Trump ups spending on lawyers as U.S. election legal battles heat up

By Caroline Spiezio and Rick Linsk

(Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s campaign is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawyers to litigate voting by mail, including in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, Federal Election Commission (FEC) data showed.

The campaign paid more than $250,000 to Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, the law firm representing it in lawsuits over the use of drop boxes and other changes to Pennsylvania’s mail-balloting procedures, according to the data.

In the Nov. 3 elections, more voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail instead of in person because of the novel coronavirus pandemic https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKCN26F1WR but Republican Trump has repeatedly linked mail-in voting to voter fraud without providing evidence.

More than 200 election-related lawsuits have been filed, many of them focusing on mail-in ballots, which Democrats are more likely to use, according to some opinion polls.

Porter Wright did not respond to requests for comment. Trump campaign spokeswoman Thea McDonald declined to comment.

The Trump campaign in August paid out over $980,000 for legal services that month compared to about $332,000 in July, FEC data showed. It has spent over $3.9 million on legal services between March, when Biden began to emerge as the leading Democratic presidential contender, and August, according to the data.

Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s campaign by comparison spent about $660,000 on legal services during that period, the data showed. Nearly $472,000, went to the campaign’s outside general counsel firm Covington & Burling, home to former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder.

A Biden campaign representative declined to comment on the data.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on Sept. 17 that state officials could accept mail-in ballots up to three days after Nov. 3, as long as they were mailed by Election Day.

Pennsylvania Republicans indicated in court filings this week that they would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

Porter Wright represents state Republicans in that lawsuit, which was filed against Pennsylvania by the state Democratic party, and in a separate lawsuit brought by the Trump campaign in Pittsburgh federal court over mail-in voting.

Porter Wright – which has most of its offices in election battleground states Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio – was in August the Trump campaign’s second-highest paid firm. The top paid firm was Jones Day, the campaign’s outside general counsel.

Jones Day, which also has attorneys working on the Pennsylvania litigation, court records show, got nearly $350,000 in August – its biggest monthly payment from the Trump campaign this year, according to FEC data.

Jones Day did not respond to request for comment.

Reuters analyzed the campaign’s spending on lawyers using reports submitted to the FEC on Sept. 20, which cover spending up to Aug. 31. Those reports do not include spending by political action committees.

The legal services funding data isn’t broken down to show what litigation money was spent on, but it can be parsed by which law firm was paid, how much a firm received and when.

Porter Wright began receiving payments from the Trump campaign in June 2020, when it filed the Pittsburgh federal lawsuit. The Trump campaign paid the firm $25,000 in June and about $37,000 in July, FEC data shows.

Trump has declined to commit https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKCN26E3N7 to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election to Biden and has said he expects the election battle https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKCN26F1US to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Biden campaign has added top lawyers to its staff and established a “special litigation” team as it braces for potential legal fights. Those additions include former Obama administration attorneys and Marc Elias, a top elections lawyer at Perkins Coie, the Democratic Party’s go-to law firm.

Covington spokesman David Schaefer confirmed the firm is serving as the Biden campaign’s outside counsel but declined further comment.

(Reporting by Caroline Spiezio and Rick Linsk; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool)