Perot Loses Court Battle Over Debates Also Fails To Force TV Networks To Sell Him More Prime-Time Ads

A federal appeals court rejected Ross Perot’s lastditch attempt Friday to sue his way onto the debate stage with President Clinton and Bob Dole.

It was Perot’s second defeat of the day: He was also turned down in efforts to force the television networks to sell him more blocks of prime time.

The U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a district court order dismissing the lawsuits of Perot and another thirdparty presidential candidate, John Hagelin of the Natural Law Party.

Perot’s lawyers had complained that the Commission on Presidential Debates, which excluded him, used criteria that went beyond Federal Election Commission regulations and that the FEC delegated its power to the private group.

The debate commission’s members - five representatives each of the Democratic and Republican parties - ruled Perot and Hagelin did not have a realistic chance of being elected and did not invite them to the debates.

The appeals court order left Hagelin open to file a new lawsuit in which he could challenge the way the FEC implements its regulations. Any action in that regard, however, could not be resolved in time for him to take part in the debates, the first of which is Sunday night.

“We’ll take this to the American people and on Election Day they’ll have the opportunity to rectify it,” said Russ Verney, Perot’s campaign coordinator. “We’ll step up public appearances and long-format television appearances to talk about this travesty of justice.”

The FCC, in a decision announced earlier Friday, rejected Perot’s attempt to force the major TV networks to sell his campaign more commercial air time.

The agency said Perot has been able to buy prime-time blocks for advertising his Reform Party campaign and therefore has had adequate access.

Indeed, Perot attorney Kim Askew said it was the Texan’s challenge that had led the networks to sell more time and “if programming of this nature had been offered initially, an FCC complaint would not have been necessary.”

Perot complained he hasn’t been able to buy desirable broadcast times for his 30-minute commercials - a staple of his campaign - during the fall TV season.

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