May 16, 2007  ·  Lessig

This letter was sent to the RNC today:

May 16, 2007

Honorable Mel Martinez
Chairman
Republican National Committee
310 First Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003

Dear Chairman Martinez:

I have watched with interest the growing effort to urge the Republican and Democratic National Committees to open the debate process by making the footage from the Presidential debates available to the public – by permitting anyone to reuse the footage in whole or in part with attribution or by placing the footage in the public domain.

The process of selecting our representative government is perhaps the most important function we, as Americans, carry out in our democracy. It is imperative that the process to do so is as public, and as transparent as possible.

Following on the heels of this week’s Republican Debate in South Carolina, I am writing to urge you to give new consideration to the bi-partisan request you have received requesting access to the debates. I believe this effort is important to our democracy, and I am reaching across the partisan divide to join Senators Obama and Dodd, and former Senator Edwards in asking the parties to assist in opening the process to the people.

I was encouraged that CNN recently announced it would make the footage from its debates available immediately following the conclusion of the debate.

Due to the historical nature of presidential debates and the significance of these forums to the American public, CNN believes strongly that the debates should be accessible to the public. The candidates need to be held accountable for what they say throughout the election process.

The presidential debates are an integral part of our system of government, in which the American people have the opportunity to make informed choices about who will serve them. Therefore, CNN debate coverage will be made available without restrictions at the conclusion of each live debate. We believe this is good for the country and good for the electoral process.

I could not agree with this more. I hope that other networks will follow suit and give these debates life beyond the moment. It is unfortunate that activists currently fear running afoul of copyright laws and may hesitate before using footage from these debates to advocate on behalf of their candidate.

These debates are a part of our political discourse. While the networks do the nation a great service by hosting and broadcasting them, the issues and ideas are bigger than the networks that carry them, and deserve a life beyond their air date.

Recently, I began working with the Capitol Hill Broadcasting Network (www.chbn.com) in an effort to bring attention and transparency to our government. CHBN provides a platform, similar to YouTube, for elected officials, candidates, public policy advocates, and others to engage in discussion and debate of the important issues facing our nation. CHBN is dedicated to making our government accessible to the people, and as CNN suggested, holding our government accountable to the people.

I ask that you do the same. I urge you to put the weight of the Republican National Committee behind the effort to free the debates. Urge the networks carrying Republican debates, and the candidates seeking the highest office in the land, to make the footage available to the people.

Thanks for your consideration of this matter and your stewardship of our party.

Sincerely,

Robert L. Livingston
Member of Congress (Retired)