The advocacy group Common Cause has filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice against Robert Ritchie, better known as Kid Rock, alleging the singer promoted himself as a candidate without filing the proper paperwork.
Federal election law requires candidates for office to register their candidacy, comply with campaign contribution restrictions, and disclose contributions publicly. Ritchie launched a campaign website and began selling "Kid Rock for Senate" merchandise in July, but has been coy about officially announcing his candidacy.
Under campaign finance law, a candidate who raises or spends more than $5000 must register and comply with regulations.
Paul S. Ryan, Vice President of Common Cause, says Ritchie's marketing activities legally make him a candidate, but he has failed to show up at the FEC and file paperwork to announce his candidacy, has not filed disclosure reports, and has failed to comply with contribution restrictions.
Common Cause is asking the FEC and the DOJ to begin an investigation of the alleged violations.
Ritchie posted the following response to media reports of the complaint on his web site:
However, according to Ryan, lack of an official announcement isn't an excuse for not registering a campaign that is already marketing merchandise and raising funds.
"Under federal campaign finance law, once you have either received contributions or made expenditures above $5,000, and you've engaged in any number of activities that the Federal Election Commission [has said] over the years constitute campaigning, then you're a candidate. And exhibit number one for campaigning is you refer to yourself as a candidate. The example that the FEC gives in its campaign guide is if you say 'Smith for Senate,' and you're Smith, then you're a candidate," said Ryan.
Ritchie has already set up a web site advertising himself as a candidate for U.S. Senate and selling T-shirts and hats that say "Kid Rock for Senate."
According to Ryan, campaign finance regulations are frequently flouted, and the FEC has been slow to investigate and penalize candidates that violate them.
"Kid Rock has now joined a long line of folks who have evaded and violated these candidate legal requirements. Back in the 2016 presidential cycle for example, we saw Jeb Bush spend the first six months of 2015 saying 'Yeah, I don't know if I'm running.' Meanwhile, he raised $110 million in money that would be illegal for a candidate to raise into a super PAC. Well, he was a candidate as soon as he started raising that money, and Kid Rock became a candidate as soon as he started selling 'Kid Rock for Senate' merchandise," said Ryan.