The campaign of former Gov. Pat McCrory spent about $260,000 through a legal defense fund after Election Day to challenge absentee ballots, vote-counting practices and voter eligibility.
The legal battle was costly for now-Gov. Roy Cooper’s campaign too, but it’s difficult to determine the exact cost because he did not set up a separate legal defense fund.
McCrory’s total appears in campaign finance reports filed this month with the State Board of Elections. McCrory, a Republican, had sought a recount, and he and his allies had filed election protests after election-night totals showed him losing to Cooper by just thousands of votes.
Some filings claimed that ineligible voters had cast ballots, while others claimed absentee-ballot and vote-counting irregularities. But nearly all the complaints were rejected by the elections board.
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Hearings on the protests meant that Democratic challenger Cooper was not formally declared the winner until early December.
The governor’s race “overtime” – as McCrory once described it – proved expensive for both campaigns, which repeatedly asked supporters to donate money to fund the legal process.
McCrory’s finance report includes a $24,257 bill from attorney Roger Knight, as well as a $40,000 bill from Shanahan Law Group, which includes attorney John Branch, who represented the campaign before McCrory appointed him to chair the State Ethics Commission.
The legal fund also spent $46,563 on payroll expenses for about a dozen campaign staffers who remained employed into December, as well as travel expenses for the staffers who reviewed ballot records in counties across the state looking for evidence of voter fraud.
McCrory had help from the campaigns of U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, fellow Republicans who each chipped in $4,000 to the legal defense fund.
The final report by the Cooper campaign for 2016 does not include payments to the national law firm of Perkins Coie, which represented the campaign and the N.C. Democratic Party in Board of Elections hearings.
Kevin Hamilton and Marc Elias – who also represented Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign – helped Cooper oppose voter-fraud allegations.
Morgan Jackson, a representative for the Cooper campaign, said Tuesday that the legal expenses aren’t included in the finance report because the campaign hasn’t received the bills yet. Jackson said he expects the “six figure” payments will appear in the first finance report of 2017. The cost may be split with the N.C. Democratic Party, he added.
Like the McCrory campaign, the Cooper campaign continued to pay a number of staffers, fundraising consultants and office-space rent into December – long after campaigns would typically wind down operations.
The final campaign-finance reports of 2016 also show how costly the race was. McCrory raised a total of $15.8 million during 2015 and 2016, while Cooper raised $24.7 million during the same period. Those figures don’t include spending by outside groups.