Last night, at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, while two presidential candidates traded sound bites and political rhetoric inside, two other presidential candidates were handcuffed and led off to jail outside. During the presidential debates, Michael Badnarik and David Cobb, presidential candidates for the Libertarian and Green parties, respectively, were arrested for attempting to serve a process order to the head of the Commission on Public Debates (CPD).
The two candidates marched to Washington University from a rally protesting the debate system as it is currently run by the CPD. Self-labeled a "non-partisan organization," the CPD is run by former heads and other members of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and Democratic National Committee (DNC). Earlier on the day of his arrest, Badnarik had denounced the CPD for its biased debate criteria. "A majority of Americans say that I should be included in the events sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. And the CPD, as a non-profit, has received special treatment from government on the requirement that they be non-partisan in their activities. Bi-partisan is not non-partisan."
This is not the first occurance of the explicit exclusion of a third-party candidate during a debate. In 2000, then-Green Party candidate Ralph Nader (who is running again this year as an independent candidate) was barred from even watching one of the presidential debates in person, despite the fact that he had a ticket to the event. This morning during an interview on C-SPAN's Washington Journal, Nader was asked about the (then unconfirmed) arrest of Badnarik and Cobb. Nader extolled the efforts of these candidates, and he reiterated his position that the debate system needs to be revamped so that third-party candidates could receive fair and equal access to the media. Nader also referenced the Open Debates organization's efforts to muster presidential debate reform.
While news of the arrests has been slowly seeping into the media, the Libertarian Party has been busy. The Arizona Libertarian Party is moving forward with the lawsuit against the CPD and Arizona State University (ASU) for using public resources to host a debate that inequitably favors the Democratic and Republican parties. (In Arizona, the Libertarian Party is recognized as a major party.) And Badnarik is already out of jail, on the campaign trail again, according to his campaign blog, which also promises pictures showing the rally and arrest later today.