Green Party candidate Jill Stein raised over $7 million to fund recount efforts in swing states, but that money was also used to cover Stein’s legal bills arising from Congress’ investigation into Russian election interference.
In June, The Daily Beast reported that the the U.S. Green Party candidate’s campaign, which raised $7.3 million for recounts in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, had in 2017 stopped disclosing its monthly spending with the Federal Election Commission. Later that month, the Jill Stein for President committee filed a slew of reports that reveal spending on lawyers who are not trying to get inside any voting machines.
At the end of May 2018, according to the most recent FEC filing, the Stein campaign paid the “Partnership for Civil Justice” $66,441.60; that is on top of a $31,536 payment made in January, and more than the Stein campaign had in cash on hand by November 2016.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund is a nonprofit law firm whose mission is to “defend and advance fundamental civil, constitutional and human rights,” per a 2016 IRS filing. On its website, the group notes that it is representing Stein in her dealings before the the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Though Stein’s website states that donors would be polled to determine what should happen with surplus funds, it appears the campaign is simply running out the money on various expenses – a fact that might disappoint donors but isn’t illegal.
A 2006 FEC guidance states that candidates who raise money for recounts may use that money for “post-election litigation and administrative-proceeding expenses concerning the casting and counting of ballots during the Federal election, fees for the payment of staff assisting the recount or election contest efforts, and administrative and overhead expenses in connection with recounts and election contests.”
“The real prohibition,” according to Stephen Spaulding, chief of strategy at the center-left nonprofit Common Cause, “is on ‘personal use,’ which is when candidates or campaigns use money to fulfill obligations irrespective of the campaign.” Outside of that—an itemized deduction of a beach house, for example—the Stein campaign, like all campaigns, has the practical freedom to use donor cash liberally.