Melinda Pillsbury-Foster: The Commission for Presidential Debates is a Private Organization

Melinda Pillsbury-Foster is the executive vice president of Rebuild America and a former member of the Libertarian National Committee.  She submitted the following article for publication. 

How would you like to change America’s Political Landscape, turning it toward the free mammarket?  Read on.

The Commission for Presidential Debates is a private organization.  In the coming weeks it will host the candidates nominated by the folks who own, control, and fund it, Donald Trump and Joe Biden.  That is what will happen.

The Dems and GOP will pull out their check books and pay for the distribution and air-time, just like any other TV producer.  They have excluded other candidates by keeping their debates under their own control.  This is precisely what it has done for every election since the Commission was founded in 1993.  This is overhead essential for keeping them in power.

There are lessons to be learned from this.  

This is their private debate.  Instead of whining it is time to have our own debates and now is the time to see the opportunity to achieve the goal for which the LP was founded.   Given the present economy and the rise of political dissatisfaction the time is ripe for change powered by individual choice.  

Since the day, the Commission for Presidential Debates was incorporated the political reality in America has changed.  Today, the Democratic and Republican parties are each a minority party compared to the largest party, those who identify as Independents of one kind or another. As of July 30, to August 12 the 2020 Gallup Poll found 26% of Americans identify as Republican; 31% identify as Democrat; Independents are 41%.

1,152 Americans registered as presidential candidates for the 2020 election with the Federal Election Commission. See the chart below.

One by one, Americans have chosen and spoken in the only way available to them.

Today, there are 53 other parties filed with the FEC.  This is an accurate measure of the real popularity of the two ‘major’ parties.  This has been an accurate measure of popularity of the major parties for the last several years.  

People want political change but do not know how to get it; while they can vote on TV for what teenager dances best (94-million votes cast in 3 hours for Which Teenager Dances the Best) they have little control over who the presidential candidates will be.  But they want it.  

Foundational principles of the free market include providing choices and transparency.  

You might have received this morning’s email from Jo Jorgensen.  It said, It is time to get Jo Jorgensen in the Debates.” Jo wants to hire attorneys to accomplish this, an impossible task, given the time before the Commission debates begin.

This raises multiple questions.  First, why now, when this strategy has never worked before, even when the effort started months, years, earlier?  The short answer is “This can’t work.”

Curious on this point I put in a call to Richard Fields, who is Coordinator for Media for what media the Jorgensen Campaign has.  Richard said he was not in on the decision making, “It was above my pay-grade.” Then, I asked, “But Jo must know this cannot work, right?  It has been tried over and over again for years and fails because the Commission is a private organization.”  Richard, sounding a touch sad responded, “It was a fundraising option.”  That shocked me.  “But it is a lie.  There is no hope it will work.”

I had thought better of Jo.  Of course, she never mentioned the free market until very late in her nomination campaign and still does not seem to understand what a free market is.  So life goes in Libertarian Land.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again when you know it will not work.  This was defined as insanity by Albert Einstein.  But perhaps Jo simply does not know what else to do. And there, we can help her.  

The chances are good the Libertarian Party will be on the ballot in all 50 states.  So, what would the best strategy be for Jo?  To make an impossible demand of the two marginalized major parties – or take the power of individual freedom and the free market directly to the people?  Does Jo, now in Alaska, know this fundraising fraud is going forward? The answer is evidently, YES.

Political parties are the traditional means for changing government.  The LP is a political party.

All Americans are looking for solutions to the major problems we are facing today.  Where are the Libertarian solutions?  Jo says nothing to the point.

All Americans need solutions.  

90% of Americans are worried about losing their homes to foreclosure or eviction.  Tens of thousands are already living on our streets.  Health Care is unaffordable; vehicles, even those people are living in as the last gasp before being entirely on the street, are being repossessed. Control of our lives and resources is increasing.  

The Question: Why has the Libertarian Party limited itself to non-specific messages which have no relevance to the solutions people want?  

You see this clearly with the inability of Libertarian campaigns to use the very tool which has become ubiquitous to success in politics – mass media.  This was true when mass media was only traditional TV, but now, when mass media is moving to individual choices for interaction, Libertarians are still stuck in print media, and at their heady best, podcasts and Youtube videos.  

Two years ago, 9,000 libertarians watched a response to the State of the Union address by Jeff Hewitt, a Libertarian elected to the office of Supervisor in Riverside County California.  That was big news.  But the numbers, and the fact the audience was limited to watching made the event a failure.  9,000 is miniscule, even on Youtube.  

Although the LP will be on all 50 states, ballot status does not translate to persuading voters they should support Libertarian candidates.  LP vote totals are always in the too little to count catagory.  It is interacting with both the show and other participants which arrests our interest, moves us to engage, activate, donate, and realize the yearning for freedom within each of us.  We proved this in 1992.   We offered Interactive 2-Way Mass Audience Participation TV to every Libertarian Presidential Candidate from 1996 – 2020.     

At the beginning of this article I posed the question of what we should do with the next two months.  The answer is – start debating other candidates as participants engage, ask questions, offer insights and more information, and decide who has the solutions they want and need.   No one else is doing this so let us be the first.  

Any candidate who offers what voters want will have media precinct captains across the country signing up; and this will happen fast.  

Today, we have two more months to explain how the free market can solve the problems Americans face today, providing the solutions Americans want and a way to be part of that solution.  The shift in support will be electrifying.   

We can build the membership of the LP at the roots, where it should always have been.  With media precinct chairs growing in number the lackluster support for either Biden or Trump can be shattered.  Americans will have the means to experience their power and impact the outcome of the present election process.  

We did this in 1992; we can do it again.  The Commission for Presidential Debates exists because in 1992 the most popular president in history, Geo. H. W. Bush, polling at 89% popularity went down to ignominious defeat through the actions of a small group of libertarians.  PhoneVoter TV Network was founded January 21, 1992.  Read the story


In 1992 no Libertarian candidate was willing to participate except Lee Wright, who inquired and then decided he was not up to it.  Every Libertarian candidate since has received the same offer.  

Being a Libertarian was intended to mean being free market, not just rhetorically, but in action.  What better time to demonstrate this commitment?  Instead of this pointless attempt to force ourselves on to someone else’s stage and use their airtime we can open up the debate to give Americans what they desperately want and need today. And that is Solutions.

For a measly $100,000 Jo could have debated real issues with other candidates who have also been silenced – and she can be live on air in two weeks.   The other snippet of idiocy which had been passed on to Richard was that Jo will not sully herself to debate anyone unless either Biden or Trump is included. I am not making this up.

With the constellation of more powerful technologies we have in six weeks we can change the political landscape of America.  

This can happen with a constellation of more powerful technologies than drove Ross Perot from 8% – 39% in weeks, put Pat Buchanan at 19%, almost made Jerry Brown the Democratic nominee, and gave Bill Clinton the presidency.  Jerry had at least 21% across all the states in the primaries in just 6 weeks.  

In six weeks, Libertarianism will be a major presence in American politics.  What is that worth to you? This includes streaming, satellite, and cable, along with a growing number of other distributors.  Want to know what the costs are?  How to get scheduled?  We know; we have TV Industry folks on our board.  We can get discount prices and produce a once a day show for 1 to 1 debates, until election day; hour after hour of debate as advertisers sign up to use interactive ads on interactive shows for the first time.    

People want to be heard.  Americans will listen when you have solutions they need – and there is no better way to introduce the free market than to have Americans experience it themselves.  That is what a free market does, give voters a choice.  But they have to know you are what they want.  This time, why not try?

12 thoughts on “Melinda Pillsbury-Foster: The Commission for Presidential Debates is a Private Organization

  1. Jim Polichak from Long Island

    No, the two major parties decided they needed a way to prevent another Ross Perot from getting on the stag with their candidates.

  2. Jose C

    Green Party News:

    I am posting this message to get information on the views of the Green Party membership / supporters as it relates to presidential candidate Howie Hawkins participating in an alternative presidential candidates debate with Libertarian presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen. If there is a better Green Party blog, website, etc. to post this message let me know and I will post this message there.

    I am not representing the Jo Jorgensen presidential campaign or the National Committee of the Libertarian Party. I am a member of the Libertarian Party and the membership is having a discussion in an unofficial Libertarian Party Facebook group whether Jo Jorgensen should participate in a debate with Howie Hawkins. There are two views. One view argues Jo Jorgensn should only debate President Donald Trump and or Joe Biden and if she cannot debate Trump or Biden she should not participate in any other debate(s). The outlook to her candidacy is lessened if she debates Howie Hawkins or any other alternative party presidential candidate. She will not be looked at as a serious candidate by the media and voters if she debates any alternative presidential candidate.

    Others and I are of the view Jo Jorgensen should debate Howie Hawkins and any other candidate that meets certain criteria. We argue the Commission on Presidential Debates “the commission” was created by the Democrat and Republican parties to prevent any alternative party presidential candidate from participating in any debate with the Democrat and Republican presidential candidates. We say the commission, the Democrat and Republican parties, and Democrat and Republican presidential candidates have been sued by alternative political parties, alternative party presidential candidates, and others to allow alternative party presidential candidates to participate in the debates with the Democrat and Republican presidential candidates. The Federal courts have ruled the commission is a private organization and they can invite or not invite any candidate they want.

    So here we are. We feel not participating in any debate(s) gives the commission and the Democrat and Republican parties what they want which is not to have any alternative party presidential candidates heard. Many years ago there was an alternative presidential candidates debate which was aired on C-SPAN, and there have been other debates aired by other cable as well as satellite networks and political websites. Sometimes the Libertarian Party presidential candidate has participated and sometimes not. The American people have a right to hear other views besides the phony, scripted, sound bites debates conducted by the commission. All presidential candidates who are on the ballot in enough states that in theory could be elected president under the Electoral College and who are eligible to serve under the Constitution should participate in any presidential candidates debate. Currently the only alternative party candidates that meet that criteria are Libertarian Jo Jorgensen and Green Howie Hawkins. Having a debate between Jo Jorgensen and Howie Hawkins can benefit the American people. The debate(s) can be covered by C-SPAN or any other national or international cable or satellite network. With the popularity of social media such as You Tube, Facebook, and others they can be used to air the debate(s). Moderators can be selected who are fair and will not ask gotcha questions. The winners besides the candidates and their parties will be the American people.

    What seems to be the view(s) of the Green Party membership as to whether Howie Hawkins should debate Jo Jorgensen? What do you think?

  3. NewFederalist

    Why not just have the Jorgensen Campaign issue a debate challenge to Joe Biden? Just tell the media that Trump is toast and and the campaign doesn’t want to debate a sociopath anyway. See what happens!

  4. George Phillies

    The notion that the LP Presidential candidate will get into a debate between the duopoly candidates, in the foreseeable future, is kook nonsense, and a Libertarian Presidential campaign that makes that a major objective is being run by people who are differently mentally gifted, We have listened to this nonsense for several decades now. Anyone who asks a potential nominee why they don’t agree that ‘gets into the debates’ is our primary objective should be told that they are an idiot.

    Also, I ran for Congress. I was in our debates. The Fall River Sun-Chronicle headlined their debate outcome “Libertarian is surprise winner.” One of our debates was carried on national television. It had no effect on my vote totals.

  5. Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

    Well George, You are wrong and have consistently refused to look at the impact Interactive 2-Way Mass Audience Participation has on on electoral comes. I have sent you the web site for PhoneVoterTV Network several times and you ignore the clear evidence. I can well believe you did not get the outcome you hoped for. You fail to mention how many people were watching the debate, also. We are not talking about single event impact. It took six weeks for Jerry Brown to reach 21% against Clinton in the 1992 Primary, about what it took Ross Perot to reach 38%. Perot used Brock’s approach, call in to 800 numbers and a second question which provided the option of not liking the first two options. Note this was pretty much the whole of Perot’s campaign – and cost Perot nothing. It was paid for by Owners of America, who raised the money to cover the costs.

  6. dL

    The notion that the LP Presidential candidate will get into a debate between the duopoly candidates, in the foreseeable future, is kook nonsense

    yeah…pretty much, not without bank. And if you have the bank, you don’t need the LP.

  7. dL

    It took six weeks for Jerry Brown to reach 21% against Clinton in the 1992 Primary, about what it took Ross Perot to reach 38%. Perot used Brock’s approach

    That was 30 years ago. And Clinton in 1992 was in a dog fight(lost to Paul Tsongas in NH) in the early part of the Dem primary season b/c of the Gennifer Flowers nonsense. And Perot launched his campaign from the set of the Larry King Live show. It had nothing to do with PhoneVoterTV.

  8. Jose C

    Free & Equal Elections Foundation announces its second open Presidential debate of the 2020 US Presidential election, scheduled for October 8, 2020 at 6pm MDT in Denver, Colorado.

    Nine presidential candidates have been invited, and four are already confirmed to participate in this historic debate. Criteria for debate inclusion requires the candidate be on the ballot in at least 10 states.

    Co-hosted by Open the Debates, the debate will use the cumulative debate format to provide a balanced and informative dialogue among the candidates.

    Invited Candidates:

    Brock Pierce, Independent

    Don Blankenship, Constitution Party

    Donald Trump, Republican Party

    Gloria La Riva, Party for Socialism & Liberation

    Howie Hawkins, Green Party

    Jo Jorgensen, Libertarian Party

    Joe Biden, Democrat Party

    Kanye West, Independent

    Rocky De La Fuente, Independent

    Confirmed candidates include Brock Pierce, Gloria La Riva, Howie Hawkins, and Rocky De La Fuente.

  9. Ryan

    The notion the LP candidate will ever get into a CPD debate in the foreseeable future is, agreed, kook nonsense. The only time it’d happen is if either of the two major parties felt threatened (see Perot). A bit like Bloomberg this time for example, the Democrats changed their rules to get Bloomberg on stage because with him not debating anyone he was doing awesome in polling. Got on stage, didn’t debate that well, slid downward.

  10. Jose C

    Yesterday, Monday I attended an Executive Committee meeting of the Libertarian Party of Los Angeles County. I am a member of the Executive Committee. When giving my report discussed was the presidential candidates debate sponsored by the Free & Equal Foundation. Someone involved in Jo Jorgensen’s campaign mentioned Jo Jorgensen (the campaign) has notified the Free & Equal Foundation she will not be participating in the debate. It seems of the candidates who are on the ballot in 10 or more states Jo Jorgensen will be the only candidate who will not debate this election season.

    As I have argued not debating other candidates is a mistake. I do not see any positives in deciding not to participate in any presidential candidates debate. How does Jo Jorgensen deciding not to participate in any debate help her campaign? How does this help us? How does this help the Party?

    Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins who will be in the Free & Equal debate should call her (Jo) out for not being at the debate. If he calls Jo out how does she respond? What is her defense?

    The American people have a right to hear other views besides the phony, scripted, sound bites debates conducted by the commission. . . Having a debate between Jo Jorgensen and Howie Hawkins [and others] can benefit the American people. . . The winners besides the candidates and their parties will be the American people. Sadly Jo Jorgensen is choosing not to participate. Who looses? The campaign and the American people.

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