Excluded from debates on the national state, Jill Stein's supporters have rallied around the #OpenTheDebates hashtag -- and right here in Illinois, state-level, ballot-listed candidates are facing the same freeze-out by the media, including taxpayer-supporter public television.
On October 25th, PBS affiliate WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" will host a candidate debate for the Illinois Comptroller election -- but only the Democratic and Republican candidates are invited. The Libertarian Party's Claire Ball and the Green Party's Tim Curtin have been told they will not be allowed to participate.
"We make decisions about which candidates are in contention and seem to have viable campaigns," stated Mary Field, the executive producer for Chicago Tonight, in justifying Curtin's exclusion. Asked for specific criteria, Field declined to provide a particular poll threshold or other measurement, saying on the station's part that "this close to an election, we can tell which candidates have gained traction."Read more
An Illinois Green Party Statement — October 16, 2016
WTTW, the Chicago PBS affiliate (Channel 11), is once again hosting candidate debates that exclude the ballot-qualified candidates of both the Green Party and the Libertarian Party -- this time in the races for Illinois Comptroller and United States Senator from Illinois.
It is excluding these candidates despite the fact that well over 100,000 Illinoisans signed petitions to place Green Party Comptroller candidate Tim Curtin and Senate candidate Scott Summers or their Libertarian counterparts on the ballot for the 2016 general election, with both parties overcoming one of the most restrictive ballot-access laws in the United States.
It is excluding these candidates despite polls showing that 57 percent of Americans say that a third major political party is needed in the U.S. – up 11 percent from just four years ago -- and over three-quarters of American voters would like to see the national presidential debates include third-party candidates – indicating that a similar percentage would like to see third-party candidates included in other debates.
It is excluding these candidates despite the fact that WTTW is a public television station that receives and relies upon U.S. and Illinois taxpayer funds for a large proportion of its operations. WTTW is itself a tax-exempt organization. Its offices, broadcasting equipment, studios, and parking lot are all located on property owned by the State of Illinois.
WTTW's failure to include all of the ballot-qualified candidates in the debates is a betrayal of its own mission statement, which claims that it is committed to “diverse perspectives, accessibility, innovation, community engagement, and life long learning,” and claims that the station is “balanced in our independent, objective, in-depth reporting and encourage[s] [its] audiences to engage in dialogue and make informed decisions.”
Ironically, both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times newspapers included Curtin in a four-way debate for comptroller. In fact, the Tribune has made the entire one hour debate available on line, to help voters determine who is the best candidate. Yet the so-called non-commercial “public” television station, WTTW, has refused to let Curtin and Summers participate in the debates for Comptroller and U.S. Senate.
The excuse given by WTTW management is that only “viable” candidates should be included in the debates. This is flawed, circular reasoning. Candidates become “viable” when enough voters decide to support them. Voters may decide to support a candidate when they learn more about that candidate’s platform, policies, and plans if elected to office. Because of the institutional and monetary advantages already held by Democratic and Republican candidates, alternative party and independent candidates have to rely on the fairness of some news media and opportunities for debate in order to have a reasonable chance to persuade voters that they are the best candidate and bring their polling numbers up.
Inclusion in debates, therefore, is one principal way in which candidates become “viable.” WTTW is actually foreclosing an opportunity for other candidates to become viable by preemptively declaring that only Democratic and Republican candidates are “viable,” thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. To say that a candidate has to demonstrate a large degree of support before the debates are held is like telling a jockey that he or she must demonstrate an ability to be competitive in a horse race before being given a horse to ride.
WTTW’s discrimination in favor of the two corporate‑sponsored parties is unfair and disrespectful to the people they are supposed to be serving the voters, and the public at large. It means that taxpayer money and the public airwaves are being used to further tilt the playing field against the candidates of alternative parties, in favor of the two parties that already hold a huge advantage in money, media exposure and power. This is an outrageous betrayal of the public trust. It violates the requirement of the Federal Communications Act that every broadcast station – let alone a “public” station – serve the “public interest, convenience and necessity.”
For government to truly reflect and serve the public interest in a democratic republic, the people have to be informed about all of their choices so that they can make a truly informed decision on Election Day. The best way to do this is to put the ideas and proposals of all the candidates to the test of debate, so that voters can judge for themselves who is the best candidate. Holding by invitation only debates limited to the good old boys club of Democrats and Republicans misinforms and manipulates voters by reinforcing the view that there are only two “serious” or “legitimate” choices which usually don’t present much of a choice at all.
Finally, WTTW’s decision is tragic, insofar as Curtin and Summers both champion the policies that would best serve the people of Illinois. Among the Comptroller candidates, only Tim Curtin offers a solution to the state’s deep financial crisis. He alone supports the proposed LaSalle Street Tax, a minuscule tax on the trading of speculative financial transactions that would raise about $13 billion a year in new revenues. Such new revenues would restore funding for public education and needed social services, help ease the pension crisis and allow the budget to be balanced.
Among the Senate candidates, Summers alone supports a Green New Deal – a bold federal plan to create full employment while simultaneously addressing the climate change emergency by promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transportation practices. He also supports an improved Medicare-for-all health-care system, monetary reforms that include write-downs of student debt, and he opposes U.S. military aggression overseas.
The Illinois Green Party urges all concerned Illinois voters to contact WTTW management and let it know that you do not support WTTW’s exclusionary debate policy. Demand that the debate include all ballot-qualified candidates. Let WTTW know that you will no longer donate to the station during its pledge drives until the station honors its pledge to support the public interest.
To do so, write to Daniel J. Schmidt, President and Chief Executive Officer, WTTW, 5400 N. Saint Louis Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60625-4698, contact WTTW management at (773) 583-5000 – or send the station a comment on-line at: http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/contact
An Illinois Green Party Statement — September 9, 2016
We live in a time in which human-caused global climate change is already causing
widespread harm throughout the globe, and in which an onslaught of pollutants is
contaminating our water, air, soil and all living things -- driving all life on the planet
toward a Sixth Great Extinction.
Yet our state and federal governments act as if none of this occurring. They continue to
support giant fossil fuel corporations building more infrastructure that will expand the
extraction and burning of fossil fuels, while creating terrible risks of more catastrophic
water, air and land contamination.
This is madness and it has to stop. And that is only one of the reasons why we stand in
solidarity with the sovereign Oceti Sakowin Oyate (the Great Sioux Nation), the
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and their First Nation and other allies, in their just struggle
against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline across their sacred and
ancestral lands. We condemn the violent and inexcusable attacks on our brothers and
sisters engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience by Energy Transfer Partners’ private
security forces and their dogs. And we stand in solidarity with Iowa farmers and all
others on the front lines of the struggle to stop the pipeline.
The Illinois Green Party has already been involved in the fight against the Dakota
Access Pipeline in our state. This proposed 1,172-mile pipeline will extend from the
Bakken Shale fracking fields in North Dakota, across South Dakota and Iowa, across
the Mississippi River at Hamilton, IL, to the ETCO pipeline near Patoka, Illinois (east of
Lake Carlyle). A related ETCO pipeline project will build a pump station and new line
from Patoka to a compressor station by Johnsonville, in Wayne County. ETCO will use
its recently purchased Trunkline Gas Co. pipeline, which goes through the Crab Orchard
National Wildlife Refuge and the Shawnee National Forest, under Lake of Egypt in
Johnson County, through the Cache River Wetland, across the Ohio River and then
south to an oil refinery operated by Sunoco Logistics in Nederland, Texas. The southern
portion of the route is an older pipeline that the companies have been granted
permission to reverse flow. Sunoco Logistics is a parent company of Energy Transfer
Partners (ETP), the principal company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, and is also
involved in the extraction of Canadian tar sands oil in Alberta, Canada.
Thus, over a year ago, we urged Illinoisans to support a petition and send comments to
the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) in opposition to the pipeline being permitted.
Green environmental activist Tabitha Tripp, of Anna, Illinois, spent hundreds of hours
preparing testimony, gathering exhibits and preparing and submitting briefs to the ICC in
an effort to stop the pipeline, noting the unacceptable risks posed by the project and
exposing the ridiculous claim that the pipeline was needed to serve the public
“convenience and necessity.” The ICC was forced to note the “number of public
comments opposing eminent domain to support her contention that eminent domain is
inappropriate for a private entity.” It added: “The Commission . . . concludes that they
reflect a lack of acceptance of the grant of eminent domain authority to Dakota Access.”
Then it granted the eminent domain authority anyway.
In Illinois and the other affected states, the law of eminent domain has been perverted
into its opposite. Eminent domain is the doctrine that allows the state to take someone’s
private property, with fair compensation, when it serves a legitimate public need. But in
this case, the oil companies’ aims are private greed, not public need. They prate about
“energy self-sufficiency,” even though their sole motive is private profit, and nothing will
prevent them from exporting the oil overseas. They point to the few temporary
construction jobs that will be created while ignoring the potential lives, habitats and
farmland that will be ruined when the inevitable leaks and spills occur. They ignore the
fact that taxpayers may end up having to pick up the tab for the inevitable, and
inadequate, “clean up” efforts that will follow. And of course, the global impact of more
fossil fuel combustion doesn’t even enter the calculations of the oil giants and their
As former Green Party vice-presidential candidate Winona LaDuke recently observed:
“More than 570,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil will pass through the pipeline daily,
along with 245,100 metric tons of carbon daily – enough carbon to combust the planet
to oblivion. The pipeline would span 200 water crossings and in North Dakota alone
would pass through 33 historical and archeological sites.”
The proposed pipeline route crosses ancestral lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
and the Missouri River. This is an instance of environmental racism. The original
proposed route placed it north of the drinking water intakes for the city of Bismarck, but
it was redirected. The Missouri River is a major source of water for the Tribe and for
millions of others downstream.
The risk of serious water contamination is not hypothetical. As Tripp pointed out to the
ICC: “The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has noted
over 2,000 pipeline spills in the United States since 1995. Therefore, the probability of a
spill from the proposed Dakota Access project rises to almost an inevitability.”
Inspections won’t help much: The PHMSA has fewer than 150 pipeline inspectors to
cover the entire United States. A Wall Street Journal review found that there were 1,400
pipeline spills and accidents in the US in 2010-2013, with four out of every five pipeline
accidents discovered by local residents, not the companies that own the pipelines.
Former Scientific American Editor Trudy Bell reports that PHMSA data from 2001 to
2011 suggests that the average pipeline "has a 57% probability of experiencing a major
leak, with consequences over the $l million range in a ten year period." That may be
higher in the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline, because unrefined Bakken crude oil is
corrosive, toxic, and highly explosive.
ETP had an oil spill in Philadelphia in January 2014, and a gas pipeline explosion in
Cuero, Texas in June 2015. The National Lawyers Guild has reported that ETP and its
affiliated entities “have a long history of violations of environmental laws, including
pending lawsuits by the states of New Jersey, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and the
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the City of Breau Bridge in Louisiana over MTBE
contamination of groundwater, as well as citations for releases of hazardous materials
from its pipelines and facilities in Ohio, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, Texas,
Pennsylvania, and Hawaii.”
The Guild also noted: “The conduct of the US government in its approval of the Pipeline
proposal breaches the terms of the 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaties between the
Oceti Sakowin and the United States. The exercise of colonial power by the United
States in approving the proposal further violates the collective human rights of the
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its peoples including the rights to self-determination,
national sovereignty, and free, prior, and informed consent as to those matters that may
affect them, which are secured to all peoples by the Charter of the United Nations, Art.
73; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art. 1, 3 (ICCPR); and
specifically to indigenous peoples under the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights
of Indigenous Peoples. . . . The proposed pipeline violates the collective environmental
human rights of the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to life, health, clean water,
and a clean environment, treaty rights secured to them by the Ft. Laramie Treaties as
well as by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
We owe a debt of thanks to all of the courageous Native Americans who have come
together in a historic gathering and are now on the front lines of the struggle to save our
climate, our water, air and land. We urge all Illinoisans and all Americans to rally in
support of their efforts. Their cause is our cause.
We support them because we all have a stake in combating global climate change. We
support them because we all have a stake in supporting clean water, air and land. We
support them because we all have a stake in supporting the human rights of all peoples.
We support them because we support the rule of law and upholding Native American
treaties. We support them because an injury to one is an injury to all. We support them
because they are our brothers and sisters.
We support them because it is the right thing to do.