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Democrats step up legal action against RFK Jr. allies — signaling worry over the independent candidate

In World
February 09, 2024

The Democratic National Committee is going after the push to get Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s name on the ballot in more than a dozen states by alleging his allies’ latest efforts violate federal election law — a sign that Democrats are worried about the presence of the independent candidate in the 2024 race.

The DNC officially filed a complaint against Kennedy with the Federal Election Commission on Friday claiming that American Values 2024 — the PAC supporting Kennedy — is illegally coordinating with his campaign to get him on additional state ballots. They say the $15 million the PAC is putting into a signature-gathering effort amounts to an in-kind contribution.

“Rather than doing that hard work itself, using money raised in compliance with the candidate contribution limits,” Robert Lenhard, DNC legal counsel, said. “The campaign is taking a shortcut outsourcing what is otherwise a core campaign function to a super PAC.”

The complaint is unlikely to go anywhere — the commission is evenly divided among the two major parties and frequently deadlocks on enforcement questions — but it signals that national Democrats are dialing up their efforts to target Kennedy, the current leading non-major party presidential candidate, over fears that he may siphon votes away from President Joe Biden in this year’s election.

A senior adviser for the DNC dismissed the idea that the complaint represents any concerns about polling showing Biden losing to former President Donald Trump or renewed fears about the president’s age.

“I think we’re concerned that Donald Trump is disrespecting the democratic process,” Ramsey Reid, a senior adviser at the DNC said. “It’s pretty clear that Trump and his megadonors are propping up RFK Jr. as a stalking horse.”

The American Values PAC called the DNC’s complaint a “desperate” attempt to keep Kennedy out of the race and “drain his campaign funds.” The Kennedy campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“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,” Tony Lyons, co-chairman of American Values 2024, said.

The DNC highlighted Kennedy’s previous claim that it would cost $15 million to get him on the ballot nationwide. The super PAC’s effort to relieve Kennedy’s campaign of an expense they would otherwise need to incur would violate federal law, Lenhard said.

The FEC website offers guidance on in-kind contributions, but does not specifically mention signature gathering or ballot access as an example.

The DNC complaint mentions as precedent that the FEC blocked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ super PAC from providing his campaign with a list of signatories’ contact information in 2022 as evidence that Kennedy’s efforts are illegal.

American Values 2024 planned to narrow its ballot access campaign to seven states, including swing states like Georgia, Arizona and Michigan. The plan aimed to create a scenario where no candidate reaches the 270 electoral votes to clinch the presidency, allowing Kennedy a chance to win a contingent election in which congressional delegations from each state elect the next president.

Brittany Gibson contributed to this report.

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