Democrats allege RFK Jr. campaign took illegal help to collect signatures in states

By: - February 12, 2024 6:28 am

Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. takes the stage at the Des Moines Register soapbox Aug. 12, 2023. On Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, national Democrats alleged Kennedy has illegally coordinated with a super PAC to gather signatures for his bid. (Photo by Jay Waagmeester / Iowa Capital Dispatch)

The Democratic National Committee on Friday accused Robert F. Kennedy Jr. of illegally coordinating with a super PAC to gather signatures for his independent presidential campaign.

In a complaint to the Federal Election Commission, the DNC alleged American Values 2024, a super PAC supporting Kennedy, collected signatures to put Kennedy’s name on the ballot in several states. That violated federal law that requires a strict separation between campaigns and super PACs, the complaint said.

Democrats also noted American Values, which as a super PAC is not subject to the fundraising limits that apply to candidates, received much of its financial backing from conservative megadonor Timothy Mellon.

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign is flouting campaign finance law by outsourcing a critical campaign function – the collection of signatures required to appear on the ballot – to an outside Super PAC that is funded by Donald Trump’s top donor this cycle,” Mary Beth Cahill, a DNC senior adviser, said in a statement.

“This scheme between American Values 2024 and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign requires significant – and plainly illegal – coordination.”

Mellon has contributed about $15 million of the more than $28 million American Values 2024 has raised, according to FEC records. He has also heavily contributed to Republican candidates including former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination. Efforts to reach Mellon on Friday were unsuccessful.

Collecting signatures

American Values 2024 has publicly pledged to spend $10 million to $15 million to collect signatures to get Kennedy on the ballot in every state and the District of Columbia. Its website lists 12 states – Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Texas, South Carolina and West Virginia – where it is focusing on ballot access.

The DNC complaint challenged signature efforts in those states, Colorado and Nevada.

Election laws in those states require the candidate’s campaign to file petition signatures, according to the Democrats’ complaint.

In an email to States Newsroom, Kennedy campaign manager Amaryllis Fox Kennedy called the matter a “non-issue” and said the Kennedy campaign had not accepted any signature lists from American Values.

The Kennedy campaign website includes blank signature petitions from various states on its website, along with instructions on how to collect and submit completed petitions, Fox Kennedy wrote. The Kennedy campaign has not received signatures from any PAC, including American Values, and does not tell the super PAC how to spend its money, she said.

“This is a nonissue being raised by a partisan political entity that seems to be increasingly concerned with its own candidate and viability,” Fox Kennedy said.

Previous rulings

The FEC, the federal body responsible for enforcing campaign laws, has previously ruled that outside groups performing critical campaign functions violate the requirement not to coordinate, the Democrats’ complaint said. Collecting signatures falls into that category, Democrats said.

The FEC complaint marks the most direct action Democrats have taken against Kennedy, an environmental lawyer, proponent of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and a member of one of the most storied families in Democratic politics.

The son of former Attorney General Robert Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy considered challenging President Joe Biden in a Democratic nominating contest, but instead opted to leave the party last year to launch an independent White House run.

In national polls that include his name, he registers 8 to 10% support, far less than the presumptive nominees of the two major parties, but perhaps enough to affect election outcomes in key states, though it is unclear which major candidate would be more damaged by the votes Kennedy receives.

The complaint doesn’t specify what action the Democrats are seeking from the FEC, other than “monetary, declaratory or injunctive relief as necessary to remedy these violations.”

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Jacob Fischler
Jacob Fischler

Jacob covers federal policy and helps direct national coverage as deputy Washington bureau chief for States Newsroom. Based in Oregon, he focuses on Western issues. His coverage areas include climate, energy development, public lands and infrastructure.

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