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‘The Swamp’: Debate Commission Packed With Trump Critics From Both Parties

  • The Commission on Presidential Debates is packed with critics of President Donald Trump from both parties. 
  • Majorities of both the commission’s board members and chairmen are either  Trump critics or former Democratic donors. 
  • Former GOP Sen. Bob Dole expressed concern that none of the Republicans on the commission is a Trump supporter.

The leadership of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which organizes the general election debates, includes many Trump critics from both parties.

While the commission is officially nonpartisan and includes a mix of both Republicans and Democrats, it is overwhelmingly made up of members of the political establishment who are opposed to President Donald Trump.

Majorities of both the commission’s chairmen and board members include people who have either taken aim at the president in the past or donated to Democratic political candidates, a Daily Caller News Foundation review found.

Trump has butted heads with the commission over its decision to conduct the second debate virtually, which Trump cited as a reason to boycott the event.

“The people who make critical decisions about the country’s presidential debates—events that impact how Americans will vote or if they vote at all—are, for the most part, elites who are part of the D.C.-New York clique known as the swamp,” journalist Yashar Ali noted in his newsletter Thursday night.

Kenneth Wollack, one of the commission’s three co-chairs, donated to former President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show. Wollack, previously led a liberal think tank, previously donated to other Democrats, including Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, FEC records show.

Co-chair Dorothy Ridings, the former president of the League of Women Voters, also donated to Democratic candidates in the past, according to FEC records.

The commission’s lone Republican co-chair is Frank Fahrenkopf, who led the Republican National Committee in the 1980s before working as a lobbyist as president of the American Gaming Association, a position he held until 2013.

The commission’s ten board members include a mix of Republicans and Democrats, as well as former ABC News reporter Charlie Gibson and University of Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins.

Both Democrats and Republicans on the commission have been vocal critics of Trump.

Former FCC chair Newton Minow, who served in former President John F. Kennedy’s administration, urged the five living former presidents to speak out against Trump in an October 2017 Washington Post op-ed.

“You can speak out together against current abuses and reaffirm constitutional values. You can lead the nation to explore informal and formal next steps,” Minow wrote.

“For the sake of the United States of America and our values, we need your voices now,” he added.

Newton Minow (Screenshot/YouTube/Lincoln Academy of Illinois)

Board member Jane Harman, a former Democratic congresswoman, called Trump “disgraceful” during the early stages of his 2016 campaign.

Former Citigroup chairman Richard Parsons, one of the commission’s Republican board members, said in 2018 that Trump is “ill-equipped to be the president of the United States” and isn’t “good for any America.” Parsons donated to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s unsuccessful 2016 presidential campaign, FEC records show.

Former Republican Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, who was known for opposing Trump in 2016, is also on the commission. Snowe, like Parsons, donated to Jeb Bush’s campaign in 2016, FEC records show.

The commission didn’t return the DCNF’s request for comment for this story.

Former Republican Kansas Sen. Bob Dole expressed concern on Friday that even the Republican board members don’t support Trump and questioned the commission’s impartiality.

“I know all of the Republicans [on the commission] and most are friends of mine. I am concerned that none of them support @realDonaldTrump,” Dole tweeted Friday. “A biased Debate Commission is unfair.”

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