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Larry Elder Files Complaint Against RNC Over Absence At GOP Debate

Republican presidential candidate Larry Elder has filed a complaint against the Republican National Committee (RNC) for not permitting him to attend the party’s first presidential primary debate on Wednesday.

Elder had submitted a qualification petition to David Bossie, the RNC’s debate chairman, seeking a position on stage alongside eight other candidates in the race, minus former President Donald Trump. After his petition was denied, due to a poll he cited by Rasmussen Reports being deemed ineligible, Elder filed a complaint against the RNC with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for allegedly violating the Federal Election Campaign Act.

“With the rumored goal of limiting the participants in the August 23, 2023, Republican presidential primary debate (the “Debate”), the RNC seized control over one of the most significant opportunities available to presidential primary candidates. In doing so, the RNC solicited corporate contributions in violation of the Act’s rules,” wrote Elder’s campaign in the letter, which was addressed to the FEC’s general counsel.

Elder’s petition to Bossie had cited three qualifying polls — two by the Trafalgar Group, of which one was specific to Iowa, and one by Rasmussen Reports — each of which showed Elder having 1% support, the minimum required to qualify, according to the letter that was shared with the DCNF. RNC rules stated that candidates had to demonstrate at least 1% support in three national polls or 1% in two national polls and one early state poll, with the polls in question having to meet criteria set by the RNC, according to their website.

Elder claims that the RNC did not recognize the third poll because “Rasmussen Polls have ties to former President Donald Trump,” according to his complaint. By not recognizing the Rasmussen poll, Elder claims that violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971.

“Instead, of ensuring adherence to pre-established objective criteria, the RNC read new terms into the criteria, adding a post-hoc definition of ‘national poll’ to mean a poll of’ every single state,” the complaint alleged. It argued that the RNC’s alleged violation ran afoul of the Act’s rule requiring “pre-established objective criteria” when holding candidate debates.

The complaint also claims that other candidates, such as Vivek Ramaswamy, were notified in advance that Rasmussen polls would not be accepted. “Yet, we were not given the opportunity even though the RNC clearly was aware of their poll problem,” the complaint states.

It remains unclear how the FEC will respond to the request. The letter does not ask for a specific remedy for Elder, but merely asks the commission to “hold the RNC accountable.”

“Criteria to qualify for the first debate was clearly presented to campaigns and RNC leadership and members of the debate committee were in constant communication with candidates and campaigns throughout the qualifying period,” wrote Keith Schipper, a spokesperson for the RNC in an email to the DCNF,  adding that “the RNC worked over two years to deliver a transparent and fair primary process.”

The FEC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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