Progressive-leaning panel picks moderators for presidential debates

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The moderators for the nation’s 2012 presidential debates were picked by a progressive panel of Washington establishment figures, dubbed the Commission on Presidential Debates.

The four debates are important because they can shape opinions among the late-deciding voters whose ballots will likely decide the election in swing-states, including Florida, Virginia and Ohio.

Each of the chosen moderators work for establishment media outlets or for government-funded media operations.

The establishment journalists are CNN’s Candy Crowley, ABC News’ Marth Raddatz and CBS’ Bob Scheiffer. Jim Lehrer works for PBS, which is supported by the government.

The locations were also chosen by the progressive-skewed commission.

Three debates will include President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney. One debate will feature Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan.

The commission’s nine-member board include Antonia Hernandez, a former president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Eduction Fund and a member of the progressive American Constitutional Society, and Howard Buffett, the son of billionaire Obama-booster Warren Buffett.

The group also include Richard Parsons, a former chief of Citigroup and a long-standing friend of Obama, and John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame who invited Obama to speak at the university in 2009 despite a firestorm of criticism from orthodox Catholics.

The commission’s members also include Dorothy Ridings, president of the progressive-leaning Council on Foundations, and Newton Minow, the progressive-leaning former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

The two most prominent Republican members of the board are both social liberals — former Sens. John C. Danforth and Alan K. Simpson.

The executive director is Janet H. Brown, a former White House official.

The two co-chairs are Michael D. McCurry, the former spokesman for President Bill Clinton, and Frank J. Fahrenkopf, the current president of the casino trade group, the American Gaming Association.

Fahrenkopf was chairman of the Republican National Committee a quarter of a century ago, from 1983 to 1989.

Both Fahrenkopf and McCurry work for lobbying firms.

Romney’s campaign declined to comment about the political tilt of the reporters. “Debate moderators are selected by the Commission on Presidential Debates,” said a statement from Ryan Williams. “You should check with them for questions.”

Commission director and spokeswoman Janet H. Brown declined to respond.

Lehrer will moderate the first presidential debate on Oct. 3, from Denver. CNN’s Crowley will moderate a town-hall style event on Oct. 16 in the very blue state of New York and CBS’ Schieffer will run the third debate on Oct. 22, from Florida.

Raddatz will moderate the vice presidential debate on Oct. 11, from Danville, Kentucky.

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