If a presidential campaign is still actively raising funds after Election Day, it usually means that the campaign concluded with some debt. The Green campaign of Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka did end up with a little less than $100,000 in debts, a small percentage of the $3.5 million raised. But in this case, the goal is to help defend our votes against malevolent manipulations of the vote tallies, starting with three states where analysts have declared such skullduggery likely.
Make that two states and a commonwealth, if you want to be technical about it: the States of Michigan and Wisconsin, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
This move follows the campaign's filing of a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, regarding the apparent illegal coordination between the Clinton and Trump campaigns with their SuperPACs.
The campaign is also soliciting volunteers for the recount itself in each of the states.
On my first look at the Recount page yesterday, after a Periscope video from David Cobb brought it to my attention, the goal was $2.5 million, and the effort had already raised about $300,000. (Look for the video on the campaign's Facebook page.) Having hung around relatively impecunious Greens for 20 years, I thought the goal was a little ambitious, especially with the filing deadline for Wisconsin just two days away. But an hour later I looked again, and the amount raised had passed $500,000. By the time I went to bed, $2 million.
By this morning, the $2.5 million goal had been accomplished, so the goalpost was moved to $4.5 million.
Why So Much?
Simply filing for recounts in the various states comes with a hefty price tag. As we remember from Florida in 2000, there is labor involved. States can't do the job with just salaried employees at the various county clerks' offices. This time, it isn't just a matter of recounting the presidential votes, but down-ticket races as well.
Wisconsin is asking $1.1 million, Michigan $600,000, Pennsylvania $500,000. This is odd, considering the states' respective sizes: The largest of the three has the smallest fee, and vice versa. Don't ask why. It's complicated. The campaign takes pains to point out that applying for recounts does not guarantee that the recounts will even happen, even at that great cost.
Beyond the $2.2 million in filing fees, Stein/Baraka will need to retain some attorneys in the respective states—this despite the presence of Ohio electoral integrity attorney Bob Fitrakis in the effort. Fitrakis led the charge to investigate irregularities in Ohio in 2004, and the investigation concluded with an election official serving jail time (alas, not Secretary of State Ken Blackwell). Some attorneys, like Fitrakis, may do this work pro bono, but you can't count on that.
In addition, the campaign foresees some expenditures for travel, publicity, logistics, and miscellaneous categories. The grand estimate of funds required is up around $7 million.
How So Much?
If only Greens and Green sympathizers were contributing to this effort, the total would be nowhere near $2 million. Greens couldn't come up with that much to fund Stein and Baraka in the first place. From what I can tell, Clinton voters are pushing this via social media in hopes of flipping the electoral tally their way. I hope they have read the campaign's verbiage about how this is not the purpose of calling for a recount.
Media Responses, Social and Otherwise
Rachel Maddow made an offhand reference to the recount effort about ten minutes into her A block Wednesday night. The Jill2016 recount page appears for a few seconds over her shoulder, but she refers only to "the Green Party candidate," never deigning to mention Jill Stein by name. Earlier, Steve Kornacki, filling in for Chris Matthews on Hardball, freaked out a little over any suggestion of hacking, even suggestions from academic experts.
Overnight and into this morning, the story has broken in multiple media outlets, mostly those with a liberal bent: the Boston Globe, the Guardian, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, but also Bloomberg and OMG Fox News (linking for amusement value). A contributor at Daily Kos reached out to the Stein/Baraka campaign to inquire how the funds would be used.
Reactions to the effort on social media have been a very mixed bag, as you might imagine. Progressives are speculating cynically that the Clinton/Kaine campaign has not been participating (visibly, at least) because Clinton has benefited from such manipulations, especially in state primaries. Some have intimated that the recount will actually uncover hacking that favors Clinton/Kaine in some counties or entire states.
A few comments on David Cobb's video noted that flipping the electoral tally would lead to Civil War—and guess which side is better armed. I saw some self-identified Democrats leave comments to the effect of "Trump won, let's move on." Other commenters insisted that the recounts would prove, even in these three swing states, that Stein's vote count is considerably higher than reported, especially in light of poll numbers from the week prior to Election Day.
DBC's Gut Reaction
As for that last notion, my own intuition is that Stein/Baraka did far better than 1%. The ticket most likely did not receive 5% of the presidential vote nationwide, the amount needed to unlock federal campaign funds for 2020, but 1% seems suspiciously low. It would indicate that fewer than 5% of Bernie Sanders's primary voters—many of whom voted for Bernie specifically because they would not/could not vote for Hillary—voted Green in the general. Even in light of the massive Bernie or Bust movement, and the way thousands of Sandernistas opened their wallets for Jill after Philly, that less than 5% figure is possible, but it's not likely.
I'm even suspicious about the discrepancies between Stein's tally in Texas compared with down-ticket Greens, discussed previously here. While I can understand trepidations of progressive voters in swing states, most progressives understand that Clinton's neoliberalism is as problematic as Donald Trump's neo-fascism, but in very different ways.