Marital, personal ties link Obama administration to Commission on Presidential Debates

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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The moderator of the lone October vice presidential debate was previously married to a top Obama official, an association both ABC News and the left-leaning Commission on Presidential Debates do not view as a conflict of interest.

ABC Senior Foreign Correspondent Martha Raddatz, whose role as moderator was announced on August 13, was previously married to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski — an Obama appointee.

Genachowki and Raddatz were married in 1991, the same year he graduated from Harvard Law School. Their marriage ended in 1997; the two have a son together. Raddatz does not report on the FCC for ABC News.

Genachowski and classmate Barack Obama worked together on the Harvard Law Review, Genachowski as notes editor and Obama as the publication’s president. They graduated in the same class.

ABC did not consider the disclosure of Raddatz’s ties to an Obama appointee necessary when it issued a press release announcing that the Commission on Presidential Debates had selected her to moderate the debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Republican nominee Rep. Paul Ryan.

It’s unclear if Raddatz knew Obama during the 1990s when she was married to Genachowski. Neither she nor Genachowski responded to The Daily Caller’s request for comment.

ABC declined The Daily Caller’s request for comment through spokesman David Ford, who also told TheDC that Raddatz would not be responding.

Commission on Presidential Debates co-chair Mike McCurry said his organization did not take Raddatz’ prior marriage into account when selecting her.

“We selected the moderators based on their reputations for integrity and journalistic impartiality among other things,” McCurry told TheDC. “What counts is the quality of their work, not who they may have been married to in the past.”

The Commission’s other Obama administration ties include several personal friends and political supporters of President Obama who are among its leaders. (RELATED: Progressive-leaning panel picks moderators for presidential debates)

Commission board member Newton Minow, who was FCC chairman under President John F. Kennedy, was an early and prominent supporter of Obama’s 2008 campaign.

It was during his time as a summer associate in 1989 at Minow’s Chicago law firm, Sidley & Austin LLP, that Obama was introduced to the influential members of Chicago’s political scene. Minow made many of those introductions himself.

Minow, a former chairman of the Carnegie Foundation, the Public Broadcasting Service and the RAND Corporation, is a prominent member of the Democratic political elite in Chicago.

“I introduced him to many people when he decided to enter public life,” Minow told TheDC in an email.

A 2008 Vanity Fair feature about then-Sen. Obama said Minow opposed Obama’s early runs for office. Minow’s answer to The Daily Caller, however, was different.

“I was not critical of Obama’s run for political office,” said Minow. “I encourage many young people to run for office — of both parties.”

“We need good people to run for office,” he said.

When asked about the discrepancy between his two statements, Minow was non-responsive.

“I have been involved over the past 52 years in every one of the 38 Presidential debates for the League of Women Voters and the Commission on Presidential Debates,” he said, “and have often known the candidates of both parties and independent candidates before and after the debates.”

Minow — famous for his 1961 speech in which he decried commercial broadcast television as a “vast wasteland” — also told The Daily Caller that neither the FCC nor the Obama administration has consulted him on policy issues.

Michelle Obama, then Michelle Robinson, was also employed at Sidley & Austin immediately following her graduation from Harvard Law School in 1988. She met Barack while he was a summer associate at the firm and was assigned to mentor him.

Obama made it to Minow’s law firm after receiving a glowing recommendation from his daughter, Martha Minow, then a Harvard law professor. Obama was among her favorite students.

Now the Dean of Harvard Law School, Martha Minow was recently on Obama’s short list for a Supreme Court nomination. Justice Elena Kagen, also a Harvard Law Review alumnus, was Martha Minow’s predecessor as dean of the school.

Obama nominated Minow’s other daughter, Mary, in 2010 to serve on the National Museum and Library Services Board.

Neither Mary nor Martha Minow responded to The Daily Caller’s request for comment about their family’s longstanding relationship with Obama.

“Dean Minow forwarded me your inquiry to her,” said Robb London, assistant dean and chief of communications at Harvard Law School. “She will not be commenting.”

“I imagine that the Commission, a bi-partisan organization, can field requests for information about its members and processes,” London added.

A spokesman for the Commission, however, declined The Daily Caller’s request for comment.

The Romney campaign also sidestepped The Daily Caller’s question about whether it would protest the Commission’s choice of moderators or its deep ties to the Obama administration.

“The Commission on Presidential Debates selects the moderators, not the campaigns,” said Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams.

The Obama campaign did not respond to The Daily Caller’s request for comment by the time of publication.

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