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Tired of Two-Party Bullying, Robert F Kennedy Jr Embraces Lawfare

Is the man finally fighting for his place in the history books?

by | Jun 6, 2024 | Articles, Opinion, Politics

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. appears to have had enough of what he claims is bullying in the two-party political system. He has taken off the polite kid gloves and has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission. He alleges both Trump and Biden were in cahoots with CNN to keep him off the debate stage in Atlanta on June 27.

“In an attempt to select themselves and to exclude others, CNN, President Biden, and Mr. Trump set the criteria to require that a candidate’s name appear on enough ballots to garner 270 electoral votes,” Kennedy’s letter to the FEC stated.

Unpacking the Complaint

This scheduled debate has several glaring issues, including not being hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which negotiates media time and liaisons between qualifying candidates. The Commission is activated once all parties have held national conventions and officially nominated their prospective presidential picks, and then certain rules automatically kick in:

“Under the 2024 Criteria, to receive an invitation to debate, a candidate must: (i) be Constitutionally eligible to hold the office of President of the United States; (ii) appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning a majority vote in the Electoral College; (iii) have a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate, as determined by five national public opinion polling organizations.”

The CNN debate is questionable for numerous reasons, although it claims to follow the same guidelines as the CPD with polling and electoral procedures. Neither Biden nor Trump have been officially nominated – rather, they are still in the “presumptive stage.” They do qualify, however, for the polling numbers. But most presidential debates occur after Labor Day, once official nominations have taken place. That assures each candidate can meet the threshold of 270 Electoral votes. By the first debate, neither Trump nor Biden would be on any state ballot. Zero.

Kennedy seized on the differences and added a new complaint directed at CNN. Team Kennedy led with this: CNN rules “were designed to result in the selection of certain pre-chosen participants, namely Biden and Trump, in a clear breach of federal campaign finance law.”

And then Kennedy pointed out that the cost of the debate, paid for by CNN, is against the law: “CNN is making prohibited corporate contributions to both campaigns and the Biden Committee and the Trump Committee have accepted these prohibited corporate contributions.” That is not a great look for these two campaigns in light of the current political climates on both sides.

CNN addressed the first part of the Kennedy campaign:

“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.”

Kennedy is not without friends who find this behavior self-serving, though. The Center for Competitive Democracy wrote the same complaint in a letter to CNN and the Trump and Biden campaigns. Law professor Derek Muller raised those same questions in a post published by Election Law Blog.

The Kennedy Charm Offensive

RFK Jr. is likely to pose a real threat to Biden and Trump in an open debate setting, as he has demonstrated that he can speak calmly and with precision, even in a combative scenario. His appearance may not move the needle for diehard MAGA folks or Democratic Party zealots. But he still would have unfettered access to live broadcasts to reach the independent and undecided voters.

The FEC has until June 20 to address the Kennedy campaign complaint and render an answer. Maybe there will be that third man present at the debate in Atlanta on June 27, after all. If there is one thing we all know about Kennedy, it is that he knows the law and how to use it against his opponents. And this may be just a peek at what’s to come.

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