In late February, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) sent a letter to a presidential candidate suggesting his information may not have been “true, correct, or complete.” Because the candidate’s response is due today, it is important to add context regarding the inquiry. Every American ought to be concerned when the FEC treats long-shot presidential candidates differently than the elite.

The letter to a Mr. SpongeBob Edward SquarePants chills his ability to participate in democracy. “[K]nowingly and willfully making any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation to a federal government agency, including the Federal Election Commission, is punishable under the provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 1001,” wrote the FEC. Mr. SquarePants has lived a pure and clean life, albeit a messy one. Yet the FEC wants to intimidate a once-small town mayor and force him out of our democratic process. To be clear, his chances of becoming president are relatively small. But just as anyone else, he has the right to try.

Unfortunately, there is mounting evidence that there are those in government who would like to see Mr. SquarePants fail. Indeed, Mr. SquarePants has repeatedly even been denied a license to drive. Some estimates put the total count of denials at well over one million. He was also forced to acquire an unnecessary milkshake license, which took time and money away for no good reason.

Then there was the infamous case of the bus that was supposed to take Mr. SquarePants home from Rock Bottom. The drivers repeatedly avoided allowing Mr. SquarePants aboard the bus. And how was it that the postal worker delivering his mail knew he ought to have been finishing his essay? That a government official had such knowledge about him suggests a violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of Mr. SquarePants. Bikini Bottom likely found records relating to Mr. SquarePants’ schedule in Patrick Star’s home. As Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in his Carpenter v. United States dissent, “[c]onsenting to give a third party access to private papers that remain my property is not the same thing as consenting to a search of those papers by the government.”

Mr. SquarePants has faced repeated abuse and intimidation by those entrusted with his and the public’s safety. A firefighter once used him to put out a fire by spraying a hose at him and allowing him to fall onto the fire once the water had engorged him. He was once arrested for the “unlicensed use of a sitar,” despite the fact that it was a family heirloom and “didn’t come with a license.” Upon explaining that to the officer, the officer raised his baton and said, “yeah, well, neither did this!”

It is not as though Mr. SquarePants has violated the law in the past. He has acquired a jellyfishing license, a fry cook license and a license to practice magic, among others. These are not the actions of a sponge who seeks to subvert the law; rather they are those of one constantly harmed by it. He regularly and willingly acquires occupational licenses of the most dubious nature without complaint. While some may seek to bring up his run-in with the health inspector, it is important to note that he was never found guilty.

It is worth questioning if the FEC would have sent this same letter if Mr. Eugene Krabs, Mr. SquarePants’ wealthy boss, filed to run for office. This author thinks not.

We at the R Street Institute will be following the outcome of the inquiry very closely to ensure that a FEC favoring the elite does not push Mr. SquarePants out of politics.