Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson's campaign has filed a federal lawsuit against the Federal Elections Commission, claiming the agency is unlawfully holding back public funds.
The FEC wouldn't comment, citing the suit that was filed Monday in a federal court in California.
Johnson claims that, as a minor-party candidate, he's entitled to a set amount of funds that are supposed to be distributed by the commission. The amount is set forth in a complicated federal formula that awards public funds to parties based on their candidates' prior performances in other elections.The federal law suggests in one place that a candidate such as Johnson "is eligible to receive pre-election payments" only if his party "received at least 5% but less than 25% of the total popular vote" in the prior election. But Johnson's attorney, Paul Rolf Jensen said that 5 percent threshold doesn't apply.
Total owed: $747,115.34, Johnson's suit says.
"Unless Plaintiffs receive their pre-election entitlement before the general election, it is of little use, because the election will have already taken place," Johnson's suit reads.
A good chunk of that money would be spent in Florida on campaign ads, said Roger Stone, a Florida political advisor to Johnson. Stone, a long-time GOP operative, said he suspects Republicans, threatened that Johnson would siphon votes from Romney, is working behind the scenes to block the flow of funds.
Johnson, a former Republican New Mexico governor, was locked out of most of the GOP primary debates this winter. He became a Libertarian shortly afterward and secured his new party's nomination in May.
The FEC has awarded Johnson's campaign $303,751.20 as of Aug. 8, according to a press release. The Democratic and Republican parties each received $18,248,300 for their conventions. The two major party candidates are entitled to as much as $92,241,400, Johnson's suit says.
The presidential public funding program is financed through the $3 check-off that appears on individual income tax returns, according to the FEC.
Then there's the matter or irony. Libertarians generally oppose taxes and entitlements, yet they're filing suit to get public money to fund a political campaign.