RFK Jr. complains to campaign watchdog over CNN debate criteria

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign announced Wednesday that it filed a Federal Election Commission complaint against President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump’s campaigns, as well as CNN, alleging they are violating federal law in setting up the June 27 presidential debate.

Kennedy is arguing that CNN is “demanding our campaign meet different criteria to participate in the debate than Presidents Biden and Trump,” he said in a release.

CNN’s debate requirements state that “a candidate’s name must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to reach the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidency prior to the eligibility deadline.” That deadline is June 20, a week before the debate is set to take place. The criteria are similar to what the Commission on Presidential Debates has long used for its fall debates, but the early timing of the CNN debate makes the effects different this time.

Kennedy is currently on the ballot in seven states, including California and battleground Michigan, but he has not yet achieved ballot access in states totaling 270 electoral votes. He has said in various recent interviews that his campaign will meet that threshold before the June 20 deadline, though different state procedures and deadlines may make that difficult.

“The mere application for ballot access does not guarantee that he will appear on the ballot in any state,” CNN said in a statement to NBC News. “In addition, RFK Jr. does not currently meet our polling criteria, which, like the other objective criteria, were set before issuing invitations to the debate.”

Kennedy has so far hit the threshold laid out in the polling criteria in three surveys, with one more needed to meet the polling requirement of 15% support in four different CNN-approved surveys.

Meanwhile, Kennedy is arguing that Biden and Trump won’t meet the ballot access requirements either, because their party conventions formalizing their nominations won’t take place until later this summer.

“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,” CNN said its statement.

Kennedy is asking the FEC to prevent Biden, Trump and CNN from holding the June 27 debate. However, the FEC can take significant time to act on these complaints — years instead of the month Kennedy is requesting. For example, a Democratic National Committee complaint against Kennedy’s campaign and super PAC in February has not yet generated a response from the FEC.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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