This sounds like a plausible argument to me, but it's not at all my field:
Arizona LP files suit to stop state funding of presidential debate: Arizona Libertarians have filed a lawsuit that could stop Arizona State University from sponsoring the third presidential debate between George Bush and Sen. John Kerry, scheduled for Oct. 13. The lawsuit maintains that by spending up to $2 million to sponsor the event in Tempe, the university is making an illegal campaign contribution to the Republican and Democratic parties.
“It's a clear case of misusing state funds,” said David Euchner, attorney for the Arizona Libertarian Party (AZLP).
“Arizona recognizes three political parties,” Euchner continued. “A debate which included all three of those parties would be a legitimate expenditure on education and public information. A debate including only two of the three candidates is a partisan campaign commercial — and an illegal donation to partisan political associations.”
Having said it's plausible, if the money has been paid over, I don't see what they can do about it except set an Arizona precedent for any next time, unless Arizona has funny third-party restitution laws. But if the money hasn't been paid over…
I’m pretty sure the ruling against Pat Buchanan covered this same ground.
I think this suit is based on a fallacy. The suit claims that Arizona State University’s actions violate the state constitution because it “prohibits making grants or donations to any individual, association, or corporation”. ASU isn’t giving money to candidates or parties, they’re spending it on hosting an appearance by political candidates. If they offer Badnarik an opportunity to speak at Gammage Auditorium for 45 minutes, they’ll have given something of equal intrinsic value to each candidate, an opportunity to speak on campus. It’s not ASU’s fault if the national media has no interest at all in covering a candidate who will receive far less than one percent of the vote next month and that there wouldn’t be the same need for crowd control and other costs. It’s not their fault that the Commission for Presidential Debates which has set up the debates doesn’t see any more value in him appearing than in some other minor candidate (or random individual). ASU won’t be responsible if Bush looks like an idiot so that Kerry gets much more favorable publicity from the event, so they’re not responsible for Badnarik failing to gain publicity if he speaks either. Finally, why does Badnarik deserve to participate but not two other candidates who appear on the Arizona ballot but just don’t happen to represent recognized parties?
BTW, Badnarik appeared in a “Third Party” debate at Cornell University where Bush and Kerry were not invited to participate.
Under Arizona’s clean election law, a penalty is possible for up to 10 times the amount of an improper contribution (or $20,000,000.00). Problem is it goes to the state, and can only take effect if done on behalf of a candidate. Further penalties are possible if the candidate’s in on it, too.
The question is whether this constitutes an on behalf of payment stemming from an objective system by the CPD of limiting debate slots to candidates with 15% or better shots at winning…and, of course, whether we’d want a nonprofit like the CPD paying the fine…
Sorry, Mojo, not buying the fallacy call. If our election laws allow for the premise that giving unequal time to one candidate is improper, its not a great stretch to see the same for giving it to two…and as for the candidate receiving the funds, that wouldn’t clear me to simply pay for billboards for them out of pocket, right?
CC; My point on equal time is that there’s nothing wrong with giving all candidates equal time but on different days. If two of them choose to share the stage and pool their time, how is that a violation? Equal time doesn’t mean equal outcomes and free speech means he’s allowed to speak, not that I have to listen to him.
I find Badnarik’s claim that he’s entitled to participate (since he’s on the Arizona ballot as a candidate of a political party) but Nader isn’t (since he’s on the ballot without a party affiliation) is particularly self-serving and unprincipled.
IMHO, the billboard analogy you use distorts the situation somewhat. ASU isn’t making any representation about any candidate as they would be if they put up billboards.
BTW, I posted a comment on the post about this suit that they have on Badnarik’s web site. I offered to debate him (as someone who will win just as many electoral votes as he will), but he hasn’t taken me up on my offer. I wonder if I should sue him?
Oops, they’ve pulled my post.