Few folks realize that the U.S. presidential debates have been quietly taken over by the two dominant political parties and retooled in secret to give the major parties advantage, to exclude third-party candidates and to limit actual debate.St. Paul Pioneer Press

Open Debates is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to reforming the presidential debate process. Currently, the presidential debates are secretly controlled by the major parties, through the private bipartisan corporation called the Commission on Presidential Debates, resulting in the stultification of format, the exclusion of popular candidates, and the avoidance of pressing national issues.

Who controls the debates?

Ignorance is Bliss: With start up funds from the Twentieth Century Fund, the Commission on Presidential Debates was formed in 1987. It was formed and presided over by Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., a former head of the Republican National Committee and current president of the American Gaming Association, the thirteenth highest paid association presidency, and Paul Kirk, Jr., the former head of the Democratic National Committee...Neither looked favorably on including third parties in the future.

Walter Cronkite reports, "The debates are part of the unconscionable fraud that our political campaigns have become, and it's a wonder that the networks continue to cooperate on their presentation. There has grown up a belief on the part of the sponsoring groups and the networks that it's worth any compromise with the candidates in order to get them on the air together at all. This is highly questionable."

"As long as we accept this as a fact, there is little likelihood that we will ever get meaningful debate and that television will be used as it should be used to inform and educate our citizenry."

"Here is the means to present to the American people a rational exposition of the major issues that face the nation, and the alternate approaches to their solution. Yet the candidates participate only with the guarantee of a format that defies meaningful discourse. They should be charged with sabotaging the electoral process."

—Walter Cronkite, "Reporting Presidential Campaigns" in Graber, Doris, ed. The Politics of News: The News of Politics. CQ Press (New York: 1998)


Open Debates Press Conference (Part 1)
more youtube video

Commission on Presidential Debates Settles Dispute, Apologizes to Ralph Nader for Removing Him From UMASS Campus During First Presidential Debate

"Why are we rationing debates in this country? We don't ration weather reports or entertainment or sports. We have to break the grip of this so-called debate commission which is just a private company created by the two parties to exclude all competition."Ralph Nader, Third Party Press Conference. September 10, 2008