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Ask MPR Mailbag

November 02, 2006

Can you outline your policy on debates?

Gary Eichten had a wonderful program recently where he interviewed all four major conte ndors for the 5th District Congressional seat. Four parties were represented: DFL, Republican, Independants and Greens.

Now, for a reason that currently appears to be plain old partisanship (a big no-no for a non-profit), his Midday program is excluding the Green Party from a similar program about the State Auditor's race to be broadcast on Tuesday, Oct. 31.

I would like to know exactly what policy MPR is applying to exclude Dave Berger from this State Auditor program. It looks suspicious, much like the time another non-profit started by U of M students had totally unclear policies as to what candidates it would include in a 2002, pre-primary Gubernatorial debate. That group, no longer exists because it violated its non-profit status.

Show your policy, explain why one Green can be on the show and not another, or you may face a challenge to your IRS status as a non-profit in the near future.

Nick Raleigh
Former Chair of the Green Party of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN

Dear Nick, we appreciate your concerns. It's an issue we take very seriously. In fact, MPR has a very clear and well-defined policy regarding debates. Here it is: MPR's debate policy.

MPR News will invite candidates from all major parties, as defined by state law, to debates and forums it hosts. The state defines major parties as those which fielded at least one candidate to earn 5 percent of the vote in the last statewide election. MPR News may include candidates from non-major parties in debates where editorial and programming circumstances warrant. These circumstances may include, but aren't limited to, demonstration of significant strength in polls.

We believe that our policy is a fair one, and we believe that it should be consistently applied. You may recall that the Green Party enjoyed major-party status in the last election cycle, and its candidates were invited to participate in debates in 2002 and 2004. However, the Greens lost major-party status in the last election, because none of its candidates for statewide office reached the 5% threshold.

If the Green Party wishes to participate in the debates for 2008, it will need to garner at least 5 votes for every 100 cast in at least one statewide race in next Tuesday's election.

Michael Popham
Minnesota Public Radio Member Listener Services