U.S. presidential candidate Mark Everson challenges debate exclusion
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
U.S. Republican Party presidential candidate Mark Everson, former commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), filed a complaint on Monday with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to challenge his exclusion from Thursday's first Fox News Republican Party presidential debate. Everson argues his exclusion violates Title 11 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations in that debate hosts must not "structure the debates to promote or advance one candidate over another", and must "use pre-established objective criteria to determine which candidates may participate in a debate."
Everson served as Commissioner of the IRS from 2003 to 2007, during the George W. Bush administration. After his departure, he briefly served as CEO of the American Red Cross, worked in the cabinet of Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, and worked for the tax consulting firm alliantgroup. He announced his candidacy this past March with a sixteen-page open letter in which he outlined the six pillars of his campaign: amnesty for illegal immigrants, reinstatement of the military draft, a promise to serve only a single presidential term, and calls for tax reform, deficit reduction, and corporate responsibility.
Fox News claims Everson fails to meet the criteria it established for Thursday's two debates. Only seventeen candidates meet the criteria, which require a candidate "consistently" be included in "recognized" opinion polls. The prime-time event features the top ten candidates by average polling percentage. The other seven participate in a separate debate just before the prime time event.
In his complaint, Everson urges the FEC to compel Fox News to include him in the second tier debate as the eighth participant.
Everson argues Fox News, in violation of Title 11, "structure[d] the debates to promote or advance one candidate over another" through a July 27 change to its criteria that replaced a pre-existing one percent polling threshold with a threshold admitting those "consistently" included in "recognized" polls. He alleges this was done to ensure the inclusion of the low-polling candidates former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former New York governor George Pataki, Senator Lindsey Graham, and former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, because Fox News recognizes these candidates as "major players."
Furthermore, Everson argues the Fox News criteria are not "objective," as Title 11 requires, because they fail to define the terms "consistently" and "recognized" when referring to polls. He asserts he was included in the Republican Party's online straw poll in May and is the only candidate still listed on that poll who has been excluded from Thursday's debate.
Election law expert Richard Winger, publisher of Ballot Access News, says Everson is "completely correct" in his challenge. However, he believes Everson only has a chance of success if he actually files a lawsuit rather than simply complaining to the FEC.
- Mark Everson. "Complaint to the FEC" — August 3, 2015
- Philip Bump. "Can Fox News exclude candidates just because they aren’t mentioned in polls?" — The Washington Post, August 3, 2015
- Leslie Larson. "Long shot 2016 candidate launches campaign with emotional 16-page letter" — Business Insider, March 5, 2015