Stein still stands to benefit under losing recount effort

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Posted: Dec 05, 2016 5:32 PM
Stein still stands to benefit under losing recount effort

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Green Party candidate Jill Stein's efforts to force a recount of the presidential race in three states where she admittedly doesn't think the result would change has led to questions about her motives and criticism that she's just trying to raise her profile and fatten her own coffers.

Here are some questions and answers about Stein's recount efforts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, where Republican Donald Trump narrowly defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton and Stein ended up a distant fourth:

WHAT DOES STEIN SAY?

Stein maintains that the recounts aren't about trying to make Clinton president, but about instilling confidence in the results in the face of unsubstantiated claims of potential security breaches.

"This is about ensuring that all votes are counted and that voters can trust the system. We will not give into legal intimidation and bureaucratic obstruction," Stein said Monday.

She suggested again, without evidence, that she thinks the vote totals in the states were suspicious and should be re-tabulated. "Let every vote count," she said. "That's what makes America great."

Her camp cites a higher-than-usual number of ballots — about 84,000 — in Michigan with no recorded vote for president.

WHAT DO STEIN'S CRITICS SAY?

The loudest critics are Trump supporters, who argue that Stein is secretly working with Clinton's campaign in a destined-to-fail attempt to steal the election. The Wisconsin Republican Party filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission alleging the recount amounts to illegal coordination with Clinton. Stein's campaign denied the coordination claim.

Stein's critics also argue that her true motivation is to raise money and build a donor database that can be tapped later by her or others in the Green Party. Trump on Sunday called the recount, "Just a Stein scam to raise money!" His supporters voiced their displeasure during Stein's news conference Monday outside Trump Tower, with one heckler yelling "Jill Stein is a common criminal."

The critics say the high number of ballots in Michigan with no recorded vote for president is not surprising, given the unpopularity of Trump and Clinton.

WHO IS JILL STEIN?

Stein, 66, is a retired physician who began working as a political activist for environmental causes in the 1990s. She was born in Illinois but has lived in Massachusetts since attending Harvard College and later Harvard Medical School, from which she graduated in 1979.

Stein was also the Green Party's candidate for president in 2012. She also lost races for Massachusetts governor in 2002 and 2010, state representative in 2004 and Massachusetts secretary of state in 2006. In her presidential run, Stein said her goal wasn't to win, but rather to build the legitimacy of the Green Party.

WHERE IS HILLARY CLINTON IN THIS?

Clinton did not ask for the recounts, but her campaign has been supportive. Clinton intervened and supported a lawsuit in Wisconsin filed by Stein seeking a hand recount, and the state Democratic Party solicited volunteers to help watch the ballots being recounted.

Stein asked for the recount in states where Trump defeated Clinton by fewer votes than Stein received. Some liberals have blamed Stein for siphoning off just enough votes from Clinton to cost her the election. Stein has insisted the recount is about voter integrity.

Tensions between Stein and Clinton backers erupted Monday at her news conference outside of Trump Tower. One Green Party speaker who preceded Stein took repeated swipes at Clinton, accusing her of stealing the Democratic nomination from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Several Democrats in the crowd tried to shout him down before they were heckled by other Stein supporters.

HOW MUCH IS IT COSTING STEIN?

Stein has paid about $4.5 million for the recounts in Wisconsin and Michigan, so far. She will be refunded, or billed, for any changes to the $3.5 million she paid in advance in Wisconsin based on initial estimates from election clerks. And those are just the fees for the actual recount. Stein has also hired lawyers to fight legal battles in all three states, including Pennsylvania where the Green Party filed a federal lawsuit on Monday seeking a statewide recount.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST STATES?

Wisconsin is billing the entire cost of the recount to Stein's campaign. Michigan's Republican secretary of state, Ruth Johnson, said the recount could cost $5 million, though Stein is only responsible for the nearly $1 million she spent when filing for the recount. Officials estimate that a Pennsylvania recount would cost about $500,000.

WHAT DOES STEIN HAVE TO GAIN?

She's raised about twice as much money for the recount than she did during her bid for the presidency. She raised about $3.5 million for the campaign, but said she had already brought in more than $7.1 million for the recounts. Stein could use that money for another presidential run or exert influence by donating to other candidates.

She is also building a donor list that she could lease to other campaigns. In addition to raising more money, Stein has also bolstered her name recognition — while also drawing the ire of Trump — with the historic multi-state recount effort.

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Associated Press writers David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan; Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Jonathan Lemire in New York City contributed to this report.