Milwaukee. When the first of three Wisconsin US Senate debates occurs Friday, something will be missing – two of the four candidates. Independent candidate Nimrod Allen and Libertarian Party nominee Joseph Kexel were both excluded from the race’s three upcoming debates. The sponsors’ official reason for their exclusion – they haven’t raised the required half million dollars, and therefore, are not allowed to participate.
Together with their media partners, the Democratic and Republican candidates for Wisconsin’s US Senate seat announced that a debate schedule had been hammered out. The two establishment candidates, and only the two establishment candidates, would face-off in three debates before the November general election. Absent in the state-wide announcement were two of the four candidates and any news reporting of their existence.
Contrary to what local Wisconsin media outlets appear to be reporting, there are actually four candidates on the ballot for the state’s US Senate seat, not just two. They are:
- Tammy Baldwin (D)
- Tommy Thompson (R)
- Joseph Kexel (L)
- Nimrod Allen III (i)
Unfortunately for Wisconsin voters, only two of the above four candidates will be allowed to debate in the state-wide televised debates. With so many voters using the debates to make their final decision as to which candidate to vote for, not being able to participate will put the Libertarian and independent at a distinct disadvantage. Without being invited into voters’ living rooms to meet and greet them as Baldwin and Thompson are, Kexel and Allen will be unfairly saddled with an uphill battle.
Debate slots for sale
Upon the announcement that their candidates would not be included in the debates, both the Allen and Kexel campaigns lodged formal complaints. In an email made available to this column by one of the campaigns, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation responded. The WBAF is sponsoring the first debate this Friday in Milwaukee.
WBAF President and CEO John Laabs explained why Nimrod Allen III and Joseph Kexel are not being allowed to debate. His email states:
‘Our invitation to the Republican Party and Democrat Party candidates was based on the policy adopted by the WBA Foundation Board of Directors in 2002 which provides that participation in Foundation sponsored debates shall be offered to those who have won the Primary Election of their Party and who have either raised $500,000 by June 30 of the election year, or, are averaging 10% in recognized political election polls.’
So in other words, the rich and wealthy can buy their way into the allegedly fair debates in Wisconsin, but a Marine Corp veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars such as Nimrod Allen and an intelligent, honest, IT consultant and regular working stiff like Joseph Kexel, simply don’t have what the news media decided it takes to take part in their debates – wealthy donors and a Super PAC.
Allen campaign responds
After contacting each of the Wisconsin Senate debate sponsors, only Mr. Laabs and the WABF responded with the above email. He should at least be credited for having the decency to respond to the two candidates being unjustly snubbed. The other media sponsors are obviously and understandably avoiding the controversy that they themselves created. In reality, what Wisconsin Senate debate sponsors have instituted is something akin to a ‘poll tax’ or Chicago-style pay-to-play politics, and both are illegal for obvious reasons.
Allen campaign manager Angela Moragne isn’t settling for the sponsors’ no-reply tactic. She’s determined to get Iraq and Afghan war vet Nimrod Allen into the debates, or expose the hypocrisy of the system. She argues that refusing Allen’s participation in the debates is, “direct verification of the coordinated effort to prevent certified third party candidates access to a forum constituents utilize to garner information and decide on how they shall vote.”
Moragne goes on to criticize the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation and its President and CEO saying, “The media has routinely omitted Mr. Allen from a similar level of access, reporting, coverage, etc., as extended to those in the Democratic and Republican parties. Mr. Allen has served his entire adult life as a United States Marine. He is a certified US Senate candidate…He has funded his own campaign. However, because according to this email from John Laabs who did not have the decency to even respond to us from his business account, Mr. Allen shall not be admitted solely based on his campaign bank account.”
The Allen campaign finishes by pointing out the irony of the media’s debate system as it currently stands. People with money can buy their way in. People without money must reach 10% in the polls conducted by the same Wisconsin media. But as Moragne reminds us, it’s impossible to poll anything other than zero if your name is not included in the polls to begin with.
There’s still time to contact the various Wisconsin media outlets sponsoring the three US Senate debates. For the debate schedule and sponsors, see below (from WisconsinGazette.com):
- The first debate on Sept. 28 is sponsored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation and will be in Milwaukee.
- The second debate in Wausau on Oct. 18 will be sponsored by Wisconsin Public Television, Wisconsin Public Radio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and TMJ4.
- The third and final debate will be Oct. 26 hosted by Mike Gousha from WISN-TV in partnership with the Marquette University Law School and the WISN network of affiliates.
For more information on the two candidates still hoping to participate in the debates, visit the websites of independent Nimrod YU Allen III or Libertarian Joseph Kexel.