Sen. John F. Kerry may have a $24.8 million advantage over President George W. Bush in pursuing any recounts that result from Tuesday’s election, according to the campaigns’ most recent financial filings.
Under Federal Election Commission rules, both candidates are allowed to use remaining funds from their primary election committees to conduct recount activities, which in Kerry’s case amounts to just under $45 million. That compares to just more than $16 million left over in the Bush/Cheney primary election committee’s coffers.
Those funds, combined with the cash on hand each campaign reported for accounting and legal costs, give Kerry a total of $51.6 million that could possibly be used for potential recounts, according to the campaign’s pre-General Election filings. By contrast, the Bush campaign has $26.8 million. Bob Biersack, spokesperson for the Federal Election Commission, said “it’s possible” that Kerry could use the leftover $45 million from his primary funds for recounts. “There should not be any problem with them using primary funds for a recount,” Biersack told the Center for Public Integrity. “One of the clearly permissible uses would be a transfer to a party and the party could use that money for a recount.”
The candidates’ funds would not be the only source of cash available for recount efforts. Both political parties are allowed to participate, and as in 2000 the campaigns could establish separate fundraising committees.
In phone calls with the Center, spokesmen for both the Kerry campaign and the Democratic National Committee would not speculate on how they intend to use the $45 million in leftover primary funds.
Kerry’s advantage stands in sharp contrast to the situation four years ago, when Bush raised $13.82 million for recount activities and Vice President Al Gore raised $3.46 million.
During that dispute, both campaigns used so-called 527 committees to pay the legal fees associated with the Florida recount, which ultimately led to Bush’s election victory.
While Kerry appears to have a recount funding advantage, it may be temporary. Last week, the FEC told the Associated Press that candidates will be allowed to raise money for recount costs through unlimited donations from individuals. Such large donations could tip the balance toward either candidate.
The maximum that an individual may donate to a candidate during an election is $2,000. But since recounts follow elections, they exist in a legal gray area where many FEC regulations used to limit large donations do not apply. That is why Gore received donations as large as $500,000 during the 2000 recount and Bush received more than 800 donations of $5,000 or more.
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