “The Republicans and Democrats will always be the most newsworthy unless we break the cycle. We will never break the cycle if we don’t have media support,” Marcus said.

“We can break the cycle by buying media support and the only way you can do that is if you’re a billionaire like Ross Perot,” he said. “The other way we can break the cycle is if the third-party candidates can appear on public television.”

Marcus is running against Leonard Boswell, a Democrat, Mike Mahaffey, a Republican, Dick Kruse, Libertarian Party, and Edward T. Rusk, Working Class Party.

Other plaintiffs in the case include Edward T. Rusk, Michael Cuddehe, Michael Dimick, Rogers Badgett, Peter Lamoureaux, Fred Gratzon and Susan Marcus.