The Democratic National Committee on Friday filed a Federal Election Commission complaint against independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s presidential campaign and an allied super PAC, alleging that the campaign is receiving an improper benefit from the super PAC's work to qualify him for state ballots.
The Kennedy-aligned super PAC American Values 2024 announced late last year that it would be investing eight figures to assist the signature-gathering efforts of Kennedy's campaign. Independent candidates need to gather petition signatures to make the general election ballot in many states, as opposed to qualifying by winning a party primary.
Kennedy has only qualified for the ballot in Utah so far, but American Values 2024 started hiring signature-gathering vendors in key battleground states at the start of 2024. And just last week, it announced it would be funding ballot access efforts for Kennedy in five additional states.
According to the DNC complaint, that amounts to an illegal contribution from American Values 2024 to Kennedy's campaign, "in violation of federal law."
The Kennedy 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 on a call Friday announcing the FEC complaint.
"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," Lenhard added.
In a statement in response, American Values 2024 co-chair Tony Lyons said "the DNC wants to deny millions of people their basic constitutional voting rights in a relentless onslaught against democracy.
"This FEC complaint is just another of desperate DNC tactic to defame Kennedy, vilify him and drain his campaign funds," Lyons continued. "The American people are too smart to be fooled by these political games."
In his own statement, Kennedy said that 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."
American Values 2024's biggest donors include Tim Mellon, a large Trump donor who gave $15 million to the pro-Kennedy group in 2023, according to campaign finance records. FEC filings show Mellon also donated $10 million to MAGA Inc., the main pro-Trump super PAC, last year.
Gavin De Becker, who is providing security for Kennedy, also donated over $10 million to the super PAC, but the group has refunded some of that "bridge funding" that was not needed, Lyons told NBC News.
"He has committed to continue bridge funding until RFK Jr. is elected president," Lyons added.