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DNC files third complaint against RFK Jr. super PAC, alleging shady fundraising practices and concealment

RFK Jr. claims to qualify for Texas ballot
RFK Jr. campaign submits signatures for Texas ballot access 02:57

The Democratic National Committee this week filed another complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s allied super PAC, accusing it of engaging in shady fundraising practices.

The latest complaint accuses the Kennedy-linked super PAC, American Values 2024, of again not properly disclosing loans and loan repayments to Gavin De Becker, the owner of a private security firm hired by Kennedy, in an alleged attempt to exaggerate its fundraising success and hide that the PAC's largest donor, Timothy Mellon, is also a major supporter of former President Trump.

"Despite what AV24 may believe, the rules do apply to them. By continuing to inflate their fundraising numbers, and concealing the extent to which Timothy Mellon, Donald Trump's largest donor, is propping up RFK Jr.'s candidacy, they are not only misconstruing election laws, they are deceiving the public," DNC senior adviser Mary Beth Cahill said in a statement to CBS News on Thursday.

In April, a pattern emerged after the PAC refunded $2 million to De Becker, according to financial filings, and this partial refund followed his initial $4 million contribution to the PAC in February. This isn't the first time the PAC made this move, according to FEC filings. In 2023, the super PAC received a significant financial injection from De Becker, totaling about $10 million. But by the year's end, $9.6 million of these funds were returned, according to financial filings.

PAC financial filings label these transactions as "contributions" and "refunds," but the DNC argues the transactions should be classified as loans.

The super PAC has touted these transactions, despite refunding a major portion of it back to De Becker, saying they show that "there is real electricity and a palpable desire for change."

The DNC alleges that these transactions are being used to cover up Mellon's substantial stake in the super PAC.   

Tony Lyons, co-founder of American Values 2024, told CBS News in a statement Thursday that the DNC's complaint is "part of their concerted effort to silence and censor Bobby Kennedy, mislead the public about his views, his policies and his past."

"We will answer this officially to the FEC," Lyons said.

Some campaign finance experts find these transactions "very unusual."

Craig Holman, the government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, said he's "never seen anything like it."

According to Holman, if the PAC is deliberately arranging for an infusion of funds only to return them later, "that is a loan, and if it's being declared as a contribution, that would be a violation of campaign finance law."

Holman called this a "self-serving" arrangement between Kennedy and De Becker. 

"Kennedy creates a false image that there's a great deal of money backing him, and De Becker gets some money out of it," he added.

DNC files third complaint against RFK Jr. super PAC, alleging shady fundraising practices and concealment by Faris Tanyos on Scribd

Andrew Mayersohn, a researcher at OpenSecrets, a nonprofit that tracks and publishes data on campaign finance, said these unusual transactions make the Kennedy campaign look more viable when it appears that funding is pouring into his cause rather than being loaned.

"People do in fact use those individual contribution totals to evaluate how well the campaign is doing," Mayersohn said.

This the third FEC complaint filed by the committee. The group first filed a complaint in February, alleging that the PAC violated federal law after it announced plans to aid Kennedy's signature-gathering efforts in the key battleground states of Georgia, Arizona and Michigan at the start of 2024, along with funding ballot access efforts for Kennedy in five other states.

Kennedy's campaign announced in April it had secured ballot access in Michigan. A spokesperson for the Michigan Secretary of State's office confirmed that the Natural Law Party, a minor party with a spot on the state's ballot, nominated Kennedy at the party's convention, which would allow him  to skip the signature gathering process in the Great Lake State.

"We were not coordinating. If we were coordinating, that wouldn't have happened," said Larry Sharpe, director of national organizing at American Values 2024. "We wanted to help out with signatures because we wanted to help the campaign, and we picked states where the law said it was OK."

The DNC told CBS News that it has not heard back from the FEC on any of its complaints. 

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