Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign is accused of receiving an illegal contribution from the super PAC working to get him elected president, according to a Federal Election Commission complaint filed by the Democratic National Committee.
Mr. Kennedy’s campaign is “in the process of accepting a $15 million unlawful in-kind contribution by coordinating their efforts to get him on the ballot,” DNC legal counsel Bob Lenhard said in a Feb. 9 call detailing the FEC complaint.
Mr. Kennedy’s campaign “has acknowledged that it is time-consuming and expensive for a first-time candidate to get on the presidential ballot in all 50 states. Rather than doing that hard work itself, using money raised in compliance with the candidate contribution limits, the campaign is taking a shortcut outsourcing what is otherwise a core campaign function to a super PAC,” Mr. Lenhard added.
American Values 2024 is ignoring federal law, according to the complaint, Mr. Lenhard noted.
“The law does allow the super PAC to raise unlimited amounts of money from wealthy individuals, corporations, and unions for independent expenditures. But it remains illegal for a super PAC to provide goods and services directly to a campaign,” Mr. Lenhard said.
Mr. Kennedy announced in April 2023 that he would challenge President Biden for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. He has generated wide-ranging support from conservatives, moderates, independents, and Libertarians throughout his campaign, although he hasn’t gained the same favor from many Democrats.
Campaign finance reports have shown that Mr. Kennedy is getting more support from Republican-leaning donors than from Democrats.
For months, Mr. Kennedy was confronted with roadblocks from the Democratic National Committee, which he said was “rigging” the primary process to favor President Joe Biden. On Oct. 9, he declared his candidacy for president as an independent.
American Values 2024 said late last year that it plans to spend as much as $15 million to help get Mr. Kennedy on the ballot in multiple states deemed important to winning the election.
Mr. Kennedy has so far qualified to appear on the ballot in one state—Utah. Late last month, he reported that his campaign gathered enough signatures to appear on the ballot in New Hampshire. Mr. Kennedy is traveling the country and holding voter rallies in his effort to get on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, a feat he believes he will accomplish.
Mr. Kennedy noted that his favorability ratings were better than President Biden and President Trump, and he is ahead of both candidates among Americans under the age of 45 in six battleground states, and among independents, according to polls.
When asked if the DNC is concerned that Mr. Kennedy’s candidacy is a threat to President Biden’s reelection bid, DNC spokesperson Ramsey Reid called the alleged FEC violation a “scheme.” Billionaire Tim Mellon, one of former President Trump’s largest donors, gave American Values 2024 “the exact $15 million paycheck, they said that they would need for ballot access.”
Mr. Reid called the move “an effort to subvert our election laws” and “prop up” Mr. Kennedy.
Campaign finance records indicate that Mr. Mellon gave American Values 2024 $15 million in 2023. Mr. Mellon also contributed $10 million to pro-Trump super PAC MAGA Inc. last year, according to FEC filings.
Anthony Lyons, who is co-chairman of American Values 2024, said in a statement that the super PAC: “has been working independently from the campaign in accordance with FEC precedent to get Bobby Kennedy on the ballot in 12 states. Recent polling shows that as many as 40,000,000 Americans are prepared to vote for Kennedy in November of 2024. The DNC wants to deny millions of people their basic constitutional voting rights in a relentless onslaught against democracy.”
“The Biden administration and the DNC clearly find democracy inconvenient, want to stifle any dissenting opinions and don’t believe that their candidate can win a free, open and fair election. I don’t know if all of this amounts to election fraud,” Mr. Lyons added.
“This FEC complaint is just another desperate DNC tactic to defame Kennedy, vilify him, and drain his campaign funds. The American people are too smart to be fooled by these political games,” he said.
Mr. Kennedy responded to the complaint, alleging he’s being targeted for political reasons.
“The DNC is accusing my campaign of FEC violations in the form of secretive activity—activity that’s so secretive it’s on the Ballot Access HQ of my website,” Mr. Kennedy wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
“After the day they had yesterday, it’s understandable they’d want to put the focus on someone else. The DNC is in no position to assert morality over anyone—they refused to have a primary and have worked against the will of the people in the past few elections. It’s sad to see the party my family built crash and burn,” he added, referring to the special counsel report released yesterday that made damning findings about the president’s “poor” memory.
Mr. Kennedy has called ballot access laws for independent and third-party candidates “among the worst forms of voter suppression in America today” and said that state officials should work together to “streamline and standardize ballot access procedures.”
FEC InvolvementThe DNC’s allegations mark the second time the FEC has become involved in matters regarding Mr. Kennedy.
Last month, the FEC asked Mr. Kennedy’s campaign to clarify salary payments made to a family member.
In a letter first obtained by CNBC, the FEC questioned whether payments made by the Kennedy campaign to the candidate’s daughter-in-law, Amaryllis Fox Kennedy, between July 1 and Sept. 30 exceeded “fair market value.”
The correspondence indicates that the Kennedy campaign must provide the FEC information regarding “payments to members of the candidate’s family that possibly constitute personal use of the committee’s campaign funds.”
The FEC threatened legal action against the campaign if the payments did not meet fair market value guidelines for legitimate campaign services.
According to financial disclosures, the Kennedy campaign reported paying Ms. Kennedy around $70,000 for administrative services.
Ms. Kennedy was not named in the FEC letter, but she was the only family member on the campaign payroll between July and September, according to CNBC.
A former undercover CIA agent who is married to Mr. Kennedy’s son, Robert F. Kennedy III, Ms. Kennedy joined the Kennedy campaign as digital director in May 2023, according to a statement from the campaign.
Last October, Ms. Kennedy was named campaign manager, replacing former Democrat Congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, who stepped down days after Mr. Kennedy announced that he would run for president as an independent.
“I asked Amaryllis to run my presidential campaign for the same reason my uncle, John F. Kennedy, asked his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, to run his campaign,” Mr. Kennedy said in a statement. “There is nobody who could possibly be more effective in this position than Amaryllis Kennedy.”
“RFK Jr. has broadly complained against the weaponization of federal agencies, including the Secret Service, against his campaign. It’s curious that the FEC has the capacity to investigate this non-issue when legitimate complaints against top-level Democrats and Republicans have sat dormant for years,” the statement explained.
The FEC set a Feb. 13 deadline for the campaign to provide details on the payments.
Mr. Kennedy’s campaign has also been focusing on the findings of a 388-page report regarding Justice Department special counsel Robert Hur’s 13-month investigation that found President Biden “willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen.”
Citing a lack of sufficient evidence to establish his guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” and how he would appear to a jury, Mr. Hur declined to pursue charges against the president.
“At trial, Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” the special counsel wrote.
Mr. Kennedy told NewsNation’s Chris Cuomo that “we’ve reached a time where it’s no longer character assassination to ask legitimate questions about his (President Biden’s) competency.”
American citizens have a right to know if their president is capable of making decisions that require complex levels of thinking, Mr. Kennedy said.
“There are entrenched interests and special interests in government that actually benefit from having a president who is not completely competent. Their power increases as a president’s power decreases,” Mr. Kennedy continued, adding that President Biden should participate in general election debates.