Public Policy

Adkins, Kelston & Zavez, P.C. is committed to advancing sound public policy for consumers of insurance, banking and financial services generally, as well as consumers of other products and services more broadly. Our attorneys have a long history of successful advocacy on behalf of the policyholders and public interest nationwide. We have authored studies and articles pushing for reforms, drafted model legislation, and pursued class action and derivative lawsuits with the potential to impact whole industries, not just the defendants. AKZ has also litigated and advocated on behalf of clients and the public before many state and federal regulatory agencies, and legislatures. This site will be updated periodically to include links to some of this body of work, and links to the studies and work of other public interest and legal advocates working for the public interest. Below are some matters of public importance.

Electoral Reform

Legal Challenge Alleging that the National Democratic Party and National Republican Party Unlawfully Control Presidential and Vice Presidential Debates

Adkins, Kelston & Zavez, P.C., has represented various political parties and candidates for state and national office over the years. Of particular public importance and interest are the legal challenges brought by several third parties and their candidates for Office of the President and Vice President concerning the 2000 and 2004 federal elections. To facilitate the examination and debate of this issue we have provided the administrative and federal court complaints (and evidentiary and other exhibits to each) on this site.

A complaint was filed before the U.S. Federal Election Commission (“FEC”) concerning the alleged unlawful control of the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates by the Democratic and Republican parties. The complaint was filed by Presidential Candidates John Hagelin, Ralph Nader, and Pat Buchanan, and Vice Presidential Candidate Winona LaDuke, as well as third parties, including the Green Party of the USA, and Constitution Party. The Plaintiffs alleged that the Commission on Presidential Debates (“CPD”), whose chairmen are past Chairmen of the Democratic and Republican parties, and which organization has sponsored all the presidential debates since 1988, was controlled by the two major parties in violation of the federal election laws that required a nonpartisan organization to sponsor the federal debates. (Prior to 1988, the League of Women Voters sponsored the debates.) The Plaintiffs also argued that, therefore, the corporate funds used to fund those debates similarly violated federal prohibitions on corporate monies to candidates and their parties. The Plaintiffs provided evidence that they claimed showed the CPD acted in a partisan manner by, for example, excluding all third-party candidates from even attending the debate audience in 2000 although no such restrictions were imposed on any persons from the two major parties. (For convenience, a summary of Plaintiffs’ allegations are contained on this page, below the links to the lawsuit and court decisions.)

Case Name: Hagelin et al v. Federal Election Commission
Civil Case Number: 1:04-cv-00731-HHK

While the federal district (trial) court ruled for the Plaintiffs, the federal appeals court reversed and ruled for the FEC. That decision is binding on the parties, but is particularly troubling from a legal and public policy perspective. The appeals court deferred to the FEC, allowing that agency’s decision to prevail, despite the fact that Plaintiffs produced evidence that the district court judge found demonstrated the FEC could not have considered all the evidence of unlawful conduct by the CPD when the FEC declined to take any action against the CPD. Particularly troubling is the fact that the appeals court deferred to the FEC’s view of the evidence even though the FEC is itself expressly controlled by the two major parties (the FEC is comprised of three commissioners from each of the two parties, and includes highly partisan members; see fn 1 below). If united in nothing else, the two major parties are united in their opposition to third-party involvement in the national debates, so deference to this governmental agency to decide such partisan issues is nonsensical. Since this lawsuit involved third parties, any checks and balances that the courts have recognized as existing in the election laws – for disputes between the two major parties – simply do not exist for third parties or their candidates within the FEC. Thus, in plaintiffs’ view, careful review by the courts was warranted, and the decision not to permit this review merely perpetuates undue control by the two parties over the all-important debates. No matter one’s political persuasion, all should agree that such conduct is anti-democratic.

Lawsuit, Exhibits and Court Decisions

Plaintiffs’ lawsuit appealing FEC decision – filed May 5, 2004 in Federal District Court for the District of Columbia challenging FEC’s denial of Administrative Complaint.

Exhibits to the Plaintiffs’ federal lawsuit:

  • Exhibit A – Administrative Complaint Filed with FEC (June 17, 2003)
  • Exhibits 1 to 4 to the Administrative Complaint (including a CPD face-book picturing third-party candidates identified for exclusion from the audience of the debates in 2000 election
  • Exhibit B – FEC’s Report Denying Complaint (Mar. 18, 2004)
  • Exhibit C – Letter to FEC from Commission on Presidential Debates
  • Exhibit D – Deposition Transcript excerpt of CPD General Counsel Lewis Loss
  • Exhibit E – Transcript of Larry King Live with Candidates Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan

Court Decisions:

Summary Statement from Plaintiffs’ Federal Lawsuit
This lawsuit asserts that the Federal Election Commission (“FEC” or “Commission”) wrongfully dismissed the Plaintiffs’ administrative complaint against the Commission on Presidential Debates, Inc. (“CPD”). The administrative complaint, which the FEC designated as Matter Under Review (“MUR”) 5378, alleged that the CPD is committing direct and serious violations of federal law in its conduct of national presidential debates, and that these violations are having a direct and serious detrimental impact on the 2004 presidential and vice-presidential elections.

The administrative complaint alleged that the CPD has unlawfully conducted past presidential debates in a partisan manner, using millions of dollars in corporate funding to benefit the Democratic and Republican parties and their candidates at the expense of all others, and that the CPD will conduct the 2004 debates in a partisan manner unless stopped from doing so. Federal election law requires a staging organization for candidate debates to be both nonprofit and nonpartisan, and permits only such an organization to raise funds from corporations and labor organizations to sponsor debates. Nevertheless, the plaintiffs provided the FEC with evidence that the CPD engages in partisan conduct, including by adopting and enforcing a policy of deliberately excluding all third-party candidates from even sitting in the audience of the 2000 presidential debates.

This evidence includes a “face-book” of prominent third-party candidates that the CPD distributed to personnel at the first presidential debate so they could recognize and deny the candidates access to the debate hall even if they had a ticket. The CPD has admitted that it did this in order to deprive third-party candidates of any opportunity to engage in "campaigning" in the debate halls, effectively denying the third-party candidates access to the approximately 1,700 news reporters on site. In stark contrast, the CPD provided the Republican and Democratic candidates with an unparalleled platform for their views and extensive access to national media.

Given this evidence of CPD partisanship, the FEC’s dismissal of the Plaintiffs’ administrative complaint is arbitrary and capricious, contrary to law and a clear abuse of the agency’s discretion. By allowing the CPD to continue providing illegal corporate support to the major parties’ nominees, the FEC has injured the ability of the plaintiff candidates and parties, and candidates supported by the plaintiffs, to compete in the presidential and vice-presidential elections. Additionally, the FEC has failed to require the CPD to register as a political committee and disclose contributions and expenditures, as required by law, thereby depriving the plaintiffs of information useful to them in their advocacy on behalf of third-party and independent candidates.

The FEC’s wrongful dismissal threatens imminent harm to the plaintiffs. At least one candidate plaintiff, Ralph Nader, is running for President, and both political party plaintiffs are fielding or supporting candidates for President and Vice President in the current [2004] election cycle. (For entire lawsuit, click here).

Recommended Links

National Voting Rights Institute (NVRI)
NVRI is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to making real the promise of American democracy that meaningful political participation and power should be accessible to all regardless of economic or social status. NVRI attorneys served as co-counsel in the above litigation against the FEC.

Open Debates
Open Debates is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to reforming the presidential debate process. The group asserts that: “Currently, the presidential debates are secretly controlled by the major parties, through the private bipartisan corporation called the Commission on Presidential Debates, resulting in the stultification of format, the exclusion of popular candidates, and the avoidance of pressing national issues.” Importantly, Open Debates has organized an alternative presidential debate sponsor - the nonpartisan Citizens' Debate Commission - comprised of national civic leaders committed to maximizing voter education.

1. See (For example, the current FEC Chairman had been chief counsel of the Republican National Committee, and general counsel of the Bush-Cheney Transition Team, and Bush-Cheney 2000 Presidential Campaign. He did not act on the Plaintiffs’ case.)

Health Care Reform

Health care insurance and delivery systems in Massachusetts and all across the country are currently undergoing massive changes.  To address the market transformations to managed care in particular, regulatory reform is essential at the state if not federal levels.  One of the ultimate purposes of health care reform is to extend access to health care services in a cost effective manner to the many Americans who have not been able to obtain it. In the new managed care environment, all consumers must be assured access to a high quality, equitably priced health care system that is fair, efficient and accountable to consumers and includes meaningful procedural and substantive protections.  
There are two documents linked below: 1) a statement of rationale for, and 2) draft legislation that would establish, a Consumer HealthCare Association (this bill can serve as a model for any state).  The proposed Association would be a self-funded, independent, state-based, nonprofit consumer membership organization that would represent the interests of consumers on health care matters.  The bill provides a self-funding mechanism by authorizing the Association, at its own expense, to insert discrete solicitation notices in the mailings of state agencies, health care providers and insurers in permissible ways.  Through the Association, consumers will be able to assist state regulatory agencies and other health care entities to achieve market accountability and delivery of accessible, quality health care.  We urge you to consider and make the concept widely known in policy debates about health care accountability and reform.