Democrats and Republicans have already been engaged in a multi-million dollar legal war for months, battling state by state over voting rules. And a half-dozen Biden bundlers and fundraisers described a pervasive feeling among the donor community that heavy fundraising would continue deep into November.
“These lawsuits are going to cost money. Some of it is pro bono legal work. But there are the filing fees, the service fees. You need money for all of that,” said Joe Cotchett, a Bay Area attorney and Biden donor who was on the Lawyers Committee call. “Unless Joe Biden wins big … those lawsuits will go on for perhaps a month. …There are going to be individual lawsuits in each state, I guarantee you.”
A second call with donors last Thursday featured attorneys working with the Biden campaign, who warned donors that though they “have the funds to start a legal battle,” they expected a lengthy litigation process, which would require “a fundraising apparatus like never before” to finance it, said one person who participated on the call. The person added that Biden officials were explicit that they would only need to deploy the funds if the Trump campaign sought to contest the results in states.
The preparation to fund post-election legal fights comes after record-setting fundraising from the Biden campaign, which drafted off anti-Trump rage among both high- and low-dollar donors to raise nearly a billion dollars by mid-October. Biden entered the final weeks of the general election with a 3-to-1 lead over Trump in cash on hand, a financial edge that’s on vivid display on TV stations across the country, where Biden is significantly outspending Trump.
It’s not unusual for a presidential campaign to raise money for legal funds and voter protection programs. But the scale and the stakes in 2020 are particularly high, as Trump has frequently denigrated the authenticity of the election results, regularly declaring, without evidence, that there is widespread fraud occurring.
“We’re going in the night of — as soon as the election is over, we’re going in with our lawyers,” Trump told reporters on Sunday in Charlotte, N.C., adding that it was a “terrible thing” that ballots are being counted after the election. (Many mail-in ballots in battleground states cannot be legally counted until polls close on Tuesday night.)
One Biden bundler, who did not participate in the calls, said that they were separately warned by Biden finance staffers that “we’re expecting this fight to go through Thanksgiving, and secondly, prepare to keep fundraising for it.”
“Other than [raising money for] the transition, fundraising for the legal fight is what’s next,” said a Democratic donor adviser, citing the money raised for a future Biden administration, another traditional part of the general election season. “The outreach is happening.”
“If Americans continue to show up in overwhelming numbers to make their voices heard, we can leave no doubt on Tuesday that Joe Biden will be the 46th President of the United States,” TJ Ducklo, Biden’s national press secretary, said in a statement. “We have also assembled the largest voter protection team in presidential campaign history to ensure every vote is counted. We are prepared for all scenarios, and part of being prepared means having the resources necessary to continue the fight.”
The Trump campaign is also raising money with an eye on post-Election Day legal fights, including automatically enrolling online donors into recurring weekly donations through mid-December, The New York Times reported this weekend. The Trump campaign noted that contributors can opt out of the recurring donations, but the move highlights their preparations to keep up with Biden’s operation.
Both Trump and Biden already have legal funds set up through their respective party committees and campaigns.
Given Biden’s successful fundraising for his campaign, Democratic donors and operatives don’t expect him to be hurting for cash after Election Day.
“It’s hard to determine how much the Biden campaign” may need for legal fees, said Ami Copeland, who served as deputy national finance director for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. But, he added, “I’d presume they’ll have all the money that they might need for it. On top of the big donors, I would imagine there’s a plan being put together around grassroots fundraising to fund this, too, if needed.”
Small-dollar contributors could play a critical role in funding legal efforts, after demonstrating the power of mass donor mobilization around news events this year. When Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in late September, Democratic donors gave candidates and causes more than $70 million through ActBlue in a single day, the largest 24-hour haul ever for the Democratic fundraising platform.
The Biden campaign is expected to tap into the network of Democratic online donors again should the campaign get into a legal battle.
Democrats involved in the effort have also discussed close Senate races facing expensive litigation. The committee of attorneys discussed divvying up legal representation in Senate states, anticipating lawsuits filed in Arizona, Colorado and Montana to contest election results.
“Wait until you see the lawsuits that are going to be filed,” Cotchett said. “It’s going to become a legal nightmare.”