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. fred

    sad day in America. I will quit my 100K a year job because Obama will take care of ME. What a joke of a President. And , yes i can whine since i voted.

    November 5, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  2. Sharon

    If everyone who didn't agree with Barak moved to another country then who would pay all the taxes to pay for these (never going to appear anyway) programs. Not you who supported. You cast your vote and now you can go back to pushing carts at Wal Mart or standing in the welfare line. Nothing will change for you regardless of who you voted for. You got scammed.

    November 5, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  3. Yes We Can and WE DID!!!

    I contributed a lot to his campaign and he is free to do with it what He Feels is best. No big deal....I will send more for his 2012 campaign.

    All the sore losers on this blog must be Republicans, thus contributed NOTHING ...therefore you have NO say.

    November 5, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  4. shayne

    I wish that I had some money so that I could leave what is predicted to rapidly become a completely Godless nation. CNN even said that they were worried that if the Dems won too much of a majority they would force extremely radical beliefs on the rest of us, including making abortion legal all the way unitl birth. You all voted for change, not get ready to take your medicine when you do not like the change you get.

    November 5, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  5. Proud Chicagoan

    I'd like to see him donate it to charitable organizations. I know that here in the state of Illinois, we loss some really important funding that came from the state that was matched by the feds. A lot of programs loss important funding or were shut down all together. That money can help.

    This race was important for a number of reasons. I read what Dumb Republican wrote and agreed. There are issues in both parties and each group should consider what to do to achieve the overall goal. Is it really an issue of party or an issue of ideas? I have voted for the other party based on what I felt was right. Had my candidate, the one who best suited my needs, been of a differing party, I would have voted for them. Let's get past the partism.

    A friend of mine called me 2 days ago and said the whole world is watching Chicago. We knew that here and it has been awesome. All eyes are on the US. The world has seen our ugly side. Let's move on and show them what is right and good about us. I'll meet you in the center of the aisle.

    Proud Chicagoan

    November 5, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  6. Give it to Hillary

    With the promise that she will never come back!

    November 5, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  7. Erasr

    I would say save some for the 2012 re-election campaign or help Hillary pay down her debt.

    November 5, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  8. Amused

    Truth Hurts... are you even old enough to vote? My 6th grade son has better insults than you, and better insight in what this nation needs in a leader. My advice to you is pray. Pray that the Lord softens your heart from the strong grip of hatred that seems to fuel your ignorance and loose tongue. As my grandmother used to say, "Careful what you speak. Your sharp tongue may very well slit your throat."

    November 5, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  9. Preston

    Even though I supported the losing candidate I am secretly happy that that wack job Palin is going back to Alaska never to be heard from again. God willing.

    November 5, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  10. Betty

    How funny that the liberals don' t want us to say anything about Obama calling us sore losers. How about the last eight years all the whinning about Bush. Obama is a liar and he has fooled all of you that voted for him and the comments that say move out. NO WAY. in 2012 the republicans will be back in the white house because Obama is going to fail on all of his promises!

    November 5, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  11. Stacia

    Wow.....these blogs are intense.

    How about this. I am educated white woman and I voted for McCain. HOWEVER, today I am very proud to be an American because Barack Obama was elected. I was sorry that I could not contribute to his win, I just don't agree with his policies, that's all. So now, I hope that he will lead from the center, and if his terrific acceptance speech was any indication, he will.

    In addition, I would like to say that I think that McCain's concession speech was beautiful. It was in no way filled with hate, etc. Rather, it wished President Elect Obama the best and all of us the best.

    So now, in the day to day of our lives, it is up to us to come together as Americans. Politicians cannot do that for us. Perhaps, we could start with our blogs, best to all.

    November 5, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  12. Steven in Utah

    I hope the campaign spends the money on one-way tickets to some other country for any idiot here that doesn't recognize the historic nature of what just happened. I would have paid my own way had McCain and the Republican's won because I couldn't have stood for four more years of fear, smear, lies and incompetence. Congratulations to Obama and all the people that worked so hard to get him elected as the USA and the world just became a much better place to live in.

    November 5, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  13. fleetwood

    It's amazing just how NASTY the democrats can be....even after they've won the election.

    Obama's election team is the real winner here, they've pulled off the marketing coup of the century – getting someone with absolutely NO qualifications into the White House.

    After all the Kumbaya is over and the Oprah Kool-Aid wears off, time will tell...

    November 5, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  14. Benz

    I have been an Obama since the primary's but I hope that Obama campaign pay off Hillary's debt. She worked with all her hearth for Obama. The rest they can save for future campaign. The best Obama can do for his donors is his best to keep is promise especially with job creation. If people start going back to work with normal pay, every other issue will fall into place.
    Too bad there are still people who refuse to even think why Obama has all these great people with experience from both party behind him. Anyway, not everyone accepted Christ not alone a human being.
    Despite what we have heard and read in the bible, If Christ comes again, he will still be crucified by people who refuses to learn from history.

    November 5, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  15. Darrell

    I think Obma should allow the contibutors to vote on what option he should use with the extra funds.To me it sounds like something that he would do as he is a true blue leader for the people.Not that anyone wants to see anymore polls,it would be great to let the people decide.

    November 5, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  16. Are you kidding me?

    1 Peter 3
    13Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear[b]; do not be frightened."[c] 15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

    "So much for Robocalls and idiotic character attacks!"


    November 5, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  17. Woot!

    And by the way...the "Truth Hurts" person seems desperate and pathetic. The truth apparently does hurt!
    President Obama wins!!

    November 5, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  18. In Good Company

    Reality Sets In: For President-Elect Obama to do anything like that "in the next few days" would be an un-Constitutional power grab. President Bush is, as that word in front of his name implies, our President, and will remain so until January 20th. I don't love that fact, but it's true, and for President-Elect Obama to try to usurp his role before he's sworn in would do nothing to heal the divisiveness that plagues our country... instead, it would give fodder to those already inclined for whatever reason to see President-Elect Obama as a tyrant in the making.

    For my part, I donated and I would be perfectly happy to see the money stay in his hands for the next election. Why should he give it back? We donated freely. We the people. We're very happy that Senator Obama changed his mind about public financing and instead allowed us to contribute in such a real way to the success of his campaign. If it goes to charity, though, I will not begrudge that fact.

    November 5, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  19. Ken, California

    To all you GOP bloggers out there throwing trash towards Obama, I think you should consider giving his administration a chance before you proclaim doom and gloom. And to those of you that continue to spread the same lies towards both candidates, check your facts before you utter your crap – and CNN, don't keep publishing stupid nonsense utterings and try selecting comments that shows a level of insight and understanding of the topics, please...

    November 5, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  20. Pua, HI

    I wouldn't mind him paying off some or all of Hillary's campaign debt.
    She campaigned tirelessly for him and her support, along with her husband Bill's contributed to Barack's win.

    November 5, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  21. Artful

    Truth Hurts...That you are a bitter loser, with little vision or hope for the future of the country. I unlike others feel sorrow for you and hope that at some point your empty shell is filled with a new lust for the possibilities that life in a great country can bring!

    November 5, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  22. hilaryb

    I, as an Obama supporter, would like to see it go to charity.

    November 5, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  23. John for Obama

    TRUTH HURTS your kind is in the death throws right are the new minority oh how the tables have turned on you biggots

    November 5, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  24. blkkbbeauty


    November 5, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  25. andrea from MA

    please pay for me to get a master's degree to teach english as a foreign language because i can only get work teaching abroad with just a BA which i did for 4 years in the czech republic during the 1st 4 years of the bush administration. i wanted to do this for my country because i was brought up by the motto noblesse oblige and president kennedy's famous words ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country !!!!!! also to not live under the bush administration. it was great . i thought he would be a 1 term president like his father so i came home also the dollar tanked against the euro so prague was no longer cheap to live. when i lived there i paid rent and ate well on only $600.00 a month. i would like to stay in the states and teach at a community college. colleges in the states won't hire me without a master's degree even with experience.

    November 5, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
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