About Us news Activist Center Donate Magazine

AARP Iowa: Betsey Shelton

Iowa Public Television: Jennifer Konfrst

PBS Ombudsman:
Michael Getler


Gwyn Jones and Lori Ford, hosts of The Morning Show Live from Silver City, NM explain the AARP Iowa Debate and exclusion of Gravel and Kucinich. Click here to watch.

Howard Dean, Chairman
430 S. Capitol St. SE
Washington DC 20003

Phone: 202-863-8000

Dear Chairman Dean,

I am the president ofThe Committee for a Unified Independent Party (www.independentvoting.org) andI write on behalf of independents across America.

Independents, now 40%of the electorate, have a strong interest in open and vigorous debate in both major party primaries and are eligible to vote inopen primaries in more than 27 states. Moreover, independents stand strongly against any form of political bossism.

I understand that you are the person who has negotiated the inclusion of all the candidates currently participating in Democratic Party debates.

The statements made on Thursday by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Senator John Edwards calling for the narrowing of the field of allowable candidates requires an immediate response from you. You must stand up clearly for democratic dialogue and against any exercise of “top tier” privilege.

Independents have fought for open and inclusionary debates for many years. As you know, poll after poll show that more than 60% of the American people favor the inclusion of the broadest possible range of voices in televised debates.

It would be the height of hypocrisy and partisanship to exclude insurgent candidates who have been critical of the frontrunners. Americans need to hear from more voices, including those that challenge establishment politics.


Jacqueline Salit


Congratulations! Independents made a stir last week protesting the exclusion of Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich from the AARP/ PBS sponsored presidential forum in Iowa.

Over 100 independents flooded AARP and PBS with emails and phone calls.

AARP’s criteria for inclusion in the debate guaranteed that neither Kucinich or Gravel would be able to participate: candidates must have an office and a paid staff in Iowa. Volunteers don’t count.

A flood of emails from Independents forced Michael Getler, the PBS Ombudsman to respond with a column: "PBS seemed to be making news this week rather than just broadcasting it. Dozens of viewers, some of them made aware of the AARP decision in e-mail campaigns, have e-mailed or called to protest this, and some of those messages are posted below."

Go to http://www.pbs.org/ombudsman/ to read Getler’s report and your emails.

Below is AARP's response.

Keep Independent Voices in the Debates

On September 20th, 2007 the American Association of Retired People (AARP) and Iowa Public Television (IPT) are sponsoring a nationally televised presidential forum - and they are excluding former Senator Mike Gravel and Rep. Dennis Kucinich. The forum, entitled "Divided We Fail Presidential Candidate Forum," is focused on health care and security and will be moderated by Judy Woodruff of PBS.

The AARP set up criteria that excluded Kucinich and Gravel. They said candidates had to be renting office space and have a paid staff in Iowa. This is the first debate to exclude any Democratic Party candidate, and it's ironic that AARP is excluding the only septuagenarian in the race.

AARP is a non-profit and a supposed non-partisan organization. Write or call the AARP, IPT and PBS anddemand theinclusion of Kucinich and Gravel.

AARP Replies

Mark Fetterhoff of AARP sent this reply today to NH independent Russ Ouellette. (See Russ's original letter on right).

Thank you for your inquiry. On July 2, 2007, Senator Gravel's campaign and Congressman Kucinich's campaign were sent a registered letter inviting them to participate in the forum. The letter was accompanied by criteria that were set by AARP and IPTV for participation in the forum. Criteria include:

•Have filed an FEC Form F-2, “Statement of Candidacy,” with the Federal Election Commission;

•Have publicly announced an intention to run for the nomination of the Republican or the Democratic Party for President of the United States;

•Have a Campaign Office inside the State of Iowa; and,

•Have employed at least one paid campaign staff representative to perform full-time campaign duties in the State of Iowa on behalf of the candidate since at least August 1, 2007.

Senator Gravel and Congressman Kucinich did not meet all four of the stated criteria that would enable them to participate in the upcoming forum by the designated date; nor did their campaigns contact AARP or IPTV regarding problems with the criteria until after that deadline.

Russ Responds to AARP's Response


Thanks for writing back and helping me understand. I understand that rules are established, and criteria developed, to manage the debate process. However, not all the "real" candidates have the amount of money or the organizational resources to compete with the "front runners."

I do understand that we elect presidents with money and organization, but how is a Congressmen or Senator to compete with the frontrunner's? Also, can't there be exceptions to limiting rules? It is my opinion that the people excluded are "real" candidates and your actions have lessoned their participation in a real election.

One interesting criteria is the one about having to announce as a Republican or Democrat. Does that also exclude Independents? If an announced Independent was running, would they be excluded too?

I do thank you for responding to my concern.


Russ Ouellette

Keep Independent Voices in the Debates

At the conclusion of the July 12th NAACP candidate forum in Detroit, Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards “privately” discussed their interest in narrowing the participants in future debates.This exchange took place after a forum in which former Senator Mike Gravel delivered a sharp critique of the role President Bill Clinton played in enacting NAFTA and Congressman Dennis Kucinich criticized the “top tier's” record on issues of voter fraud.

Watchthe Clinton/Edwards interchange.

The exchange between Clinton and Edwards in which they discuss the need to eliminate "unserious" candidates from future televised debates has become news.Fox has done a televised segment, andan AP storyis circulating widely.

Now it's time for the voice of
independent voters
to be heard

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has scheduled a debate every month until the end of the year. This is an important moment for independents to let DNC Chair Howard Dean know that we do not want him to eliminate the independent voices from the presidential debates!

Here is how you can take action:

1.Call/E-mail/FaxHoward Dean (and please cc national@cuip.org on any letters you send) to let him know that you support the continued participation of ALL the Democratic candidates in the debates. Below is a sample letter and information on how to contact Dean.

2.Contact people in your network and ask them to do the same. Forward them this e-mail so they can express their support for keeping the debates open.

3.If you are new to us, sign up to be a part of the independent movement and receive regular e-mail updates.

Please send your e-mail or letter today and start your outreach to your networks. If you have questions or thoughts about other ways to help, please call Nancy Ross at 212-609-2800.

Sample E-mail, Fax, or Letter

Dear Chairman Howard Dean,

I am outraged at Senators Clinton and Edwards' conversation at the close of the NAACP forum about narrowing the field for upcoming debates.

In my opinion, candidates such as Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel play a very important role in broadening the debate on crucial issues. Their exclusion would be bad for the democratic process and would shut down important conversation.

I urge you to make sure the debates remain open and inclusive of all the candidates.

Your Name and State

To contact Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee:

Email: Deanh@DNC.org
Phone: 202-863-8000
Fax: 202-863-8174

I have learned that you are excluding Kucinich and Gravel from your debate. This is disturbing because it gives the power and access to money rather than ideas. Our democracy is broken; we elect the wrong people, it is driven by money and the media, and the self interests of a few. I understand the realities of limited resources, but to exclude the only people with dissenting ideas is an example of what is wrong.If you would like to discuss, please feel free to call me. Russ Ouellette, NH

In this crucial Presidential race it’s extraordinarily important to support debate and dialogue. While I understand why Hillary Clinton and John Edwards would not want their competitors present, I’m not so sure why your organization wouldn’t. Please support democracy. At this junction it’s what our country desperately needs. Tara Lewis, NY

Please keep the debates open. Excluding Mssrs. Gravel and Kucinich is a step away from true democracy. Thanks, Mike Przykucki, NC

In the "Land of the Free" I expect to have free and open debates! WE the People choose. I cannot make a valid choice if I don't get to hear ALL of the candidates.How DARE you presume to choose for me? Also, I expect the debate to be run in a fair manner:[WOW, what a concept!! ] Belinda Lawler, IA

I am writing to insist that Dennis Kucinich be including in the Iowa debate. Requiring that someone has rented office space and paid staff in a state as a criterion for inclusion is ridiculous! John Mertens, CT

Dear Chairman Dean,

I am outraged at Senators Clinton and Edwards' conversation at the close of the NAACP forum about narrowing the field for upcoming debates.

In my opinion, candidates such as Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel play a very important role in broadening the debate on crucial issues. Their exclusion would be bad for the democratic process and would shut down important conversation.

I urge you to make sure the debates remain open and inclusive of all the candidates.

Your Name and State

HomeAbout UsNewsActivist CenterDonateMagazinePrivacy StatementSitemapLinksFeedback

CUIP 225 Broadway, Ste 2010 | New York, NY 10007 | 212-609-2800