RFK Jr. files complaint with Federal Election Commission over CNN debate criteria

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday alleging President Joe Biden’s campaign, former President Donald Trump’s campaign and CNN violated federal campaign laws in scheduling the network’s June 27 presidential debate.

The complaint alleges CNN “colluded” with the Biden and Trump campaigns in scheduling the debate and setting debate qualification criteria, which the Kennedy team claims amounts to “prohibited corporate contributions” to both campaigns.

The Biden campaign directed a request for comment to the Democratic National Committee, which declined to comment.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Kennedy campaign asks the FEC to bar the campaigns and CNN from holding the debate until they address the alleged breaches in federal law.

The complaint marks the latest step in Kennedy’s push to appear on the debate stage alongside Biden and Trump. He has frequently argued that the scheduling of the debate unfairly excluded him since the event was announced earlier this month.

In order to participate in CNN’s debate, candidates must be qualified on enough state ballots to be eligible for 270 electoral votes. Candidates must also earn at least 15% support in four national polls that meet CNN’s polling standards. The window for candidates to earn qualifying polls opened March 13th and closes seven days prior to the debate.

Kennedy has qualified for the ballot in six states, making him eligible for 89 Electoral College votes. He has earned at least 15% support in three qualifying polls.

The Kennedy campaign argues that the qualification criteria are not objective and claims Biden and Trump would not be qualified on any states’ ballot because their parties’ nominating conventions will occur after the debate.

“By demanding our campaign meet different criteria to participate in the debate than Presidents Biden and Trump, CNN’s debate violates FEC law and is a large prohibited corporate contribution to both the Biden and Trump campaigns,” Kennedy said in a statement announcing the filing.

A CNN spokesperson said both Biden and Trump will meet the ballot access criteria as the presumptive nominees of their parties.

“The law in virtually every state provides that the nominee of a state-recognized political party will be allowed ballot access without petitioning. As the presumptive nominees of their parties both Biden and Trump will satisfy this requirement. As an independent candidate, under applicable laws RFK Jr. does not. The mere application for ballot access does not guarantee that he will appear on the ballot in any state. In addition, RFK, Jr. does not currently meet our polling criteria, which, like the other objective criteria, were set before issuing invitations to the debate,” the spokesperson said.

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