Green party excluded from U debate

Despite the Green Party’s status as a major political party in Minnesota, the Student Legislative Coalition, an independent nonprofit student-funded group at the University, has refused to allow the Green Party gubernatorial candidates to participate in the upcoming April 17 debate at Ted Mann Concert Hall.

The exclusion of these candidates is based on unclear and unfairly applied criteria and is a disservice to the University student community, where the Green Party has gained a high level of support in the past two years.

This support is illustrated by the voting results in Ward 2 for Ralph Nader in the presidential campaign of 2000, where he received 16 percent of the votes. It’s also evidenced in the overwhelming support for Cam Gordon in the precincts bordering the University campus in last November’s City Council elections, where he received 64 percent of the votes (49 percent ward-wide).

The SLC is in clear violation of election law pertaining to nonprofit organizations. Federal law requires nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations to be “non-partisan” and use “pre-established, objective criteria” when determining which candidates will be included in debates sponsored by the organization.

First, the SLC has failed to provide clear,
pre-established criteria. In meetings with representatives from the University Green Party, SLC executive director and adviser David Boyd repeatedly modified the criteria allegedly
pre-established by the SLC board of directors and has to date failed to provide minutes illustrating the establishment of the criteria for inclusion in the debate. It is clear the criteria were arbitrarily established, in discordance with 501(c)(3)
decision-making procedures.

Furthermore, Boyd – former aide of Minneapolis Councilman Joe Biernat and campaign volunteer for Paul Wellstone – has failed completely to establish the SLC’s criteria for inclusion as objective.

In regard to the first criterion, “Candidate must have the name recognition to be a serious candidate,” Boyd has directly acknowledged that name recognition could not be measured objectively based on the current wording of the criterion.

In regard to the next criterion, “Candidate received 15 percent of the vote in a previous election,” Boyd acknowledged that Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Sullivan could not have met this criterion, since he has never before run for public office, but insisted Sullivan does have name recognition – a criterion Boyd himself later admitted was irrelevant and subjective.

Finally, Boyd repeatedly altered the final criterion, “Have the ability to raise funds to be a serious candidate,” citing minimum fundraising levels of $5 million, $2 million, and $600,000, respectively, thus revealing the ad hoc establishment of the criterion, as well as its arbitrary and subjective premise.

None of the other candidates invited to the debate has been subjected to or been required to prove he or she meets the aforementioned criteria. In light of this fact, it is worthy to note the campaigns of Green Party candidates Ken Pentel and Nick Raleigh have received documented correspondence from members of the SLC stating the candidates’ exclusion is based on their “minor party” status and “inability to win” an election.

The “official” criteria only came after representatives of the University Green Party, the Green Party of Minnesota and the Green Party gubernatorial campaigns met with Boyd to discuss the partisan nature of the SLC’s decision to exclude the Green Party from this debate.

We ask individuals of all political leanings to contact the SLC and demand that candidates of all major political parties in Minnesota be included in this debate.

Representatives of the University of Green Party are preparing at this time to file complaints with the Federal Election Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Minnesota State Elections Board. The complaints cite the SLC’s failure to follow non-partisan election regulations, resulting in the unfair exclusion of the Green Party from what appears to be, as of today, an extremely closed and partisan debate.


Brett M. Stephan is a co-organizer of the University’s Green Party and an alumnus. He welcomes comments at [email protected] Send letters to [email protected]