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Open Debate Coalition Pushes Obama, McCain

The Open Debate Coalition has sent another letter to Senators Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), this time asking them to follow through on the pledges they made in earlier letters to the coalition.

They also suggested creating an alternative to the Presidential Commission on Debates given their issues with how those debates are currently managed.

The coalition, which includes members from both the left and right (though a few more of the former), had asked the candidates to support more unfiltered and "outside-the-box" questions and for the media to release the pool feed of the debate into the public domain. Both candidates lent their support to the effort, but the coalition didn't see the results they wanted in Tuesday's debate.

Citing criticism of the lack of follow-up questions in that debate and a town-hall style that did not feature the kind of nontraditional online questions the group was asking for, they have submitted a second letter to the candidates, asking the campaigns to announce the following before the Oct. 15 date for the final debate:

"1) That the debate moderator has broad discretion to ask follow-up questions after a candidate's answer, so the public can be fully informed about specific positions.

"2) That after a "town hall" debate full of questions handpicked by the moderator, none of which were outside-the-box, you will allow [CBS Face the Nation anchor and debate moderator] Bob Schieffer to ask some Internet questions voted on by the public in the fashion outlined in our previous letter – which you agreed to. Existing technology will make this easy.

"3) That, as a stipulation of the next debate, the media pool must release all 2008 debate footage into the public domain – as you agreed would be in the public interest. CNN, ABC, and NBC agreed to release video rights during the primary, and CBS agreed more recently. But Fox threatened Senator McCain for using a debate clip during the primary, and NBC invoked copyright law against Senator Obama to stifle political speech recently. The public deserves to know debate video can be reused without fear of breaking the law.

"4) That you agree to work with the Open Debate Coalition after the election to reform or create an alternative to the Commission on Presidential Debates, so that the debate process is transparent and accountable to the public. Despite both of your agreement with the open debate principles, the Commission did nothing to implement them – or even to engage in dialogue about potential implementation. Also, the "31-page memo of understanding" with debate rules is nowhere on the Commission's website, and has not been turned over despite requests."