Scroll down to read a letter of response from Steve Paulus, General Manager of NY1.

“Celebrity is no substitute for an honest and vigorous debate on a matter as fundamentally important as war.”

That is what antiwar Senate candidate, Jonathan Tasini, told New York Times columnist Bob Herbert last May in describing his rationale for making a Democratic Party primary run against incumbent-Goliath, Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Tasini has since qualified for the ballot with 40,000 signatures – far surpassing the required 15,000 – and he is polling at a surprising 13 percent (or, perhaps not so surprising, if one considers the outrage over Iraq.) But, despite Tasini’s strong run, the voters of New York might not get that vigorous debate after all.

Cable news station, NY1 – owned by Time-Warner – declared that Tasini cannot participate in its televised debate series because he hasn’t raised the arbitrarily required $500,000. Tasini nearly triples the 5 percent polling requirement but he doesn’t have the cash flow NY1 is looking for to legitimize his candidacy.

Now there’s democracy in action for you: only the wealthy or those who raise enough money are welcome in this contest of ideas – no matter how critical the moment in our nation’s history and no matter how many voters pledge their support.

As the New York Post (whose owner Rupert Murdoch held a July fundraiser for Senator Clinton) points out, “Traditionally, the test of seriousness in a statewide candidate in New York is successful completion of the grueling ballot-access process. It ain’t easy, to put it mildly – but Tasini has made that grade.”

The Post editorial goes on to argue that “70 percent of New York Democrats consider Iraq to be a major Election Day issue.” Don’t the citizens of New York deserve to hear a range of views now that so many have expressed support for Tasini’s candidacy?

Consider some of these differences on critical issues — as outlined by the Peace Action Voter Guide (you can guess where the two candidates stand): Opposes the presence of permanent US bases in Iraq; Opposes a military invasion of Iran; Supports cutting outmoded items from the Pentagon budget to fund urgent domestic needs; Supports the US National Missile Defense Program; Opposes a time-lined withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, beginning in 2006; Supports a prohibition on US arms sales and military training to governments that the State Department deems human rights abusers. And there’s more.

It’s time to take on our downsized politics of excluded alternatives. Click here to contact NY1 and demand that it act in the public interest and allow this debate. It’s the right thing for the New York Senate race, and it’s the right thing for our democracy.


Letter of response from Steve Paulus, General Manager of NY1.

Katrina,

I read your blog and feel compelled to write you in response. First off, let me categorically state that NY1 has not disqualified Jonathan Tasini from any debate because there is no debate. Hillary Clinton will not agree to a debate with anyone so there is no debate to be held. We have featured Mr. Tasini in several stories and he has been a guest on “Inside City Hall.” We are planning to invite him back at least once more before the primary. We have a nightly political program that airs in Albany, Rochester and Syracuse and have had Mr. Tasini appear before and we are planning on bringing him back again as well.

Now, regarding the financial criteria for participating in our series of debates. I would hope that you would agree that we have the right and probably need to set some sort of criteria for participation. In the 2005 Mayoral Campaign, the NYC Campaign Finance Board set a financial threshold of $50,000 in order to participate in their debates. To run for Mayor you need to buy television time in one market. To run a statewide campaign you need to buy television time in seven Nielsen markets. Multiply the $50,000 by seven and you get $350,000, a total the Tasini campaign hasn’t come close to raising.

Regarding Mr. Tasini’s financial statusalthough he has gotten enough signatures and is polling at about 13 percent, he has still raised less than $150,000. That is not enough to run a statewide campaignfor example, he doesn’t have any kind of organization outside of NYC (no field offices anywhere in the State). We originally set the $500,000 criteria this way. There are 5.5 million registered democrats in NYS. If one tenth of them (ONE out of TEN registered Democrats) sent him $1 he would have raised $550,000.

NY1 has given more coverage to Mr. Tasini’s campaign than ANY other television station. We are seen across NYS so he has gotten enormous exposure from his appearances on NY1. It isn’t fair to blame NY1 for “disqualifying” a candidate when we are the only organization putting the resources into holding these kinds of debates. When an editorial in the NY Post chides NY1 I have to ask what about Fox 5 and the Post? Both are owned by News Corporation. Can’t THEY make the effort to hold a debate in this race. If you Nexis or Google the NY Post and Tasini, they have mentioned him TWICE since his campaign began.

We’ve taken a lot of heat, we believe unfairly, and I hope that the facts make some sense and that you correct some of the misstatements in the Editor’s Cut? We are getting a lot of emails from around the country and their basic premise is incorrect.

Thank you, Steve Paulus General Manager, NY1