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Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein is picking up the fundraising pace…a month after the actual election. Stein’s team says it has brought in $6.4 million in less than a week to recount votes in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. That’s $3 million more — or almost double — what she raised for her presidential campaign through Oct. 19.
We won’t know until Dec. 8 exactly who contributed and how much, but Stein’s campaign manager David Cobb told OpenSecrets Blog more than 140,000 donations have come in so far, averaging $46 each. Only 414 donors gave more than $1,000, he said.
General election data is through Oct. 19. Recount data is through Nov. 30.
So how does this new stream of fundraising work? There are handbooks filled with rules about political fundraising to help win an election, but what about to confirm that results are accurate?
There are a couple of ways to go about this, says Bob Biersack, senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics. What Stein has done is set up a separate recount account, which follows the same rules and contribution limits as a campaign committee. No corporations, unions or foreign nationals may donate to it. But this recount round resets the limits: Even if you maxed out to Stein, this counts as a separate “election,” so you can give as much as $2,700 once again. Also, Stein needn’t worry about the fundraising restrictions that came with her acceptance of public matching funds earlier on.
On the spending side, according to the Federal Election Commission, the funds can only go toward expenses directly related to the recount, such as paying the state staff that counts the votes or any other administrative or overhead payments, as well as post-election litigation (which, as with anything involving lawyers, can be pricey).
In the past, national or state Republican and Democratic party committees have generally paid, or helped pay, for recounts. The 2014 Cromnibus spending bill let national party committees set up recount accounts with contribution limits that are higher than those that apply to regular party gifts. The Green Party, though, hasn’t exactly been stuffing its coffers with funds to use for this sort of situation.
In one famous recount that occurred pre-Cromnibus, Sen. Al Franken (D) and former Sen. Norm Coleman (R) and their respective parties raised more than $13 million total to re-examine ballots in their 2008 Senate faceoff in Minnesota. Coleman, who led Franken on election night by 206 votes, ultimately conceded the following June when a court ruled Franken the winner by 312 votes.
For the Florida recount that left the results of the 2000 presidential election up in the air for weeks, Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore raised more than $10.6 million collectively via separate accounts they set up as 527 organizations, labeled for their section of the tax code.; they could take unlimited contributions. In addition, at the time, there were no limits to how much could be donated to the parties, and the parties weren’t required to identify their contributors in the recount. (This loophole was closed after the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act passed in 2002.) The Bush campaign limited donations to its 527 to a maximum of $5,000 each and posted its donors online. Gore’s campaign didn’t cap donations, but also posted donors online.
So where do Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party come into play? Clinton’s campaign lawyer Marc Elias wrote on Medium that they “intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides.”
But it’s a bit unclear what that means. In terms of a financial help, Clinton’s campaign could give $2,000 to Stein’s committee, but that’s the limit one candidate committee can give to another. Technically, the Democratic Party recount account would also be available, Biersack said; it held close to $2.8 million this cycle as of Oct. 19.
Cobb, Stein’s campaign manager, said no money has been transferred between committees, and that Clinton’s camp declined to pay any filing fees. Clinton did, however, join Stein’s lawsuit in Wisconsin Tuesday afternoon, requesting a hand-count of the votes, after initially refusing to participate.
This article was written by Ashley Balcerzak for OpenSecrets.org, and reprinted with permission by LawNewz.com. The original version of the story appeared here. OpenSecrets.org is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization which tracks money in U.S. politics.