Libertarian Senate candidate Neal Dikeman formally filed a complaint to the FEC against Beto O’Rourke and CNN on Monday.
From the press release:
The complaint describes a violation of FECA, that, given Senator Ted Cruz declined to participate in CNN’s proposed October 18 townhall with Beto O’Rourke, the townhall debate can no longer qualify as a debate, which requires multiple candidates, and the planned format of an hour long prime time CNN promoted, hosted and moderated townhall with a single Senate candidate instead constitutes a prohibited political contribution to Beto for Texas. Such coverage is not part of a general pattern of campaign-related news account giving reasonably equal coverage to all opposing candidates in CNN’s national service area and therefore the market value of the coverage is either a reportable political expenditure or a prohibited political contribution by a corporation.
The Libertarian candidate was excluded from the townhall debate because his poll numbers were not high enough to meet the declared threshold. No such threshold is required for a political discussion, but it does not suit the interests of either the Democrats or the Republicans to recognize that alternatives exist. This sort of activity is not new. It was discussed in the 2016 race, when the two least liked Presidential candidates in modern history squared off against each other and voters were clamoring for options – options that most were not informed existed, and when they were informed about them, had them dismissed as if they were burlesque clowns.
“The game is rigged,” said former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who won 1 million votes as the Libertarian Party candidate in 2012 and is seeking the nomination again in 2016. “There’s no way a third-party candidate can compete unless they’re on the debate stage, and you can’t get there unless you’re in the polls.”The Hill
The tactic was particularly egregious in 2002, when Frank Lautenberg was allowed to replace the disgraced Robert Torricelli on the New Jersey ballot 35 days out from the election despite it being a direct violation of the NJ law which stipulated changes could be made no later than 51 days.
The rationale provided was that the change was required to protect voter rights under a two-party system, and the ruling infuriated not merely the Republicans who had expected to benefit from not having a high-profile Democrat to run against in a state that leans toward Democrats but also third parties, in particular the Green party which was anticipated to get a strong boost if a Democrat was not an available option.
Keeping voters unaware of alternatives is an effective method of keeping a stranglehold on even an electorate which has grown angry and distrustful of the two most prominent parties.