WASHINGTON -- The Republican National Committee has counted more than $5 million in contributions it cannot use to help Republican candidates until after the November election as part of the pool of money it has available for the 2012 campaign.
The RNC has taken in a whopping $5.29 million in donations for a recount fund that could be accessed if the results in the Nov. 6 election are indecisive. In the committee's Federal Election Commission filings, the money is being counted among the $282,795,014 in total donations that it has received during the current electoral cycle. After the August fundraising period, the committee claimed to have $76,569,658 in cash on hand. In actuality, that figure is close to $71.2 million.
Even with the lower figure, the amount of money the RNC has to spend dwarfs the Democratic National Committee's cash situation. The latter went into September with $7.1 million in cash on hand and debts of $11.8 million. President Barack Obama's campaign is in a far better position, with $88.8 million in cash on hand heading into September compared to Mitt Romney's $50.4 million. Romney's campaign also carries a $15 million debt.
Having such a large recount fund serves the RNC little in its efforts to elect Romney on Nov. 6. Paul S. Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center said there might be a way to use some of the money prior to the election in preparation for the legal battles that could occur after the election is finished. "The definite constraint on this is it can't be used for the purpose of influencing the election," said Ryan. "A party committee might be able to start gearing up for a recount by hiring some lawyers."
Larry Noble, a longtime campaign finance lawyer, stated definitively that recount funds "can be used to fund recounts only. The money won't help them if there is no recount."
Republican National Committee spokesman Tim Miller said that the committee was just operating under the letter of the law by counting the money for its recount funds as part of the cash it has on hand.
"As required by law, we report all of the money raised in a given quarter," said Tim Miller, a spokesperson for the committee.
Donors can give a maximum of $30,800 a year to a party's recount fund on top of the money they give to the party committee and a candidate's campaign for the election itself. Among those who have helped the RNC with recount funds are Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, both of who have made the maximum donations in 2011 and 2012. Koch Industries Inc. PAC has given $30,000 in donations to the RNC's recount fund, while Charles Koch, the billionaire conservative benefactor, has made a $30,800 donation.
The Obama campaign said it has not added in recount money in reporting its cash on hand.
"We are going to be ready for any scenario," said a Obama campaign aide, "but any recount money that is raised on our end won't be included in our combined total as they have done."
The Democratic National Committee does have $281,694 in "other receipts" listed on its most recent FEC filing. But that money represented back payments for convention-related staff time and insurance claims.
UPDATE: 5:00 p.m. -- A DNC official said via email that the committee "has approximately $54,000 in a recount account that has been held over since the 2010 cycle, which is counted in our cash on hand reporting."
That $54,000 represents a much smaller percentage of the DNC's total cash on hand than the RNC's $5.29 million recount fund constitutes of its cash on hand.
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