Former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson was so unhappy about Fox News’ decision to keep him out of the first Republican presidential debate last August, he filed an official complaint with the Federal Election Commission.
Now, the former dark horse presidential contender is even more upset that it took the agency 10 months to dismiss his complaint — after deadlocking on whether Fox News had violated federal campaign finance rules governing the staging of debates.
“The FEC should either be abolished or entirely redone,” Everson told the Center for Public Integrity. “It’s a bureaucratic waste.”
His complaint — which was dismissed in late May, according to new documents released by the FEC on Thursday — has also added fuel to the bitter infighting between the agency’s three Democratic-aligned commissioners and its three Republicans.
Last year, Everson alleged that Fox News had failed to use “pre-established objective criteria,” as required by law, to determine which White House hopefuls would appear on stage during the so-called “undercard” debate in Ohio.
Fox News had initially said the top 10 Republicans in the polls would appear at the first presidential debate. Roughly two months before the event, the network announced it would hold an additional debate for other GOP candidates garnering at least 1 percent in the polls.
Ten days before the big day, Fox News relaxed that standard to include “all declared candidates whose names are consistently being offered to respondents in major national polls.”
This had the effect of ensuring the appearance of several low-polling, high-profile candidates, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former New York Gov. George Pataki and businesswoman Carly Fiorina.
Everson did not make the cut.
In a letter to the FEC, Fox News argued its decision-making fully “complied with the FEC debate regulation” and that Everson’s complaint was “without merit.”