- The FEC ordered Jill Stein to repay $175,272 to the United States Treasury within 30 days.
- The commission determined that she used public financing money long after she was no longer eligible.
- The 2016 Green Party candidate is often blamed by liberals for helping elect Donald Trump.
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On Friday, the Federal Election Commission announced that 2016 Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein owed $175,272 in public financing funds to the US Treasury and must pay it within 30 days.
The announcement follows a finding that Stein continued to use public funds past the point when she was legally eligible. In total, she received $590,936 in matching fund payments for her campaign in 2016.
In fact, Stein received a payment of $134,900 in January 2017 that she was not qualified to receive, according to an audit by the commission. That figure, plus another $40,372 - roughly 20% of the $200,856 in extra money that committee had on hand following the presidential campaign - make up the roughly $175,000 figure that she now owes.
An audit of her campaign found that she "overstated" the amount of money needed for winding-down expenses while understating the amount of cash she still had left on hand. The audit also found that Stein's campaign broadly misrepresented its spending, donations, and debts, all to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Stein was approved for public funding to seek her own party's nomination in April 2016, but the commission said she was ineligible to keep using the money after the Green Party's nominating convention on August 6 of that year, since those matching funds were only for primary campaigns.
But Stein's campaign argued that she didn't have to repay the funds because her campaign was actually in the red. Stein's lawyers argued in June 2019 that her campaign was allowed to use the taxpayer money as part of efforts to gain ballot access in various states during the fall of 2016, under the reasoning that the "quest for access to the general election ballot is effectively a primary election for independent and non-major party candidates."
Stein's team also tried to raise the issue of "winding-down expenses," which may include things like paying staffers, consultants and advertisers as the campaign closes down. But the commission's legal counsel said the campaign "did not properly raise the issue."
"Merely mentioning the subject of winding down expenses in the written submission, without any explanation, reasoning, or argument - indeed, purporting to defer any elaboration to a later time - is insufficient to raise an issue for administrative review," wrote the commission's lawyers in a lengthy report on the campaign committee.
Those arguments, along with the lack of a quorum on the commission for most of 2020, caused the proceedings to drag on into 2021.
But ultimately, the commission didn't buy it, and now Stein - who Democrats have often blamed for being a "vote-spoiler" for Democrat Hillary Clinton in key swing states - is on the hook for more than $175,000.