The men and women who run the supposedly “nonpartisan” Commission on Presidential Debates have put their money where their mouths are — and it all has gone to Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The amount of money is small by the standards of a modern presidential campaign, but it is one-sided. A pair of Ph.D. candidates at Stanford University examined campaign finance reports and found that all of the $5,650 in contributions that commission members have made to presidential candidates during this election season have gone to Clinton.
“Hillary Clinton has done a really good job of uniting the two parties. It’s almost like one party.”
Republican Donald Trump, who will meet Clinton in the first debate a week from Monday, received no donations from debate commission members. Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who both learned Friday that they will be shut out of the first debate, also received nothing.
Kevin Zeese, an adviser to the Stein campaign, told LifeZette the contributions are further evidence of a bipartisan conspiracy to rig the electoral system against third-party alternatives. And the fact that Clinton scooped up all of the contributions made by commission members this year fits with the fact that she has won support not only from her own party but many Establishment figures in the Republican Party, as well.
“Hillary Clinton has done a really good job of uniting the two parties,” he said. “It’s almost like one party.”
Commission Co-Chairman Michael McCurry, who was White House press secretary under former President Bill Clinton, wrote a $250 check to Hillary Clinton’s campaign on the day she announced she was running on April 12, 2015. Dating to her time running for the U.S. Senate in New York, Clinton has received a total of $5,650 from McCurry for her campaigns.
Commission board member and business executive Richard Parsons chipped in $2,700, to go along with a $1,000 contribution he made to Clinton’s Senate re-election campaign and $1,000 to Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign. He also has spoken to the Clinton Global Initiative, according to the Stanford study.
Commission board member Antonia Hernandez, president and CEO of the California Community Foundation, contributed $2,700 to the Clinton campaign in April of last year.
Commission board member Shirley Tilghman has made no campaign contributions, but the report notes that she appears in a video entitled “Hillary Fan” and has praised the Democratic nominee’s leadership in speeches delivered at Princeton University.
As detailed by the Stanford study, some members of the commission have been generous to Republican candidates in the past. Co-Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf, for instance, donated to both George W. Bush and John McCain, and he has given tens of thousands of dollars to the Republican Party. But neither he nor any other commission member has given a dime to Trump.
The parties created the debate commission in 1987 to set the terms for presidential debates. The commission established a threshold of 15 percent support in at least five major polls for a third-party or independent to make it onto the stage. The commission announced Friday that Stein and Johnson had failed to hit that target.
Both campaigns cited a poll indicated that 76 percent of voters wanted all four candidates to participate.
“In their attempt to bolster the chances of the two most hated presidential candidates in American history, the Commission’s decision makes a mockery of their stated mission to ‘provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners,’” the Libertarian Party said in a statement.
To Zeese, the Green Party adviser, Trump’s views are anathema. But he said the fact that Trump has taken no contributions from debate commission members — or other bid donors, for that matter — helps him claim the populist mantle. It’s a position that rightly belongs to Stein, he said.
“He’s captured the outsider label even though he’s a billionaire oligarch,” he said. “It’s absurd that he’s the outsider candidate.”