Jill Stein presidential recount effort prompts money gusher
WASHINGTON (AP) — Jill Stein is on track to raise twice as much for an election recount effort than she did for her own failed Green Party presidential bid.
Fueled by the social media hashtag #recount2016 and millions of dispirited Hillary Clinton voters, Stein's recount drive had already netted $6.3 million by Monday, according to her campaign website. That's close to the $7 million she posted as a goal and millions more than the roughly $3.5 million she raised during her entire presidential bid.
Citing without evidence concerns about "cyber hacking," Stein wants a recount in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — places that Clinton, a Democrat, thought were safely in her column. Instead, Republican Donald Trump won all three and with them the electoral votes needed to win the White House.
Stein won no states and wouldn't directly or immediately benefit from a recount — nor would she likely be able to topple Trump. Even Clinton's attorney Marc Elias wrote there's "no actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology."
But Stein's effort could help her in other ways.
By continuing to raise money, she is building up a larger donor list that she can later turn to if she runs again. She also can try to influence policy by urging those donors to call lawmakers or contribute to other politicians. Her campaign says 137,000 people have contributed to the recount.
A bigger supporter list can command bigger fees if Stein chooses to lease it out to other campaigns.
Laurence Tribe, a Harvard constitutional law professor, said that although recounts are "entirely within the law, Stein's effort is probably aimed more at "trying to gain attention and establish herself as a national player."
Stein said she is "proud to stand up for election integrity" regardless of whether it changes the outcome of the presidential race. If she raises more money than is needed for the recount itself — including multimillion-dollar attorney fees — her campaign will use the surplus for "election integrity efforts and to promote voting system reform."
Stein has reminded supporters that they can contribute up to $2,700 for her recount drive — even if they'd already donated the maximum $2,700 to her for the general election. Any money she raises in excess of the actual recount costs could then be donated to charity or to a political party, according to Federal Election Commission rulings.
"The money can't be used for her personal benefit, but beyond that there's some flexibility," said Bob Biersack, who worked at the FEC for three decades and is a senior fellow at the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.
The recount itself could be costly.
The Stein campaign filed its Wisconsin recount petition on Friday and aimed to file Monday in Pennsylvania. The Wisconsin Elections Commission voted Monday to proceed with a recount and will bill Stein and other interested campaigns for the costs, estimated to be around $1 million.
Trump denounced the Stein recount effort as "ridiculous" and "a scam."
It's a way for Stein "to fill her coffers with money, most of which she will never even spend on this ridiculous recount," the president-elect said in a statement Saturday.
Yet he has seemed to undercut his own argument that the election is over by going on to question the integrity of the vote.
Trump falsely claimed on Twitter early Sunday that he "won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally" and went on — again with no evidence — to claim "serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California."
Tribe noted the irony of Trump blasting Stein's recount effort while falsely asserting voter fraud has occurred.
"Those two statements are diametrically opposed," Tribe said.
Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin, contributed to this report