toward a one-line presidential ballot
As Democrats try to force Donald Trump off the ballot, and Democratic prosecutors charge him with crimes, they’ve also just opened an effort to keep Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. off the ballot with a complaint that could lead to civil penalties, an injunction against signature-gathering activity for ballot access, and criminal charges. You see where this is going.
The Democratic National Committee has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against Kennedy., alleging violations of federal campaign finance law. The complaint also names the Kennedy campaign and a PAC, American Values 2024, alleging that the PAC and the campaign are illegally coordinating campaign activities. You can read that complaint by clicking here, or by opening the PDF file below:
The heart of the complaint is on pg. 2 (footnotes removed, but available at the link or in the PDF):
American Values 2024 has stated it will spend approximately $15 million to assist Mr. Kennedy’s efforts to earn a place on the ballot in the states in which it is most difficult for Mr. Kennedy to achieve that goal, including Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Colorado, Nevada, Indiana, West Virginia, South Carolina, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Texas. American Values 2024 will do this by collecting signature petitions in each state to assist Mr. Kennedy’s efforts to qualify for a place on the ballot.
In all the states in which American Values 2024 has announced it will assist Mr. Kennedy’s efforts to get on the ballot, state law presumes – and in most states requires – that the candidate or the campaign committee will take the steps necessary to qualify for the ballot…Put simply, to qualify for the ballot under state law, American Values 2024 must coordinate its activity with Mr. Kennedy and his campaign in a way that violates federal campaign finance laws.
The FEC has civil enforcement authority, and the DNC complaint asks the FEC to “seek such monetary, declaratory or injunctive relief as necessary to remedy these violations.” You can read about the enforcement mechanisms contained in the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 here, but read this part carefully:
(d)Penalties; defenses; mitigation of offenses
(A)Any person who knowingly and willfully commits a violation of any provision of this Act which involves the making, receiving, or reporting of any contribution, donation, or expenditure—
aggregating $25,000 or more during a calendar year shall be fined under title 18, or imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both; or
aggregating $2,000 or more (but less than $25,000) during a calendar year shall be fined under such title, or imprisoned for not more than 1 year, or both.
Willful violations of campaign finance law can become crimes, and result in imprisonment; the FEC can’t prosecute, but can send criminal referrals to the Department of Justice. Read a discussion of campaign finance prosecutions here, on the website of a law firm that specializes in federal criminal defense. In particular, a complaint alleging a coordinated effort between a PAC and a campaign could be interpreted to suggest the presence of a conspiracy to violate campaign finance law through unlawful in-kind contributions. As the law firm website linked above says, with regard to campaign finance prosecutions, “federal prosecutors often use the catchall general conspiracy statute defined under at 18 U.S.C. § 371, along with the 18 U.S.C. § 1001 false statements statute, and even the illegal campaign excessive spending statute under 2 U.S.C. § 1446.”
In news stories published today, “American Values said in its own statement that it has been working independently from the campaign to get him on the ballot in 12 states and dismissed the DNC complaint as ‘political games.’”
But see where we are: Democrats are pursuing federal charges and impediments to ballot access against every significant political challenger the Democratic president faces in the upcoming election. Donald Trump and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. are both running against Joe Biden, and both Trump and Kennedy are now the targets of Democratic legal complaints. They will wage aggressive lawfare against everyone who challenges them politically.
The moment is becoming extremely interesting.
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