(Photo credit: Flickr user DonkeyHotey)
Americans have faith in the presidential debates to be wide-ranging discussions that probe the candidates' views and hold them accountable to the public. And for much of recent history, that's what these debates were. From 1976 to 1984, the League of Women Voters held debates renowned for their fiercely independent moderators and transparent process.
But in more recent years, the debates have been held by an organization called the "Commission on Presidential Debates," (CPD) which tightly controls the process by choosing moderators and questions.
Here's one little known fact about the CPD -- it's chaired by corporate lobbyists. One of the chairmen is Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., who was once a Republican National Convention chairman but now works as a gambling industry lobbyist. The other chairman is Michael D. McCurry, who is a former press secretary for Bill Clinton. He now works as a "partner at Public Strategies Washington, Inc., where he provides counsel on communications strategies and management to corporate and non-profit clients." Given the loopholes in our lobbying laws, McCurry doesn't even have to disclose his clients, but we do know that in 2006 he spearheaded the Hands Off The Internet campaign that was designed to kill net neutrality on behalf of big telecom companies.
Every year, CPD also opens up the debates to corporate sponsors. Here's the list of this year's sponsors:
The Howard G. Buffett Foundation
Sheldon S. Cohen, Esq.
Crowell & Moring LLP
International Bottled Water Association (IBWA)
The Kovler Fund
With a sponsorship list like that, don't be surprised if we don't see questions critical of the industries listed. But this year's list is relatively tame. In the past, the tobacco industry, AT&T, and others have all been sponsors.
Here's one last interesting tidbit about the debates. ...