Formed in 2003, Open Debates achieved tangible victories during
the 2004, 2008 and 2012 election seasons, including:
- Open Debates has exposed the antidemocratic practices of the partisan CPD in multiple televised press conferences, dozens of primetime television news interviews, meetings with newspaper editorial boards, and hundreds of radio interviews. As a result, more than 40 newspapers have editorialized in support of Open Debates' reform movement.
- Open Debates has built a coalition of more than 50 civic groups to advocate the reform of the presidential process and the replacement of the CPD with a genuinely nonpartisan debate sponsor.
- Due to Open Debates' work, for
the first time in 16 years, the contract drafted by the Republican and
Democratic campaigns in 2004 that dictated the terms of the presidential debates was made
public. The American people were able to hold the major party candidates
accountable for the sanitized debates, and
citizens, academic, civic leaders, and newspaper editorial
boards across the nation expressed opposition to such candidate manipulation.
- In part due in part to Open Debates'
work, the television networks refused to restrict their camera shots to
the candidate speaking, as required by the 2004 Memoranda of Understanding.
By attacking the debate contract, Open Debates set
the stage for the networks to rebuff the candidates' wishes and
provide more visual information to the American people.
- In part due to Open Debates' work, a diversity of moderators -- rather than just
Jim Lehrer -- posed questions during the 2004 and 2008 presidential debates. The CPD proposed moderators for the first time in its history,
and the major party campaigns accepted the proposed moderators.
- In 2008, in order to preempt criticism from Open Debates, the CPD announced that it would no longer allow the major party nominees to determine how presidential debates are going to be structured. “The candidates aren’t going to dictate to us anymore,” said Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chair of the CPD.
- In 2008, as a result of pressure from Open Debates and others, the CPD advocated formats that would encourage the candidates to directly respond to each other's statements without interference from the moderator. As a result, the 2008 presidential debates featured a bit more candidate-to-candidate communication between than there had been in previous CPD-sponsored debates.
- In 2012, in response to an unprecedented email and letter-writing campaign facilitated by Open Debates and its supporters and allies, three of the ten corporations identified as sponsors of the CPD withdrew their support of the debates. Advertising agency BBH New York, nonprofit organization YWCA, and tech giant Philips North America terminated their sponsorship as a result of accusations that the CPD is anti-democratic and subservient to the major parties. Never before has a sponsor of the CPD withdrawn its support.
- In 2012, as a result of criticism by Open Debates and others, the CPD hosted three debates that featured ground-breaking formats. Unlike previous debates, which prohibited the candidates from talking to each other and often limited their responses to 90-seconds, the formats in 2012 allowed the candidates to engage in an 11-minute free-for-all after each question. The lack of time and content restrictions elicited unprecedented fireworks and revealing interactions between the candidates. At times, the head-to-head discussions forced the candidates off their scripts and into a real and substantive debate.