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Inside Politics

Buchanan Discusses Decision Requiring Third-Party Candidates to Get at Least 15 Percent in Polls to Participate in Fall Debates

Aired January 6, 2000 - 5:21 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: More reaction now to the Presidential Debate Commission's decision to require third-party candidates to get at least 15 percent in the polls to participate in debates this fall. We're joined from Boston by Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.

Are you sweating the possibility that you won't get 15 percent?

PAT BUCHANAN (REF.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, Bernie, I am not. I believe we can get that. But what I do think is an outrage and an insult to the Democratic process is to have the two major parties engage basically in a conspiracy to corner the market on the presidency of the United States. I represent now and am a candidate of the Reform Party. I expect to be its nominee. The Reform Party will get federal matching funds for its convention. We get federal matching funds in the fall. We're one of three recognized national parties, and to have the other two set criteria to keep us out of a debate that is going to determine the outcome of the election 2000 is just illegitimate, it is outrageous, it is an absurd conflict of interest.

SHAW: How do you mean this is a conspiracy? How can you prove that?

BUCHANAN: You can't demonstrate that, but let me ask you, Bernie, if Coca-Cola and Pepsi set up criterion by which Sprite could get into the market, it had to pass a certain threshold or it would not be allowed to compete, that would be a criminal conspiracy and restraint of trade. We have the two national parties, Mr. Fahrenkoph, former member of the Republican Party, million dollar a year lobbyist for the gambling industry, deciding whether the one major outside party should even be able to compete for the presidency. It seems to me, on its face, we've got a conflict of interest.

SHAW: Well, you're being very cost caustic, which is your wont, but you're denigrating Frank -- is it illegal for him to make a million dollars a year?

BUCHANAN: It is not illegal for him to belong to the Republican Party or Mr. Kirk to the Democratic Party. But let me ask you, Bernie, why should the Democratic and Republican Party, two out of the three parties that are federally recognized, decide the criterion by which the third party may compete? SHAW: Pat, let me ask you this question -- instead of complaining about the decision, why don't you go out and get 15 percent and you'll be in the debates?

BUCHANAN: Exactly. That's what we intend to do, and I believe we'll do it. We're going to be the nominee. But, Bernie, what they've set up is a situation where both parties, if they don't want you in the debate, can launch with their five times as much money as they get, attack ads on me to drive me down in their own polls or the other polls, below 15, at that particular moment, and then say he's out of the debate, and we don't fairly compete. Bernie, they should not be deciding this issue. You have two parties deciding on the fate of the third.

SHAW: OK. We're fast running out of time. I've got three or four questions I have to ask you.

BUCHANAN: Sure.

SHAW: Does the presence of Donald Trump complicate your goals?

BUCHANAN: No, because this is going to be in the general election, and it'll be Buchanan the nominee.

SHAW: How are you going to fight this?

BUCHANAN: We're going to file suit with the Federal Election Commission. I believe they've got 120 days to decide.

SHAW: When?

BUCHANAN: If they decide against us -- as soon as we can -- we will go into federal court, and we will tell the federal court that you have got two parties trying to kill a third's chance for the presidency of the United States, and this is a conspiracy, and it ought not be decided by Republicans and Democrats, but all Americans ought to decide whether I am in that debate, not the parties I'm running against.

SHAW: Of course you know the FEC has never been overruled by a federal court.

BUCHANAN: The FEC is made up of three Republicans and three Democrats. That is another absurdity when we have a third party.

Bernie, the Reform Party has made it. We are recognized. We get federal matching funds. We get funds for our convention. We get funds for the election. We are a third party, and the other two are trying to kill what is new, and hopeful and different.

SHAW: Do you think -- just possibly, do you think that this decision, these criteria, issued by the Presidential Debate Commission might, in fact, boomerang, ricochet and actually energize Reform Party members?

BUCHANAN: They're not only going to energize Reform Party member's, the American people, even those who disagree with me, are a fair-minded people. I mean, look, can you imagine if George Bush and the folks said, look, all the candidates who got less than 15 percent in the polls -- that's Mr. Bauer, Mr. Keyes, Mr. Forbes -- you are not in the debates, and these are the only two in the debates. When George Bush tried that in 1980, Ronald Reagan said, you know, I've paid for this microphone, and I want these fellows in that debate. When Bush said no, he was finished as a candidate.

This is going to backfire on these fellows, pulling a stunt like this. And we are a legitimate party.

SHAW: Pat Buchanan, Reform Party candidate, talking to us from Boston, thanks very much.

BUCHANAN: Thank you.

SHAW: Quite welcome.

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