House Democrats Can Use Taxpayer Money to Overturn an Election

As Democrats contest Iowa race, there’s a slush fund they can draw on

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) / Getty Images
March 26, 2021

If House Democrats get serious about contesting a tight House election in Iowa, they will have a slush fund at their disposal.

Hidden in the House rules package is a provision for "Further Expenses for Resolving Contested Elections," a one-year fund lawmakers can tap in their quest to overturn a House election they lost in Iowa.

While members of either party can access the unlimited sums allocated to the fund, only Democrats are contesting an election right now. A provision in the House Democrats’ rules package "authorizes such sums as may be necessary for the Committee on House Administration to resolve contested elections." Those funds are available for expenses incurred between Jan. 3, 2021, and Jan. 3, 2022. If used, the money would be drawn from legislative branch appropriations funding and would not be publicly disclosed until the end of the quarter.

Democrats have assailed Republicans who voted to contest the 2020 election but are now seriously considering overturning a congressional race they lost that was certified by local officials.

It is unclear whether top Democrats plan to use the fund to contest the election of Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R.), who narrowly defeated Democrat Rita Hart by a six-vote margin in November. Democrats are, however, actively working on unseating Miller-Meeks by a House vote and have brought in one of their top lawyers to make their case.

Hart is represented in her bid to unseat Miller-Meeks by Democratic lawyer Marc Elias, who also works for many of the House Democrats who will decide the case. Hart and Elias are taking their case directly to the House Committee on Administration, rather than through the judicial system. Republicans, led by Rep. Rodney Davis (R., Ill.), the ranking member on the Committee on House Administration, wrote about the "serious conflict of interest regarding Marc Elias" earlier this month.

Elias proposed a timeline to resolve the election by July 12, and the legislative provision allows Democrats to pay him from the fund if they so choose. Lawyers from Elias’s firm, Perkins Coie, charged $720 an hour in a 2019 North Carolina case, according to court documents.

Miller-Meeks’s campaign lawyer, Alan Ostergren, told the Washington Free Beacon that Elias’s ties to both Hart and committee Democrats "only highlights the financial entanglements between Rita Hart and Democrats on the Committee on House Administration."

Davis told the Free Beacon that "not only are Democrats trying to steal a state-certified election from Iowans, where the Democrat candidate didn’t even take her case to court because she knew she would lose, but they’ve created an unlimited fund of their tax dollars to do it."

In the past week, several key swing Democrats announced their opposition to overturning the Iowa election. Rep. Dean Phillips (D., Minn.), was the first to go on record. "Just because a majority can, does not mean a majority should," Phillips wrote. Following Phillips’s lead, Democratic representatives from California to New Hampshire began voicing objections.

Pelosi’s office did not respond to a request for comment about the fund.