For several election cycles, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) - a self-proclaimed “non-partisan” private organization that sponsors the debates - has required a 15% average in hand-picked polls as the criteria for debate inclusion. This threshold makes it difficult for candidates outside of the traditional Democratic and Republican parties to appear on stage.
Like most Americans, I’ve generally accepted these polls at face value. However, a review of publicly available information shows that not only are most of the polls in question inherently unscientific, but that the CPD and its hand-picked pollsters are engaged in a concerted effort to elect establishment candidates in general, and Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonWith no emerging leaders, no clear message, Democrats flounder Independent investigation into Russian interference needed Obama and Trump haven’t talked since inauguration MORE in particular.
Almost every reputable scientific journal asks scientists who hope to publish in its pages to disclose any conflicts of interest. The implication is that, if the researcher, or those funding or sponsoring the research favor a specific research outcome, the data might be tainted. Using publicly available information alone, I’ve uncovered massive conflicts of interests that have laid dormant for years.
Consider the NBC-Wall Street Journal, conducted in collaboration by Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies and Fred Yang of Hart Research Associates. McInturff says on his own public company profile that he is not “simply monitoring public opinion.” Instead, he is “developing messages to defend and promote client interests.” He has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and organizations.
Meanwhile, Fred Yang is described as one among a set of consultants who “make a difference” for the Democratic Party. The Fox News poll and the CNN/ORC poll face similar conflicts of interests.
By examining these financial conflicts of interests for the pollsters, I uncovered foundational conflicts of interests within the supposed “non-partisan” CPD.
The two Co-Chairmen, Frank Fahrenkopf and Michael McCurry, have donated tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic and Republican candidates and organizations over the decades. They appear to have been invested in the establishment candidacies of the Bush and Clinton families for as long as they have served. McCurry last donated to Hillary Clinton on April 12th, 2015, the day she announced her candidacy.
Beyond the Co-Chairmen, several Board Members of the claimed “non-partisan” CPD have long been invested in establishment candidates. Howard G. Buffett donated $1,000 to Obama in 2008. Antonia Hernandez has attended the Clinton School of Public Service. She gave the maximum $2,700 to Hillary Clinton in 2015.
Richard Parsons also donated to Bill ClintonBill ClintonWe must act now and pass the American Health Care Act Trump's message: Russia First or America First? Senate Democrats should grill Judge Gorsuch on antitrust. Here's how. MORE as far back as 1996, spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in 2006, and gave the maximum $2,700 to Hillary in 2015.
Shirley Tilghman appears in a video entitled “Hillary Fan” and praised Hillary Clinton’s leadership skills at “building bridges” in a speech on leadership given at Princeton University. In her 2007 endorsement, Jane Harman noted that Clinton’s “strength and experience make her uniquely qualified to be Commander in Chief.” In 2012, she awarded Clinton with an award for public service.
Some of the Republican-leaning CPD members advocate against Trump, seemingly in favor of Hillary Clinton. Olympia Snowe claims Trump damages the Republican brand, and John Danforth says “Donald TrumpDonald TrumpPelosi blasts Trump’s ‘rookie error’ on ObamaCare repeal GOP Rep. Hunter under criminal campaign finance investigation NRCC claims Obama surveillance of Trump 'confirmed' MORE is an angry, hateful, divisive for in American politics.” A question on his twitter accounts reads “Do you want to live with 1 term of Clinton or lose the Republican party as a vehicle for conservatism?”
Curiously, the wayback machine shows that Bob Schieffer was a member of the CPD in September 2015, but not after January 1st. In October, he told “Face the Nation” that the Clinton “campaign is astonishingly inept.” The process for his departure from the CPD is unknown.
All in all, it appears that the self-proclaimed “non-partisan” CPD, as well as several of its hand-picked, self-admittedly non-neutral pollsters, are invested in the election of Hillary Clinton.
To be sure, we have not examined all possible available evidence, but we have yet to find any evidence of favoritism for any of the outsiders. Where are the pro-Trump, pro-Johnson, pro-Stein CPD members and their hand-picked pollsters?
The American people must overcome this rigged game. Open the debates.
Rodolfo Cortes Barragan is a Jill Stein supporter. He is a doctoral candidate at Stanford University. Nick Bax, also a doctoral candidate at Stanford, contributed to this piece.
The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill