Kennedy Files Complaint Alleging CNN, Trump and Biden Engaged in Flagrant Violation of FEC Debate Laws

NEW YORK, NY—MAY 29, 2024—The Kennedy campaign Tuesday filed a Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint alleging CNN, President Biden, President Trump, and their campaigns engaged in flagrant violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). The complaint establishes that because CNN is illegally demanding that Kennedy meet different criteria to participate than Presidents Biden and Trump, its debate is a large prohibited campaign contribution to Biden and Trump. 

FEC law requires media broadcasters to use “pre-established” and “objective” criteria to determine which candidates are admitted to a debate. Broadcasters like CNN are not permitted to pre-select the candidates who may participate. Debate hosts are also not allowed to “use nomination by a particular political party as the sole objective criterion to determine whether to include a candidate in a debate.”

According to the complaint, the Parties engaged in blatant violations of the FECA when “CNN colluded with the Biden Committee and the Trump Committee to schedule and did schedule a debate with criteria that 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.” 

The Biden campaign has openly demanded that Kennedy be excluded from the debates. The Washington Post reported Trump received assurances from CNN that Kennedy would be excluded. 

It is thus clear “CNN is making prohibited corporate contributions to both campaigns and the Biden Committee and the Trump Committee have accepted these prohibited corporate contributions,” reads the complaint. 

Kennedy asks the FEC to “find reason to believe that the Parties have violated the Federal Election Campaign Act” and to, among other things, “enjoin the Parties from holding the presidential debate scheduled for June 27, 2024 until the Parties have come into compliance with the Federal Election Campaign Act.” 

According to CNN’s qualification criteria, “a candidate’s name must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to reach the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidency” by the qualification deadline of June 20. The candidates must also receive at least 15% in four national polls sponsored by 1 of at least 12 selected pollsters of registered or likely voters.

To date, the campaign has submitted the necessary signatures to the respective Secretary of State offices in nine states — California, Delaware, Hawaii, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah — adding up to 171 electoral votes, which increases weekly.

Kennedy is eligible for more electoral votes than both Presidents Biden and Trump combined since they have not yet been officially nominated by their parties and their ballot access is not certified in any state, making them eligible for zero electoral votes. CNN is admitting presidents Biden and Trump to the debate without requiring that they satisfy the electoral vote criteria while insisting Kennedy must satisfy it. That violates the requirement that debate criteria be “pre-established” and “objective.”

In meetings between CNN and the Kennedy campaign, the broadcaster reiterated its double standard on the electoral criteria. It also refused to deny that it developed qualifying criteria before determining candidates.

“By demanding our campaign meet different criteria to participate in the debate than Presidents Biden and Trump, CNN’s debate violates FEC law and is a large prohibited corporate contribution to both the Biden and Trump campaigns,” said Kennedy. 

Kennedy also has three of the four national polls needed to satisfy CNN’s rules for its upcoming debate in Atlanta, Georgia. Last week, a Marquette Law School Poll of registered voters put RFK Jr. at 17%. Kennedy already had two qualifying polls in April, a CNN poll at 16% and a Quinnipiac poll at 16%.

The campaign’s aggressive ballot access plan will ensure the Kennedy-Shanahan ticket is on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The ballot access plan is fully funded with more than $15 million raised.

On May 1, the Kennedy campaign released results from a Zogby poll showing Kennedy beats both Presidents Biden and Trump in head-to-head matchups. Kennedy is the first independent ever to defeat both major party candidates in head-to-head matchups.

Learn more at Visit our press page here.

# # #