Trump recount donations could be used for 2024 campaign

The majority of individual donations made  following the election are unlikely to contribute even a single dollar directly to vote recount efforts.

Source: Joaquin Corbalan: https://www.istockphoto.com

Up to 60% of money raised is being channeled into ‘political action committees’

The Trump campaign is using individual donations to vote recount websites to fund political action committees, according to the fine print on the websites. 

Two weeks after losing the race for the presidency by narrow margins in key states, US President Donald Trump’s campaign is asking for donations to fund at least three separate voter recount efforts: the “Official Georgia Recount Fund,” the “Emergency Wisconsin Recount Fund,” and the “Official Election Defense Fund”.

“There have been irregularities in several Wisconsin counties which raise serious doubts about the validity of the results,” the Wisconsin-focused site asserts, although no evidence of widespread irregularities has emerged.) “Please contribute ANY AMOUNT IMMEDIATELY to the Emergency Wisconsin Recount Fund.” 

Most individual donations made through any of these sites are unlikely to contribute even a single dollar directly to vote recount efforts. Instead, contributions are likely to end up helping Trump to fund any campaign-related expenses after he leaves the White House. 

According to the fine print at the bottom of each of the three fundraising pages, 60 per cent of all money donated, up to $5,000, will go to Save America, a political action committee, or PAC. PACs can spend money on campaign-related activities — such as polling — but are barred from spending directly on a candidate’s campaign, according to the Federal Election Commission. That probably includes any spending on vote recounts. The Save America PAC could, however, disburse funds to Trump for campaign-related purposes including after he leaves office. 

Most former US presidents, including one-term incumbents who fail to be re-elected, do not run for office again. The Trump campaign’s fundraising suggests he is already thinking about the next election. Some news reports, citing officials close to the president, suggest Mr Trump is already planning a run for president in 2024. 

The remaining 40 per cent of individuals’ contributions would probably not be spent directly on vote recount efforts, as advertised. Instead, it would flow to the operating account of the Republican National Committee (RNC), up to a maximum of $35,500 for an individual. (The RNC would then be free to spend it on a range of purposes, including vote recount efforts.) 

An individual would need to max out the $5,000 cap on contributions to Save America, the PAC that receives 60 per cent of all funds, before the money begins feeding into a fund explicitly tied to vote recount expenses. All told, an individual would need to donate more than $8,000 before their dollars started to flow towards recount efforts in states like Georgia or Wisconsin. 

One consequence is that any money raised through the three linked recount efforts which actually is spent on funding recounts — the costs of which run into the tens of millions at a minimum, according to the Campaign Legal Center, a non-profit that analyses campaign spending — will come from wealthy donors making large contributions. 

Both President-elect Joe Biden and Mr Trump have courted super-rich donors to help raise money for joint fundraising committees, both during and after the November 3 election. Among Mr Trump’s wealthiest longtime donors is the Las Vegas casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson. 

If Mr Adelson and others have donated directly to vote recount efforts through the Trump campaign through or affiliated joint fundraising committees, details could emerge when a filing deadline for post-general election reports arrives on December 3. 

Aside from efforts to initiate vote recounts, Trump’s campaign has filed a slew of lawsuits seeking to halt the official certification of votes in states from Michigan to Georgia, but those efforts have largely foundered. On Thursday, Bloomberg News and other news outlets reported that the Trump team had voluntarily withdrawn its last remaining federal lawsuit related to the outcome in Michigan, where Biden won 50.6% of votes to Trump’s 47.8%.

Trump’s campaign misleadingly framed its decision to withdraw the Michigan suit as a success. It attached affidavits by two local election officials saying they had been pressured into certifying an earlier vote tally for heavily Democratic-leaning Detroit area. Yet those same local officials had already voted on Tuesday night to certify the results, meaning that the batch of Detroit votes has already been officially recognized.

The Trump campaign has pushed claims of widespread voter fraud that helped toss the election to Biden, but it has produced no evidence to back those claims.

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