November 5th, 2008
06:00 PM ET
10 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. Gays Lose Under Obama

    Obama did not support gay marriage and consequently gays have lost out in California and elsewhere.

    He was supposed to be the unity candidate and bring everyone together but he did not deliver on gay marriage.

    This is the first major disappointment to his supporters.

    November 5, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  2. Margo

    2012 Fund!

    November 5, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  3. Proud To Be An American...Finally

    A percentage to charity...the rest for the next step,2012.

    "Proud to be an OBAMAmerican"

    P.S.-Truth Hurts,much like the republican party and many of its followers,you are a waste of time,change is coming whether sweethearts like you are ready or not....ObamaRama,get with it or get out of the way.

    November 5, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  4. landandair

    To Midwest Besty-The fact that President Elect is Bi-racial means very little in the black community. The black community has accepted bi-racial or mixed race children and adults for over two hundred years. History will tell you that a person who has any Negroid blood is consider to be a Negro or black which is the term use down. He did not call himself black to get the black vote. He did not need to. The black community could very easely tell he was part black. There are many in the black community who look a lot like him. There are some in the white communities who look like him to. They call themselves biracial, we call them black and we accept them because they are of us. Peace and Happiness

    November 5, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  5. John Dorado

    I am ashamed of my fellow Democrats. What this country needs now is UNITY, all I read here is bable and anymosity. The character of a person can be measured in how the person behaves when he/she wins. I wonder if we can ever break this poisonous cycle and try to start talking and not yelling at each other without listening? Can't us all understand it? Obama will need the help and understanding of EVERYBODY if he wants to succed, not only of Democrats. Let's be gracious and humble with our win, we don't need to start with negatives.

    November 5, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  6. Uncle Fester

    wow- all these people that were calling him a socialist
    just a few days ago, now think that he should "spread the wealth" to them.
    Hypocrite, anyone?

    Good post Dutch, I agree with you completely

    November 5, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  7. JJL From Colorado

    So much for grace and humility.

    November 5, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  8. Robert Wiseman

    You know, I wasn't enamoured of Obama at first. I thought Hillary Clinton would be more likely to beat the Republicans. I am glad I was wrong. I am also glad that Hillary Clinton pushed him as hard as she did. This is as much her victory as his, given how tough a campaign she ran.

    I have to say that the campaign that Obama ran was the best I have ever seen. If he can put together an organization that developed that campaign then he has true leadership skills. I am now a believer and I hope that he continues to show the skill and intelligence that he demonstrated throughout the last couple of years and that he continues to grow and learn. If he does, he has the capacity to be one of the best Presidents in the history of the U.S.

    November 5, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  9. Jason

    He should use it for whatever he is allowed to use it for...Future campaign, charity, etc. I do feel that since it was given to him to further him politically, then he should use it for his next campaign. People who are complaining about his funds are just sad, sorry whiners and they should be very, very happy that Obama will be bringing us back to fruition........I am amazed by the people that believe he could possibly do any worse with the economy than has already been done...I keep hearing, tax and spend, here we about no tax, but spend more than we have? That works better.

    November 5, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  10. happy in California

    Use it for re-election in 2012. I don't mind you using my money for that!

    November 5, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  11. AJ-CT

    Truth hurts.....antidisestablishmentariasim!

    You lost, the TRUTH HURTS...join the rest of us and make the country what it can be....or try spelling the word after a six pack and continue your hateful diatribe!

    November 5, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  12. Jade

    You know the funniest thing about political comments is watching people change sides, those who wanted patience and understanding with bush, suddenly want it with Obama.

    Those who wanted unity suddenly want it with Obama why they themselves refused to unify in the past.

    What is even more funny is that they expect people to forget and move on, did they forget and move on last time when Bush won in 2004? nope they whined and complained the whole time.

    Now all the whiners are calling for Unity and all those that used to be calling for unity are crying like little babies.

    Get real there is no unity, millions supported Obama, millions support Mccain no one is going to unify that rift, all that happened is one side fo the rift took power from the other, it hasn't and will not go away.

    November 5, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  13. Carlos

    Truth Hurts, you are a moron !

    Yeah, that's right, Truth Hurts...

    November 5, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  14. Amanda

    "Why doesn't he give it to all of those struggling Americans that he was "fighting" for?"

    How about because he's not allowed to? The article is pretty clear on how he is allowed to deal with any excess funds, and last i checked individual people don't count as a charity.

    November 5, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  15. Kevin Steed

    Well you can call us sore losers or whatever. We got our butts kicked and deserved it. Maybe this will wake up us true conservatives. I think it’s funny about all the complaining about the shape of the economy and the poor folks losing their homes. What they just don’t seem to realize is that it was their stupidity as uneducated citizens when they signed the papers on those idiotic ARM Loans they bought. How that is the president’s or the liberal congress’ fault is beyond me. The economy is bad because of the US people. Let them also not forget that they kept voting for incumbents that did nothing but sell their interest to the Chinese.

    As for me, I will not support a man who does not salute the American flag. Everyone keeps talking about how we are a country divided. Maybe we should be. Let all the fools that voted for the far left move their tales to the blue states and send the conservatives to the red states. We can start a new country where all people are created equal under God, and the rest of you go keep killing your babies and see how fast you get into Heaven, with your new terrorist friend having president.

    November 5, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  16. Carole

    I read recently about the huge costs cities had to incur to provide protection, crowd control, overtime when the candidates came to town. Reimbursing cities who are already financially strapped would be a GREAT idea.

    November 5, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  17. Scott in Minneapolis

    Becky from the Midwest –

    What a sad life you must lead. You speak of things as though you not only know what you're talking about, but also as though you expect your utterances to move people to your side... Neither could be further from the truth. I'll say an extra prayer for you and your hardened heart tonight. Good luck finding something that makes you happy...

    November 5, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  18. Chuck

    This has nothing to do with this ticker.

    It is unfortunate that the lady congresswoman from Minnesota, namely, Michelle Bachmann was re-elected. The electorate from Minnesota must not have heard her comments about initiating an expose on all Democrats in Congress as to whether they are anti-Americans. This woman is divisive and mean and appears to be a fan of Joe McCarthy of the 1950s.

    I was hoping and praying that Minnesota would have given her the boot.

    November 5, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  19. helen

    Can you pay off my student loan which is ONLY $60,000? To you its a drop in the bucket.

    November 5, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  20. Democrat for McCain

    Obama is the anti-christ. Notice how they are already saying that times are tough and we need a tax increase. You bozo's who voted for Obama bend over and enjoy.

    November 5, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  21. Are you kidding me?

    George Bush was the used car! We just got rid of it and bought a new one! And new mechanics in the senate and house as well!

    Every since the election campaign stardted I could always tell who the opposition was! The comments was always negative...filled with pop shots and no substance.

    November 5, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  22. Grant Barker

    This Article has a very misleading title, since it has not been established that Obama has excess cash. Saying Obama has choices for excess cash implies that there actually is excess cash. CNN: Unsubstantiated implications is Fox News' game, not yours!

    November 5, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  23. Tina, NC

    Boy of boy the haters are still at it.

    Who wants to bet they form their own group similar to the PUMAs. Afterall, we know the PUMAs were really Republicans anyway.

    November 5, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  24. What a troll

    Truth Hurts-

    You are a troll. Next please.

    November 5, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  25. Soldier's kids

    If you really think it was a mistake:
    Set up a college fund for the Kids who lost their parents in IRAQ defending you & me!

    November 5, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
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