Friday, December 14, 2007

Why was Kucinich excluded from the last Iowa debate?

If you caught yesterday's debate in Iowa, you may have noticed the absence of Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich. This was an intentional exclusion on the part of the Des Moines Register newspaper, which not only made up its own rules about which candidates should be invited and which excluded but lied to voters about why this was. But don't just take my word for it; you can get the whole story from the Kucinich campaign's blog announcement by Jean Hay Bright on MySpace.

The Des Moines Register put out a press release last week announcing that six of the eight Democratic candidates for President had "accepted invitations" to debate this Thursday. Congressman and Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich was not among them.

What the Des Moines Register press release should have said is that they offered invitations to this debate to only six of the eight nationally recognized Democratic presidential candidates and that all six who were invited accepted.

The Des Moines Register is a prominent newspaper. Their editors and writers know how to turn a phrase. And the way they turned that phrase in that news article, the implication is that Dennis Kucinich did not accept the invitation they offered to him. That phrasing by the Des Moines Register implied that Kucinich declined their invitation to debate.

That is not true.

In phrasing its news article the way it did, the Des Moines Register did not tell voters in Iowa -- and voters across the nation, since this debate will be nationally televised -- the whole truth.

Here’s the truth. Here is the arbitrary list of criteria for inclusion in this debate, and in other debates held in Iowa this fall:

Eligible Participants for Des Moines Register Debates will include Presidential Candidates who:

  1. Have filed an FEC Form F-2, "Statement of Candidacy," with the Federal Election Commission; (CHECK)
  1. Have publicly announced an intention to run for the nomination of the Republican or the Democratic Party for President of the United States; (CHECK)
  1. 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 October 1, 2007. (CHECK – Kucinich has had a full-time staffer – an Iowa resident – on board since April)
  1. With at least 1% in the Des Moines Register October, 2007, Iowa Poll (CHECK)
  1. And lastly, have a Campaign Office inside the State of Iowa as of October 1, 2007 (to which the Kucinich campaign says CHECK, but the Des Moines Register says CHECK-OUT)

The whole truth, the truth the Des Moines Register is not telling you, is that Dennis Kucinich has a political organization in Iowa. It is small, but it is energetic and energized. His paid state coordinator, Marcos Rubenstein, works out of his home. Dennis and his wife Elizabeth have campaigned in Iowa many times.

The Federal Elections Commission recognizes that the Kucinich campaign has paid staff in Iowa. The IRS recognizes the legitimacy of a home office. Across the country, the Kucinich campaign has at least 15 high-ranking paid campaign staff members who work out of their homes. Their offices are campaign offices.

The Des Moines Register, however, does not recognize a home office as a campaign office.

This is what they sent to the Kucinich campaign when it protested his exclusion from Thursday’s (Dec. 13) debate:

"It was our determination that a person working out of his home did not meet our criteria for a campaign office and full-time paid staff in Iowa."

So is a full-time person on salary and working well more than 40 hours a week not a full-time person because he doesn't waste time and energy lugging his cell phone and laptop from one address to another twice a day?

Yes, the Des Moines Register has determined, arbitrarily, that a campaign must have real estate in Iowa, a storefront, to be a legitimate campaign.

Two things wrong with that. The concept that only landed gentry should be eligible to participate in the political process is an idea that we threw out, not in the last century, but in the century before that.

And if a storefront is necessary before you can do business in Iowa, then is ineligible to do business in Iowa. Ebay is ineligible to do business in Iowa.

You see what I mean?

The Kucinich campaign is a very internet-connected effort, which does not spend money needlessly. It is, in fact, running the kind of energy-efficient campaign most of the American public wants.

The criteria used to keep the Kucinich message from Iowa voters, and from the American people, is arbitrary, capricious, and downright silly. But also dangerous. We cannot as a nation have corporations such as the Des Moines Register determining our political dynamic.

Why would the Des Moines Register do that?

Indeed, why? Sorry for the lengthy quote, but it's important that readers know the truth about Dennis' exclusion from the Iowa debate yesterday. The truth the Des Moine Register does not want you to learn. The debate and primary system in this country is a sick joke. Only the moneyed, corporate-tied candidates are taken seriously, while the grassroots campaigns get dissed and left out. What we have are the formalities of a primary system to give the appearance of democracy, and a coronation at the national conventions, because God forbid all the candidates running for their parties' nominations be heard by the voters.

If Alan Keyes -- whom most people probably did not even know until this week was even running for president -- could be included in the last Republican debate then Kucinich certainly met the arbitrary criteria set by the Des Moines Register. Mike Gravel has been excluded from debates since Summer, in spite of his status as a legitimate candidate for president. That is wrong, too. Voters deserve to hear all the candidates, not just the moneyed ones the media arbitrarily decides should be heard.

If you're ticked off, as I am, here's what you can do: contact the newspaper and voice your displeasure. Be polite, be respectful, but do not accept the lies the newspaper gives you.

Mailing address
P.O. Box 957
Des Moines IA 50306-0957

Street Address
715 Locust St.
Des Moines IA 50309

Letters to the editor e-mail:

Circulation Customer Service
(877) 424-0225

Telephone switchboard
Local: (515) 284-8000
Iowa: (800) 532-1455
Outside Iowa: (800) 247-5346

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