R.F.K. Jr. Allies Say They’ll Spend Over $10 Million on Ballot Access

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By Ketrin Agustine

R.F.K. Jr. Allies Say They’ll Spend Over $10 Million on Ballot Access

A super PAC backing Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s independent presidential candidacy is leading the costly and legally complex effort, which the Democratic establishment is trying to fight.

A super PAC backing the independent presidential candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is planning to spend $10 million to $15 million to get Mr. Kennedy on the ballot in 10 states, a substantial effort that, even if partly successful, could heighten Democratic concerns about his potential to play the role of spoiler in 2024.

The hefty sum underscores the challenge facing Mr. Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and prominent purveyor of conspiracy theories, as he pursues his long-shot White House bid. It also shows the substantial financial support he has generated so far.

The super PAC, American Values 2024, has raised at least $28 million. (The group last disclosed its unofficial fund-raising haul in early October, but has not filed official records since mandatory midyear reports with the Federal Election Commission in July, when it had $9.8 million on hand.) The group was planning to announce the strategy on Monday, according to a draft announcement reviewed by The New York Times.

The states, which include several battlegrounds, are among the country’s most populous and carry, between them, 210 Electoral College votes — Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, New York and Texas.

Mr. Kennedy’s campaign, as well as efforts from No Labels, the Green Party and other independent candidates, have worried President Biden’s campaign and its Democratic allies. They fear that such campaigns could siphon votes away from Mr. Biden and tilt the election toward his likely Republican opponent, former President Donald J. Trump.

States make their own rules governing ballot access. Independent candidates must navigate a labyrinthine network governing signature collections and financial reporting requirements. The effort is time-consuming and expensive.

Tony Lyons, the super PAC’s co-founder, said that the goal was to get Mr. Kennedy on the ballot in every state, but that the group was focusing on the 10 states where it expected the most difficulty, particularly in terms of expensive legal challenges. “That’s where we believe we can have the most impact,” he said.

He said the campaign was working on its own ballot access efforts — the campaign’s website includes a sign-up for people who would like to be contacted by volunteers.

In an interview this year, Ralph Nader, who twice ran for the presidency as the Green Party’s candidate, estimated that it would cost at least $5 million simply to collect signatures to qualify for ballots. The inevitable legal fights to defend ballot access, he said, would require many more millions of dollars.

Marc Elias, one of the Democratic Party’s leading election lawyers, has been retained by the super PAC American Bridge to vet third-party and independent candidates’ ballot access in battleground states where such candidates could damage Mr. Biden.

Mr. Elias said in an interview last month that he would work to make sure that any candidate who might be a threat to Mr. Biden followed the precise letter of the law when it comes to qualifying for the ballot.

“The law is the law. The law requires candidates to get on the ballot in a certain way,” Mr. Elias said. “Once you have the rules you have for ballot access, you have to meet them and there’s no exception to it.”

Mr. Kennedy entered the presidential race in April as a Democratic challenger to Mr. Biden, but ended his bid for the party’s nomination in October, arguing that Democrats’ primary system was rigged against him.

From the outset, Mr. Kennedy has drawn support from disaffected Democrats, Republicans and independents, some of whom have been drawn to his anti-establishment message. A poll from The New York Times and Siena College that was released last month found that unfavorable opinions of Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump left an opening for independent candidates like Mr. Kennedy.

Democrats are not alone in their concerns about Mr. Kennedy’s candidacy. The Republican National Committee, on the day he announced his independent bid, sent out an email titled “23 Reasons to Oppose RFK Jr.,” listing ways in which he has been aligned with Democrats in the past.

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