DNC Files FEC Complaint Against Super PAC American Values 2024 and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Campaign for Illegal Ballot Access Scheme

The effort – propped up by Trump’s largest donor this cycle – violates federal laws prohibiting coordination between Super PACs and campaigns

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) today filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), alleging that a pro-Kennedy Super PAC, American Values 2024, is in the process of making – and the Robert F. Kennedy Jr. campaign accepting – $15 million dollars worth of unlawful, in-kind contributions to get on the ballot in multiple states.  

“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. This scheme between American Values 2024 and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign requires significant – and plainly illegal – coordination, to the tune of a $15 million in-kind contribution” said DNC senior adviser Mary Beth Cahill. “This blatant disregard for federal law undermines the integrity of our democracy and electoral process, and the FEC must act decisively to put an end to this troubling scheme.”

Read the full complaint here.

Summary of the violation:

  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his campaign have stated their goal of getting him on the ballot for the general election in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Given the high signature threshold for independent candidates to get on the ballot, and the patchwork of different state laws for ballot access, the signature collection process would be expensive and time intensive for his campaign to successfully carry out.
  • In January 2024, American Values 2024 announced that it had contracted with signature collection firms to begin collecting signatures on the Kennedy campaign’s behalf and that it would spend up to $15 million on the effort.
  • In its year-end FEC filing, American Values 2024 reported receiving $10 million from Timothy Mellon, bringing Mellon’s total contributions to American Values 2024 to $15 million. Mellon has also contributed over $30 million to Trump-connected PACs since 2020 and is his largest donor this presidential cycle. 
  • The law allows Super PACs, like American Values 2024, to raise unlimited amounts of money from wealthy individuals, corporations and unions for “independent” expenditures that advocate for or against candidates. But it remains illegal for a Super PAC to provide goods or services directly to a campaign. 
  • For example: In 2022, the FEC concluded it would be an unlawful in-kind contribution for a Super PAC to give Ron DeSantis’ campaign a contact list of supporters that the Super PAC had paid to build up. The Super PAC challenged the ruling in court, and a U.S. District Court judge agreed with the FEC’s conclusion and emphasized that the contact list was a uniquely effective, tangible tool designed to assist DeSantis’ campaign.  
  • Similarly, the FEC has found it to be an in-kind contribution when an entity provides a campaign with free campaign strategy consulting services, or when a media company purchases potentially damaging information about a candidate in consultation with or at the suggestion of the campaign.  
  • With American Values 2024 spending $15 million on signature collection, the campaign no longer has to raise and spend a comparable amount itself under the FEC’s campaign contribution limits. American Values 2024 has raised $15 million via three $5 million contributions from one donor, while RFK Jr.’s campaign would have to raise it in $3,300 increments from thousands of donors.
  • American Values 2024 has announced it will pay for signature collection in fourteen states: Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Colorado, Nevada, Indiana, Texas, Maryland, Massachusetts, South Carolina and West Virginia. State law in several of these states, however, makes it impossible for the Super PAC to collect signatures without coordinating with the Kennedy campaign and making unlawful, in-kind contributions.  
  • In each of these states, state law presumes – and frequently requires – that the candidate or the campaign committee will take the steps necessary to qualify for the ballot. This includes requiring the candidate to submit a draft signature petition for state approval, requiring the candidate to turn in the completed petition forms, requiring the candidate to identify the individuals who collected the signatures, and requiring the candidate to obtain certification for circulators.  
  • To comply with state law, American Values 2024 and the Kennedy campaign must integrate their operations in a way that means this spending will be an in-kind contribution under the FEC’s rules, and not an independent expenditure. For example:
  • In Arizona,the candidate, not the Super PAC, must:
    • Initiate the signature collection process, by filing forms designating presidential electors before any signatures can be collected; 
    • Circulate the nomination petition, which must be done “by or on behalf of the person wishing to become a candidate for political office”; and
    • File the completed nomination petition with the Secretary of State.  
  • In Illinois, independent presidential candidates must file nomination petitions with the requisite number of signatures alongside their statement of candidacy. The Illinois Secretary of State describes the obligation for filing nomination petitions as running to the candidate.
  • In Michigan, it is the independent presidential candidate who must file the nominating petitions to qualify to appear on an election ballot as a candidate for office.
  • In West Virginia, the campaign must ask the county clerk in each county in which it intends to circulate a ballot petition for credentials that signature collectors must possess and display when collecting signatures.
  • To comply with state law, the Super PAC must directly coordinate its activities with the campaign as it provides the campaign with the extremely valuable service of collecting signatures. This entire scheme is an illegal, $15 million in-kind contribution.