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Change the Rule

March 30, 2015

Commission on Presidential Debates
1200 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Suite 445
Washington DC 20036
Dear Board of Directors:
Every American owes the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) a debt of gratitude.
Since its inception nearly thirty years ago the debates have become institutionalized, so that it is
now impossible for a Presidential candidate to declare his or her unwillingness to participate.
It is because of the CPDs historic success, and its responsibility to address the needs of
an electorate that now includes a record number of independents, that the issue of who has
access to the debates is more crucial than ever.
On January 12th of this year, thirty six of the forty six undersigned sent a letter to the
Board of Directors of the Commission on Presidential Debates detailing our serious concerns
with the criteria that the CPD uses to determine when independent candidates can qualify for
the presidential debates. We were disappointed to receive a brief response from the CPD that
seemed to be, at best, pro forma and at worst, dismissive.
Despite a number of informal conversations and communications, the Commission
appeared to be avoiding any serious official consideration of our concerns, so we released our
letter of January 12th to the public on March 17th. That action generated a good deal of press
coverage and public interest that continues to this day.
In the interim, we requested the opportunity to brief the CPD Board about these
concerns and discuss the proposal detailed in our letter as part of the CPD's April 1st board
meeting. It is our understanding that the CPD has declined our request at this time. We
understand there may be internal or procedural issues that led to that determination, but we will
take issue with any further actionor inactionthat delays consideration of this crucial matter.
Reforms regarding debate access carry major implications for prospective presidential
candidates, and time is of the essence. The CPDs existing rules require that in order for an
independent candidate to qualify for the debates he or she must be on the ballot in states with at
least a combined 270 electoral votes. The rule we are proposing builds from the CPD's existing
rule and would establish a ballot access signature competition that enables the candidate with
the most signatures to qualify for the debates.
For the CPD to delay a decision on the candidate selection criteria is tantamount to a
decision to exclude candidates from outside the two major parties. In order for independents to
have any fair chance of competing, any rule changes need to be finalized and publicly
announced sooner rather than later, and by the end of May at the latest.

This is necessary to allow qualified candidates sufficient time to plan their campaigns
and meet state-by-state ballot access rules. The CPD staff has been aware of the rule we are
proposing since September of last year, and with goodwill and cooperation it should not take
more than six weeks to work out the details, get Board approval and announce the changes.
To address these issues, we would like to invite the CPD Board Members and
professional staff to a briefing in Washington, D.C. during the week of April 13th (or as
close to then as practicable) where we can discuss our proposal and engage in a
dialogue about how best to reform the debate access rules and respond to the American
people's demand for change.
The live drama of the presidential debate stage should showcase our greatest
Americans, and yet most Americans believe that the status quo is denying them any meaningful
choice beyond the two parties. The intensity of that feeling has never been higher.
The editors of Bloomberg View recently echoed that sentiment, calling for presidential
debates to be bigger, broader, and better. A simple rule change that enables a candidate to
qualify for the debates by some means other than polling, and is resolved sufficiently in advance
of the election to enable that candidate to compete on a level playing field, will allow an
additional perspective to be represented.
We urge you to meet with us in order to discuss how best to create the conditions for a
new, more democratic 2016 election that breaks free of the current polarization and
gridlock. We will work with you collaboratively on the format and location of this briefing, and we
can make accommodations for Board members unable to attend in person.
Regardless of how the CPD sees its mission, it should not be a knowing or active
contributor to the dysfunction of our political system. It should be a neutral party, but not a
disinterested one. In light of this, we believe the Commission has an historic responsibility and
opportunity to adopt new rules that will respond to the public's overwhelming desire for a more
inclusive and competitive political system.
We look forward to your response and to meeting with you the week of April 13th. In the
interest of time, please contact
which time we hope you will confirm your participation.
Jacqueline Adams
Former CBS News Correspondent, Board of Trustees of the Harvard Business School Club of
New York City
The Honorable John B. Anderson
Former member of US House of Representatives, Independent candidate for President of the
United States
Norman R. Augustine
Former Chairman and CEO of Martin Marietta Corporation and Lockheed Martin Corporation,
Former Chairman of the American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of America

Governor Bruce Babbitt

16th Governor of Arizona, Formerly United States Secretary of the Interior, Arizona Attorney
General, Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, President of the League of Conservation
Voters; Founding member of the Democratic Leadership Council
Scott Blackmun
Chief Executive Officer of the United States Olympic Committee
Admiral Dennis C. Blair
Former United States Director of National Intelligence, Commander in Chief, US Pacific
Mary McInnis Boies
Founding Partner, Boies & McInnis LLP, member of the Board of Directors of the Council on
Foreign Relations, Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, Deans Council of Harvard
Universitys Kennedy School of Government
Ambassador Stephen W. Bosworth
Former US Ambassador to South Korea, the Philippines and Tunisia; Dean Emeritus of The
Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University; U.S. Special Representative for North
Korea Policy
David G. Bradley
Atlantic Media Company, Publisher of The Atlantic, National Journal, The Hotline and
Government Executive, CityBridge Foundation
John Burbank
Founder, Passport Capital
Harry W. Clark
Senior Advisor, Albright Stonebridge Group, Senior Counselor, Brunswick Group
Senator William S. Cohen
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Cohen Group, Former United States Secretary of
Defense, US Senator, US Representative, Member of the Board of Directors, CBS Corporation
Eliot R. Cutler
Chairman, MaineAsia LLC; President, The Lerner Foundation; former Independent candidate
for Governor of Maine; former Partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP; former Associate
Director of the Office of Management and Budget for Natural Resources, Energy and Science
W. Bowman Cutter
Senior Fellow and Director of the Next American Economy Project at the Roosevelt Institute,
Chairman of the Board of CARE, founder and current Chairman of MicroVest. Former member of the
National Economic Council, Deputy Assistant to the President; Office of Management and Budget,
Executive Director for Budget
Dr. Larry Diamond
Stanford University Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution & Freeman Spogli Institute
Director, Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, Peter E. Haas Faculty Co-Director,
Haas Center for Public Service
William H. Donaldson
Founder of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, 27th Chairman of the US Securities and Exchange
Commission, Formerly Chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange

Dr. Morris P. Fiorina

Wendt Family Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow of the
Hoover Institution, Former chairman of the Board of Overseers of the American National Election
Studies. Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Political
and Social Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences
Leslie C. Francis
Washington based communications consultant, Deputy chief of staff to President Carter,
Former Executive director of the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional
Campaign Committee
Dr. Francis Fukuyama
Senior Fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at the Freeman
Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, Author of The End of History and the
Last Man
Ambassador James K. Glassman
Visiting Fellow, American Enterprise Institute, former Under Secretary of State for Public
Diplomacy and Public Affairs, former Chairman, U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, former
Publisher, The Atlantic Monthly and The New Republic, former Editor-in-Chief, Roll Call
The Honorable Lee H. Hamilton
Former member of US House of Representatives, Director of The Center on Congress at
Indiana University
General Michael V. Hayden
Principal, the Chertoff Group; Retired US Air Force four-star general. Formerly Director of the
National Security Agency, Principle Deputy Director of National Intelligence and Director of the Central
Intelligence Agency
The Honorable Carla Anderson Hills
Chair and CEO of Hills & Company, International Consultants; Former United States Secretary
of Housing and Urban Development, US Trade Representative, United States Assistant Attorney
General, Co-Chair of the Council on Foreign Relations, of the Inter-American Dialogue, and the
Advisory Board of the CSIS
Irvine O. Hockaday, Jr.
Former President and Chief Executive Officer, Hallmark Cards, Inc.
Governor Jon Huntsman
Chairman of Atlantic Council, Former Governor of Utah, Former US Ambassador to The
Peoples Republic of China
Governor Thomas Howard Kean, Sr.
Former Governor of New Jersey, Chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks
Upon the United States (9/11 Commission)
Senator Robert Kerrey
Former United States Senator from Nebraska, Governor of Nebraska; United States Navy
SEAL officer and Medal of Honor recipient
Senator Angus King
Independent United States Senator from Maine, 72nd Governor of Maine

Dr. David King

Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Faculty Chair of the
Masters in Public Administration program, Director of the Task Force on Election Administration for the
National Commission on Election Reform
Senator Joseph Lieberman
Former United States Senator, Democratic Party nominee for Vice President
Dr. Aaron Lobel
Founder and President of America Abroad Media, Consultant to the Bipartisan Policy Center,
Former research fellow at The Brookings Institution, Former National Security Fellow at the Olin
Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, Former National Security Fellow at the Belfer
Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
General Stanley A. McChrystal
Retired four-star general, former commander of US and International Security Assistance
Forces (ISAF) Afghanistan, former commander of the nations premier military counter-terrorism force,
Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)
Dean Vali R. Nasr
Dean of the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, served on the faculties of
the Naval Postgraduate School, Stanford University, UC San Diego and the University of San Diego;
Carnegie Scholar and a senior fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government; member
of the U.S. Department of State's Foreign Affairs Policy Board, director of the Rockefeller Brothers
Fund and the National Democratic Institute
Ambassador John Negroponte
Research fellow, Yale University Jackson Institute for Global Affairs; United States Deputy
Secretary of State, first ever Director of National Intelligence, United States ambassador in Honduras,
Mexico, the Philippines, US permanent representative to the United Nations, ambassador to Iraq
Greg Orman
Denali Partners LLC, Independent candidate for US Senate, Kansas, Founder of the Common
Sense Coalition, former national President of the Boys Nation
The Honorable Tim Penny
Former member of the US House of Representatives, Independent candidate for Governor of
Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering
Former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Former United States Ambassador to the
United Nations, Russia, India, Israel, El Salvador, Nigeria and Jordan. Chairman of the Center for the
Study of the Presidency and Congress
Nancy E. Roman
President and CEO, Capital Area Food Bank, Former Director of Public/Private Partnerships
and Communications at the United Nations World Food Programme
The Honorable Christopher Shays
Former member of the US House of Representatives, 4th District of Connecticut; Co-chair
Commission on Wartime Contracting
Bradley A. Smith
Josiah H. Blackmore II/Shirley M. Nault Professor of Law at Capital University Law School,
Former Commissioner, Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Federal Election Commission

Ambassador Richard H. Solomon

Senior fellow at the RAND Corporation. Formerly president of the United States Institute of
Peace, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, U.S. Ambassador to the
Philippines, Director of Policy Planning Department of State, senior staff National Security Council
Admiral James G. Stavridis
15th Commander, U.S. European Command; 16th Supreme Allied Commander, Europe of
NATO, Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University
The Honorable David M. Walker
Seventh Comptroller General of the United States
The Honorable Vin Weber
Former member of the US House of Representatives, Former Chairman and current board
member of the National Endowment for Democracy, member of Board of Trustees at the Aspen
Institute, member of the Board of Directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, Senior Fellow at the
Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota, Partner at Mercury
Judge William H. Webster
Chairman of the Homeland Security Advisory Council; Formerly Director of the Federal Bureau
of Investigation, Director of Central Intelligence, Judge of the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth
Circuit, US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri
The Honorable Christine Todd-Whitman
50th Governor of New Jersey, Former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency,
President of the Whitman Strategy Group