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. Lando


    November 5, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  2. Lisa M.

    send it back the middle east – where it came from?

    November 5, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  3. pat

    It is easy to say to Obama to return the money. How many times have we returned something that is given free to us? Obama should keep it because he has earned it. He should keep the cash but deliver on the promises.

    November 5, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  4. Finally

    The Baby Boomer vote has officially been rendered... USELESS. Good riddance to bad rubbish!

    November 5, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  5. annie - never again a dem.

    How about giving it back to the foreign countries he took it from – novel idea.

    November 5, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  6. 2012!

    Save it for 2012? I really don't see anyone challenging Obama seriously, the Republican Party needs to go reform because it's right wing conservatives drove it to the ground.

    You were once the party of Lincoln, who wanted equality, what happened?

    November 5, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  7. Mavwreck

    Truth hurts-
    time to get that Prozac prescription refilled

    November 5, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  8. Linda from Minnesota

    The thing that tickles me and I am not a mean person; these so-called conservative "christians" are all upset about what we "liberals" are going to do to them. I have a question for them – How does it feel to have policies shoved down your throat that you don't agree with? We put up with your crap for 8 long years – payback time. I know, unite the country and I'm all for that but let me at least enjoy this for a day or two.

    November 5, 2008 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  9. Chucky-el

    Give it to the Republican Party for:
    Palin/Joe the Plumber 2012
    You Betcha!

    November 5, 2008 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  10. Grateful

    I'm grateful for all the good, caring people that call themselves Americans. I love this country and its' people, all of them. "What color is God's skin?" Anyone old enough to remember that song from the sixties? I'm half Irish and lots of other nationalities on the other side of the family. I've always claimed to be Irish. If your not 100% then those that are don't think you're Irish. It's the same with any nationality or race. There are always those that can't accept a mixture. After having several pure bred dogs and experience all their quirks and medical problems I got a mutt found abandoned. Best dog I've ever had, the one no one wanted. Let's look for the good in everyone and stop complaining. During one of the WW there was a song that said to "accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative". When will complaining, blaming,finger pointing, name-calling end. It happens on both sides. I think we are all ready to get down to the business of being happy and putting into perspective what we really need to be happy. Isn't that what we want for our spouses and our children, happiness?

    November 5, 2008 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  11. sandee in Portland

    To all you bigoted, uneducated, racist morons who are still spouting the lies and hate the republican campaign touted during their rallys, if you don't like our new President, move out of the country. You do no good for our country anyway. You obviously are not for unity or for even giving someone different from you a chance. So, leave our country and take your hate with you.

    The blatant lies put for by the McCain/Palin campaign was the reason I voted for Obama, along with the fact that he was the more intelligent, educated, calm, rational person who actually gave us a plan.

    November 5, 2008 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  12. Barbara CA

    'Truth hurts',
    Right now, you wouldn't know truth if it bit you on the backside.
    Truth and hate are two different words with very different meanings.
    Take a little time off and learn what truth really means and it will help you in your own life. Really!

    November 5, 2008 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  13. Doug

    1. Pay off Hillary's campaign debt.

    2. Keep it for 2012

    3. Buy clothes, just kidding.
    BTW... Is Palin really going to give her $150,000 wardrobe paid for by RNC donations to charity? When & Where? Maybe on eBay. Another oil-rich Alaska earmark.

    November 5, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  14. Truth Hurts

    Lets face it.

    The Smoker in Chief will lead to an increase in smoking for young people.

    What a bad role model.

    November 5, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  15. Get a grip

    Rock on Obama! Yes! We voted and he has WON this is awesome! Wake up PEOPLE! GOD is in control he knows everyone's future and he know exactly what is going to happen. Stop being IGNORANT! This is GOD plan. You want to know how the story goes READ THE BIBLE! Good Grief get a life! Did it ever occur to Americans if we wouldn't be so selfish and take everything for granted and would have appreciated everything we are blessed with. Lets work together not against each other and get the RESPECT back that we need and bring are boys home.

    November 5, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  16. Truth Hurts is actually George W Bush

    Truth Hurts is actually George W Bush

    He's mad because his best friend Mac lost big time!

    November 5, 2008 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  17. Holly from Minnesota

    I would love to see that money to go to help feed all the people made homeless by Bush. Pick a tent city–any tent city!

    November 5, 2008 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  18. hilaryb

    I expect all of you who keep talking about Obama's proposed tax cuts as being "welfare" to send your tax refunds back to the IRS.

    November 5, 2008 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  19. teachergirl

    Please donate it to the inner city urban schools. We surely need it!

    November 5, 2008 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  20. Abraham lincoln

    This is amazing! I though the elction was over? People are posting and have not read the article. Why are some people so negative and wish bad things upon this country they claim to love.

    November 5, 2008 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  21. tim

    Blame Obama time has started. I don't suppose any of the repugnantcan snobs in here have the intelligence to understand that the sell-off was mitigated by the wealthiest of Americans that want to suck as much out of capital gains and move as much money as they can overseas to continue to rape the working people in the country by not paying their fair share. It was those some people that created dirivitives that none could understand and sold them as equity that turned out to be worthless that caused the giant housing crash. Of course their mindless zombies that they use and throw away will continue to chant "the democrats did it." If you look at a 400 pt drop in the market as a loss then you lost before you started because one day in the market is next to meaningless for anyone that makes less than millions and doesn't trade daily.

    November 5, 2008 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  22. Howard

    Hello? GA Senate runoff?

    November 5, 2008 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  23. SOPHIA RHEAU, 23, FL

    He should retire Hillary's debt.

    November 5, 2008 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  24. Sophie from Grand Junction

    OK let's watch for the return of the $150K in clothes –
    come on people – its over; Obama won let's follow both his and McCain's speechs and frankly, get over it – let's work together for the common good.

    November 5, 2008 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  25. Tom

    Why doesn't he donate it to the US Treasury? One of our most pressing national needs is to reduce our debt.

    November 5, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22