AARP DEBATE UPDATE
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.
AARPâ€™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 donâ€™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 Getlerâ€™s report and your emails.
Below is AARP's response.
INDEPENDENTS ACTION ALERT!
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 and demand the inclusion of Kucinich and Gravel.
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:
â€˘ Have filed an FEC Form F-2, â€śStatement of Candidacy,â€ť with the Federal Election Commission;
â€˘ Have publicly announced an intention to run for the nomination of the Republican or the Democratic Party for President of the United States;
â€˘ Have a Campaign Office inside the State of Iowa; and,
â€˘ 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.