(Libertarian Party) – A federal constitutional lawsuit, filed today against Kentucky Educational Television in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, stems from its new exclusionary policy regarding public debates, eliminating Libertarian participation. The plaintiffs in the case are Libertarian David Patterson’s campaign for U.S. Senate, the Libertarian Party of Kentucky, and the Libertarian National Committee.
“I firmly believe that there is something wrong here,” Patterson said of the new debate inclusion criteria. “An Open Records Request showed that KET modified the criteria multiple times during the campaign season. The suspicious timing and ever-increasing thresholds seem to be created to ensure I didn’t get to participate. They knew what the ramifications of those changes would be, and chose to act anyway.”
Under the last version of the criteria, only Democrats and Republicans would have ever previously qualified to participate in KET’s debate. The ACLU has called on KET to use the original criteria, under which Grimes and McConnell were invited and under which Patterson qualifies for the debate.
Attorney for the plaintiffs Chris Wiest stated, “Certainly public broadcasters like KET are entitled to impose objective criteria for debate participation, but what they cannot do and what KET internal email indicated they did, is impose such criteria to engage in viewpoint discrimination with the purpose to exclude particular candidates in contravention of the First Amendment.”
Carla Howell, political director of the national Libertarian Party, noted that support for political alternatives is extremely high. “Recent polls show that 53 percent of Americans don’t think Democrats or Republicans represent Americans, and that 58 percent of Americans want an alternative party. Numerous polls also show that Americans want what the Libertarian Party delivers: much less government and more freedom.”
Ken Moellman, state chair of the Libertarian Party of Kentucky, raised ethical concerns. “Beyond any of the legal questions, the ethical ramifications of KET’s actions are clear; they have violated five of the nine planks of their mission statement, as they acted to mute the voices of a growing political movement. Based on polling, at least 250,000 Kentuckians will have their voices squelched by KET’s new criteria. As a taxpayer funded organization, they have a great responsibility to act impartially and to reject pressure — whether implicit or explicit, internal or external — to squelch alternate political viewpoints.”