Kentucky ACLU Questions KET's Rules on Who is Invited to Participate in Debates

Sep 12, 2014

Libertarian candidate David Patterson hasn't been invited to participate in KET's Oct. 13 U.S. Senate debate.

The Kentucky chapter of the ACLU is asking Kentucky Educational Television to adopt more inclusive rules related to who it invites to appear on its televised debates.

The Courier-Journal reports that the legal director for the Kentucky ACLU sent a letter to KET saying the statewide broadcaster might be running afoul of federal law due to changes it made to it rules regarding debates.

A copy of the rules sent to WKU Public Radio by KET stated that candidates invited to appear at its U.S. Senate debate must have accepted at least $100,000 in contributions for the current election. Another rule says that those invited must have at least 10 points of support in a public opinion survey conducted by an independent pollster.

These rules exclude Libertarian candidate David Patterson from KET’s October 13 debate featuring Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

In its letter, the ACLU said the rules—adopted in July—raise questions about the motivations behind allowing some candidates, while excluding others. KET says the rules are based on good faith journalistic judgment and what it believes will best serve its viewers.

Here are the four criteria KET adopted regarding candidates who would be invited to participate in its 2014 U.S. Senate debate:

1. He/she is a Kentucky resident and a "legally qualified candidate" under FCC guidelines (based on the following):

Has publicly announced his/her intention to run for office, is qualified under applicable law to hold the  officer, and has qualified for a place on the ballot, or

Has publicly committed to seeking election by the write-in method and documents that he/she is conducting an active campaign;

2. The candidate or the candidate's campaign maintains an active website devoted to the campaign that addresses at least three (3) issues related to the race in which the candidate is running;

3. The candidate has accepted at least $100,000 in contributions for the current election (as documented in Federal Election Commission reports available at for federal candidates);

4. If a professional public opinion survey by an independent political pollster has been conducted, the candidate must have received ten percent (10%) or more of support for the current election.