Former Presidential candidate Jill Stein raise $7.3 million for a recount vote in the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, but according to The Daily Beast, her committee stopped disclosing its monthly spending with Federal Election Commission back in 2017.
So where did the Jill Stein for President committee spend these millions?
In May 2018, the committee finally made another FEC filing that revealed that some of the funding went toward her legal fees in the investigation regarding Russia.
“Stein has not been accused of any wrongdoing with respect to the various Russia investigations, but she has drawn attention from investigators for, among other things, her attendance at a December 2015 party in Moscow celebrating the 10th anniversary of state broadcaster RT. There she dined with Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser whom Mueller indicted for making false statements,” writes The Daily Beast. “In December 2017, Senate investigators requested documents from the Stein campaign as part of its own look into Russian government interference in the last presidential election. Stein has largely complied.”
Apparently, the campaign paid for her trip to Russia.
The recent funding used for legal counsel was supposed to be dedicated strictly for recount efforts.
Last November, the Stein committee said that “recount funds are being held in a dedicated account, separate from Stein’s Presidential campaign treasury, and will be used to pay for all costs associated with the recounts” in a press release.
“Though all recounts were terminated by the end of 2016, the Stein campaign continued litigating in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where it seeks access to the source code used by the states’ proprietary voting machines. In January 2017, the campaign spent $500,000 on a retainer for the firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP. It had more than $958,000 in cash on hand by the end of that month,” writes The Daily Beast. “What to do with the money left over, after all recounts efforts were completed, is a question that 150,000 contributors were promised a vote on.”
The Stein campaign promised to asked donors what to do with the surplus of the recount funding.
“We will send out a poll to each recount donor, [asking] them to participate in a Ranked Choice Voting process, to choose the recipients of surplus funds,” according to the Stein campaign website.
But, it appears as though the poll has yet to be completed and that the funding is already being spent. The campaign staff, like the Stein’s Campaign Manager David Cobb, who was paid $11,280 in May, is still getting paid from the leftover donor funding.
Is Stein doing something illegal? Technically, no.
But it isn’t uncommon for candidates to take advantage of the FEC rules either.
“The short answer is that I believe Stein’s spending is likely compliant with FEC rules,” said Adav Noti, the former FEC’s associate general counsel for policy. “The somewhat longer answer is that for many years the FEC has allowed candidates and political parties to get away with pretty much anything in the context of recount accounts, so the restrictions on those accounts, to the extent there can even be said to be restrictions, are a complete mess.”
Author’s note: Like Noti said this isn’t illegal because politicians do it all the time, but it definitely is an unsavory practice.