STATEMENT: RFK Jr. Playing Fast and Loose with the Law in Attempt to Save Campaign 

New reporting from The New York Times reveals that RFK Jr.’s campaign is “running out of money” at a time when it faces mounting legal challenges. To try and save his spoiler candidacy, RFK Jr. and his campaign may be engaging in illegal coordination by having an outside group – propped up by unlimited funds – cover their legal expenses.    

In response, former Chair of the Federal Election Commission and Senior Counsel at Covington & Burling LLP Robert Lenhard released the following statement: 

“This report is extremely troubling, as it appears the Kennedy campaign is once again playing fast and loose with the law. Paying someone to provide a legal service to a campaign is an in-kind contribution – it has to comply with the contribution limits and be disclosed. 

“It appears they are trying to avoid this by operating the same ‘let my friends pay the bills’ scheme that the DNC successfully challenged when a MAGA-funded Super PAC began running his ballot signature collection program.

“If these new allegations are true, RFK Jr. could be opening himself up to even more legal problems at a time when his campaign is struggling financially.”

The New York Times: Cash Crunch Squeezes Kennedy Amid Costly Fight for Ballot Spots

By: Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Theodore Schleifer

  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s independent presidential campaign is spending heavily, amassing steep debts and resorting to layoffs as it becomes almost singularly focused on the costly effort of placing his name on state ballots.
  • The troubles, laid bare in federal filings and interviews with nine people with knowledge of the campaign’s activities, have left little money for events and other traditional campaign priorities, leading to a growing sense of alarm among some staff members and longtime supporters. Fund-raising has slowed, and the campaign has become reliant on Mr. Kennedy’s wealthy running mate, Nicole Shanahan, who last month put $2.5 million more into their campaign.
  • As the campaign struggles, allies of Mr. Kennedy have been quietly raising money into a new organization to support legal challenges to ballot access, according to records and interviews, effectively creating a separate financing operation.
  • The ballot litigation group — called the Ballot Freedom Fund and set up in May in Delaware by a lawyer with ties to Mr. Kennedy’s campaign — could ease the financial pressure on the campaign, which otherwise would have to foot legal bills itself. The group, a tax-exempt political organization, can raise unlimited amounts of money but is not allowed to coordinate with the campaign.
  • Five of the people who spoke with The New York Times were former campaign employees, including two who recently lost their jobs and said they were told it was because of financial shortfalls.
  • The Ballot Freedom Fund lists a simple mission on a federal tax filing from May: “To create a fair and simple electoral system that fosters more choices and true freedom in America.” There is no reference to Mr. Kennedy.
  • But several of the people knowledgeable about the group said it was created by Mr. Kennedy’s allies principally to fight legal challenges by his opponents, including the Democratic National Committee.
  • The fund was incorporated by Andrew D. Hurd, a Colorado lawyer, according to Delaware records. Mr. Hurd is married to Robyn Ross, a lawyer for the Kennedy campaign.
  • The federal tax filing from May lists two directors of the fund: Mr. Hurd and Michael Baum, a partner at the Los Angeles law firm Wisner Baum who has for years been a close professional ally of Mr. Kennedy.
  • The creation of the Ballot Freedom Fund is the latest example of a growing trend of federal campaigns offloading expenses to outside organizations — groups that can take checks of unlimited size but are legally barred from direct coordination with a campaign.
  • Small-dollar fund-raising has dropped by about a third since its peak in March, according to campaign filings.
  • Five people, including two who were let go by the campaign in recent weeks, said they had been told directly by senior campaign officials and consultants that the campaign was running out of money for everything except ballot access. One person, who insisted on anonymity because of a nondisclosure agreement, said he had been told that the campaign, as of mid-June, was down to $600,000, after setting aside more than $5 million for unpaid bills.
  • The campaign originally hired an experienced Democratic fund-raiser, Sheila Creal, to oversee the creation of a 50-person National Finance Committee, with each one committed to bundling at least $100,000 for the campaign, but it is unclear if it is active. Some people who said they joined now say they did not end up doing anything substantive. Ms. Creal has since left the campaign, which has not released the list of these bundlers.