November 5th, 2008
06:00 PM ET
6 years ago

Obama has choices for excess cash

There are strict federal guidelines on how unspent campaign funds may be used after the polls have closed.
There are strict federal guidelines on how unspent campaign funds may be used after the polls have closed.

(CNN) – So you’ve just finished a hard-fought campaign for federal office, and after paying off campaign expenses and debts, you find yourself with a tidy surplus of funds left over in your campaign coffers. What’s a candidate to do?

The campaign may be over, but there are strict federal guidelines on how unspent campaign funds may be used after the polls have closed and all the votes have been counted. Win or lose, candidates have a number of options available to them on how to dispose of any remaining funds in their campaign kitties, but not surprisingly, “personal use” is not one of the options.

Candidates with leftover funds may do any or all of the following:

· return the money back to the contributors;

· donate an unlimited amount to charity;

· donate an unlimited amount to a national, state, or local political party committee;

· contribute money to other candidates, subject to allowable federal contribution limits;

· convert their campaign committee into a political action committee;

· transfer the money to a future federal campaign account.

Therefore, if President-elect Barack Obama finds himself with a surplus of cash from his 2008 presidential campaign account, he could essentially use that money for a future federal campaign, say, a 2012 re-election bid.

The rules are slightly different for Republican nominee John McCain because he acceped public funding during the general election. McCain may exercise any of the above options when it comes to leftover funds from his primary or pre-convention campaign account. But any surplus funds from the taxpayer-financed $84.1 million he received after accepting the GOP nomination must be returned to the U.S. Treasury.

However, this may all be a moot point if both candidates spent most or all of their campaign warchests. Exactly how much money Obama and McCain have left in their accounts won’t be known until December 4 when the next file campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission.


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (544 Responses)
  1. Paul

    Yes to a President who listens to all opinions and not just a circle of Neo-Cons.

    Yes to a President who reads books and doesn't require complex questions to be boiled down to executive summaries like Bush,

    Yes to a President who works for all Americans, not just corporations and their shareholders.

    And yes to the several million volunteers who got out the vote so the election couldn't be stolen this time.

    And yes to an election where fear didn't win over hope.

    November 5, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  2. DAVE IN CA

    we will all know in 6 months what this guy is going to do......when the hammer falls he is either going to pull us out from under it or tie us down to the anvil for the big splat...... looking at the stock market today seems that the people are a little weary of obama's election to office and the money is going into the piggie banks at home.... guess the rich are going to crash the market before the great distributor of others money starts the big give away... guess fears will crash the system before he is even sworn in........ good choice america hope we are all not on the bread line.

    November 5, 2008 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  3. Brian

    Wow. I thought this blog was supposed to be about Obama's choices for using the extra campaign cash – apparently it's a space for "Truth Hurts" to share his (or her) Waterworld relapses!! "Smokers!!!!" Lol....

    I'm just glad to see that the majority is reasonable and open-minded, even if that majority is not a totality. Among some truly ridiculous and hateful blogs, many really great points were made. I think President Obama's going to do a great job – he's already warmed up the rest of the world to us, which can only be a good thing. How he chooses to spend the money his supporters wanted him to have is his decision; it wasn't like we gave him a bunch of terms and conditions to go with it. Taxes are a COMPLETELY different story, and anyone who's paid attention will know that Obama's fully aware of whom he's responsible to there.

    I hope everyone will drop the campaigning (as the candidates have) and all the negativity that goes with it. There will be time for that in 4 years. In the meantime, give Obama the chance to be a leader. He already has the responsibility to lead us out of the hole we've gotten ourselves in – it benefits no one to deliberately make it deeper.

    November 5, 2008 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  4. DAVE IN CA

    obama can give that money to the opponents of prop 8 here in california so they can buy the supreme court again to overturn the decision to ban gay marriage like they did earlier this year....... that will make the liberals even happier and the rainbows shine brighter in san fransisco

    November 5, 2008 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  5. Darlene

    I will like to thank all the supporters of the Obama campaign that worked so hard for the senator. I could not afford to take time off from work or school to campaign and I envy all of you guys. Job well done and I'm proud of all of you for getting the vote out.

    November 5, 2008 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  6. Tracey

    Dear Karl,

    RETIRE – “doggoneit”! This country has had it with the GOP's nasty, tasteless, dishonest, fabricated, unpatriotic, political tactics. You, along with the rest of the far-right, have almost single-handedly destroyed this Country.

    President-Elect Obama is a true Statesman.

    November 5, 2008 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  7. Toks Oke

    Like Super Bowl MVP – Go to DISNEY WORLD!!!!!

    November 5, 2008 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  8. Justin from New Haven, CT

    Keep the Cash Obama, we need you until 2016 at the minimum.

    November 5, 2008 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  9. George

    Obama won Fair and Square.
    No unusual ballot mis-counts. No hanging chads. No Supreme Court Appointments. He won with overwhelming popular vote and a huge electoral college vote.

    That is Democracy at it's best. Deal with it.

    If you don't like it here. Go back to where you came from.

    I just had to say that last bit. I'm so tired of hearing it from the right wing.

    November 5, 2008 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  10. southern chick

    Well, with all the homeless people just in the U.S. alone, it wouldn't be hard to look around and find (or even establish) a charity that could feed probably all of them. I am still sick to my stomach over the millions of dollars that were spent "campaigning" when our country is in financial ruins. I think they all went overboard and should be ashamed of the waste. I hope it was worth it. If not, then may God help us all.

    November 5, 2008 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  11. Sherrol in Canada

    OMG!!! Am I ever glad I'm Canadian, where, as a country we are tolerant of all cultures & creeds. The negative comments are totally disgusting at at times racist.

    GOBAMA...GOBAMA....GOBAMA!!!!!

    November 5, 2008 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  12. Tom

    I'll support our new president for as long as liberals supported Bush, and that is until his actions affect me. We Americans seem to only unite as long as it doesn't require some personal sacrifice. When personal sacrifice is required, then it's time to play the blame game. Thank God we have veterans to do our sacrificing for us while we go to the mall or out to dinner then whine about how terrible our president is making our lives.

    November 5, 2008 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  13. Hispanic for Obama

    I would prefer he keep most of the money I donated to him for a 2012 re-election, however if he decides to donate a portion of that to charity, it's fine by me.

    I look forward to Jan. 20th and the chance to repair the damage that George Bush and the Republicans have done.

    Obama/Biden!

    November 5, 2008 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  14. DAVE IN CA

    what about your precious, nancy pelozi, chris dodd, barney frank, and the ideal that all americans should own a home that could not pay for that home. now because of the great idea that banks should lend to people no matter what, which is a vision of the democrats that were in power then and still in power now crafted to gain political power but deny the blame for? do not point fingers you might look down and find them removed....

    November 5, 2008 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  15. Caight

    Josh, Pres-Elect Obama would not be misappropriating his funds if he did not give remaining monies to public campaign financing; I donated money specifically for Obama's campaign, not to the compaign of any other candidate,and, therefore, I would like to see the money used by Obama in 2012.

    Perhaps Obama should send a survey to all of his supporters (donors) and ask how they would like to see any left over campaign funds spent.

    Cate from Wyoming

    November 5, 2008 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  16. gerri

    Its time to get out the handcuffs and Orange jumpsuits for the treasonous ones that will soon be exposed.

    November 5, 2008 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  17. Jen

    I said this on another board, and I'll say it on these boards, too. Obama is not going to just PAY anyone's bills. He is not just going to cut a check to people who don't work. He does not condone laziness. He works hard, and he expects others to work hard, too. And yes, you still are going to have to worry about pumping gas in your car and paying your mortgage. You people who just want a free ride for contributing nothing are a disgrace.

    Congratulations, President Obama

    November 5, 2008 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  18. Cathy

    What is it with all you angry people? We just had an election. We all had the privilege of voting. In the past, people died so we could vote. Senator Obama won, fair and square. He will be our next president. If we don't like how he handles the job, we will have a chance to vote again in 4 years. So take a deep breath, then give him your support. He (and all of us) are going to need it. We are facing incredibly tough times. What are you going to do about that? What do you have to offer? Or do you just plan to hang on to your anger and hate?
    By the way, no one "took" any money from us. At least 2 million of us -including my son, who donated $12 – donated it willingly. I'm sure Senator Obama will continue to use it wisely.

    November 5, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  19. Shaun

    The People who still have such negative things to say should be ashamed of themselves.

    November 6, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
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