September 9, 2020

Front Page Of The American Lawyer: Mix of Big, Boutique Firms Among Kanye2020's $400k Legal Spend

Mix of Big, Boutique Firms Among Kanye2020's $400k Legal Spend

Viewed by many as a vanity campaign, Democrats and Republicans are taking it seriously for different reasons. 

Hearing Kanye West is running for president elicits a collective groan from many. But the same was said of President Donald Trump in 2016, so perhaps we should pay attention. The legal community certainly is, as according to FEC campaign disbursement disclosures, West’s presidential campaign, Kanye2020, spent a little over $400,000 in legal fees in July and August of this year. 

The designation “legal fee” under the disbursement description in Kanye2020’s filings include one Am Law 100 firm, Husch Blackwell (No. 100), which was paid $20,000, and a series of smaller, more boutique firms such as New York’s Pardalis & Nohavicka, which got $130,000 from Kanye.

Other smaller firms listed on the disclosure include Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson out of Minnesota ($25,000), Curran and Pfeil out of Wisconsin ($5,000), Bowels Rice of West Virginia ($20,000) and Phillips Murrah out of Oklahoma ($5,000). 

Millennial Strategies, which bills itself as a communications and government relations firm, was the largest recipient of funds designated as “legal fees,” with $145,000, but also handled other elements listed as “notary and printing,” so it is unclear whether any actual legal work was done. That company also received $205,000 for “campaign website services.” 

Overall the campaign has spent over $7 million and has faced its share of questions and controversy.

In Virginia, West’s campaign was sued for essentially duping electors into signing up to support him. One such person told New York Magazine’s Intelligencer that someone approached her at a shopping mall and asked her to sign to support putting “somebody’s name on the ballot.” When told it was West by the reporter, she asked if she could take her name off. 

In Arizona, where West was thrown off the ballot Sept. 3 and not allowed to run as an independent candidate since he is registered as a Republican in Montana, the secretary of state issued a letter to West’s campaign lawyer there asking the campaign to “please spare us any further publicity stunts.” West’s campaign is going to appeal the decision in court.

West has litigation pending in five other states, and is currently on the ballot in at least 12, according to New York Magazine, including Iowa and Minnesota, two Midwest battleground states.

Getting popular support for his political campaign has been a challenge, and West’s campaign has responded by paying churches and other gathering places for the right to collect the necessary signatures to qualify. 

Democrats, in general, are opposed to Kanye’s campaign, arguing that there is the potential for him to siphon Black voters away from Democratic party nominee Joe Biden. The GOP seems to also believe this, as many of the firms and consulting organizations listed as receiving money from West’s campaign have Republican ties. 

West was hoping to be on several other state’s ballots, but was kicked off for a variety of reasons including not filing in time (Wisconsin), not getting enough signatures (Illinois, Montana, West Virginia) and for not having a matching candidate signature and statement of candidacy on petitions circulating to be signed and those that were submitted by the campaign (Ohio).

With deadlines looming, West’s best showing would be to appear on 12 state’s ballots: Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Mississippi (a decision by Mississippi will be issued Sept. 8), which, if he won them all, would net him a total of 89 electoral college votes. A candidate needs to hit 270 to win the election. So, for the time being, President Kanye will have to wait. 

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