Moreover, since the CPD has taken over, corporate sponsorship (tax deductible, of course) of the debates has attracted some of Washington’s most powerful lobbies, which essentially use the events as vehicles for soft-money contributions while advertising their products and services. Major sponsors have come from the auto, tobacco, finance, insurance, and communications industries, and have included Ford, Philip Morris, J.P. Morgan, Prudential, AT&T, and Sprint, just to name a few. (For reference, this year’s debates are being sponsored by Anheuser-Busch Companies, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Sheldon S. Cohen, Esq., Crowell & Moring LLP, the International Bottled Water Association, the Kovler Fund, and Southwest Airlines.)
The result: debates where the setting and participants’ responses are equally staged. Political debates used to serve as beacons of truthfulness in carefully scripted campaigns, where candid moments were frequent and presidential candidates were forced to address difficult questions. They don’t anymore.
Unlike the LWV, the CPD takes issue neither with fraud nor with the hoodwinking of America. Instead, debates continue to become ever-more scripted and planned, and those most intimately involved are all too willing to perpetuate the myth that the debates are open and unscripted in exchange for the opportunity to make another well-rehearsed stump speech. When the Obama and Romney camps meet in Colorado, Kentucky, New York, and Florida this month, the only real losers will be the increasingly misinformed American people.
Brian Kelly is a freelance writer, the assistant editor at The New Criterion, and a recent graduate of Brown University.