MADISON – The Republican-led Legislature’s budget committee is holding up reimbursements to two counties for their recount costs.
President Donald Trump’s campaign paid $3 million for recounts in Dane and Milwaukee counties, Wisconsin’s two most Democratic areas.
But two top Republicans said Friday they were withholding the money from the counties for now. They did not explain why.
Lawmakers “are playing politics with money that isn’t theirs,” said Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson.
“It’s acting in bad faith,” he said. “It’s not their money. It’s Trump’s money and this is what he decided to spend it on.”
Under state law, losing candidates can request recounts but must pay the cost upfront if they lost by more than 0.25 percentage points.
Trump lost Wisconsin to Democrat Joe Biden by 0.6 points and paid in advance for the recounts in the two counties. The recounts resulted in Biden slightly widening his lead, and courts so far have upheld Biden’s victory in the state.
The counties are required to calculate the actual costs they incurred and are supposed to be reimbursed. If their costs come in below estimates, the excess funds are supposed to be returned to Trump’s campaign.
A member of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has objected to making the reimbursements, according to a letter released Friday by the Republican leaders of the committee, Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills and Rep. Mark Born of Beaver Dam. The proforma letter did not say who on the 16-member committee had objected or why.
The letter said a meeting on the payments would be held but did not say when.
Aides to Darling and Born did not immediately respond to questions, but some observers expressed surprise that recount workers were paid $30 an hour in Dane County.
Dane County Board Chairwoman Analiese Eicher said on Twitter her county should have its costs covered.
“Expenses were incurred,” she wrote. “We did our job. Time to pay the bill. We’re not a contractor Trump and his allies in the WIGOP can stiff.”
Contact Patrick Marley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.