November 5th, 2008
06:00 PM ET
5 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. Sean in TX

    Hey Ron why don't you be quiet about Texas. Alot of people from here voted for him.

    November 5, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  2. apollo

    Everyone should read Dutch's comment below. It freakin awesome!

    November 5, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  3. Orval Smith

    Maybe, he could start with returning the salary the taxpayers have been paying him while he campaigned for President.

    November 5, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  4. Truth Hurts

    Then again, i'm pretty stupid...and petty...and ignorant. I mean, you can tell by all my posts. Go ahead, scroll and read them all. Maybe I should let it go and give President-Elect Obama a chance. Probably won't happen, though, cause I'm just too stupid. Oh well, I guess I'll just continue to make hate-stained comments on the internet where I can do so protected by anonymity. In reality, I'm a sorry wimp who wishes my guy had one cause i hate minorities.

    Truth Hurts

    November 5, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  5. Sally in Oregon

    Wow – such sour-pusses you are Truth Hurts, Mike, & et al... you're either very bad fortune-tellers or get your "facts" from some back woods home brew recipe. Be Brave – use your real names: Dopey, Sleepy, Grumpy, Sneezy...

    November 5, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  6. HappyDay!!!!!!!!!!

    Truth Hurts:

    I hate to say this, but it's people like yourself in the Republican party that helped Obama to win last night. Don't get me wrong, Obama has PLENTY going for him that he didn't need your help, but the stupi.di.ty coming from the right definitely didn't hurt.

    Please look beyond the typical tired ideology of your party and accept that the country needed this type of change.

    It's like the song goes: 'You can't always get what you want, you get what you need'. I think that line applies to all the bitter people on this board. You will all see soon that Obama is indeed an intelligent, pragmatic and fair leader who will keep everyone's best interests at heart.

    In the meantime, everyone in your party needs to do some serious soul searching to find out why people are abandoning your party all over the place. There is a reason for that, and you guys need to stop pointing fingers and instead look at yourselves.

    November 5, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  7. Richard

    Boy, the vitriol from the hard core McCain supporters is palpable. (For those McCain supporters, that means "you can feel it")

    Sour grapes taste yucky, don't they? After all the hate you spit during this campaign to destroy Obama (for that's what it was, not just to win, you wanted to break him and destroy his reputation and his standing in society) you'd think you could at least show as much decency as McCain did in his gracious concession speech. But no, you feel it proper to continue your campaign of hate. You just can't stand losing, that's all there is to it. Get over it. Go home. Volunteer in your community. Do something worthwhile that helps other people.

    November 5, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  8. Katie, IN

    Can we cut out all the smears and anger please? Whether you voted for him or not, he's your president now, and he deserves your respect. And if you don't like it... move.

    November 5, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  9. Steve

    He might as well keep it, since it won’t be worth anything in a few years anyway.

    It's truly a sad day for America when the uneducated majority decides to throw all their g-o-d given liberties away to one man who has promised so many things and has NEVER delivered on anything until claiming the Presidency.

    I hope to g-o-d that Nostradamus was wrong about the prophecy of the Anti-Christ. Unfortunately, he has been right on too many other occasions and Obama fits this to the tee. Go ahead and pull all the troops out of Iraq on Jan 21 and see what happens to this Country.

    If this country is still here in 4 years, Obama will no longer be President and we will have a REAL COMMANDER in Chief elected to office, and not a CON-MAN in Chief. I’m so sick of hearing him ask the American people to help him. I am not working 60 hours a week to pay for all these idiots on Welfare that elected you to office. This just shows you, his lack of experience and his inability to be President if he needs help running the Country.

    And no, Obama did NOT have a Landslide victory. His Victory was not even over 60%. When 47% of America Voted AGAINST him that goes to show that this Inexperienced Corrupt Chicago Senator has bought his way into the White House with his smooth talking, saying what you want to hear tactics. Thanks to the Media and all you kool-aid drinkers, you guaranteed that the USA will be a foot note in history.

    Go ahead CNN and moderate this post. It's what you are good at, denying the truth.

    November 5, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  10. ObamaVoter

    Hey Truth Hurts: I bet you voted for George Bush didn't you? And we all know where he put this country, in the toilet, your nothing but biggot!

    get use to saying President Obama, it's real

    November 5, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  11. Oblio

    Save the money for 2012.

    November 5, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  12. Gflyer1

    Truth of the matter is Bush and friends robbed this country
    and doesn't give a crap who takes over . Iraq wasn't about terrorism
    it was about contracts, that we the people paid for and owe .

    I'm Caucasian ,and very happy Obama was elected ,but i must say
    its a daunting task he has ahead of him

    November 5, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  13. Republican that voted for Obama/Biden TEXAS

    Some of Palin's clothes are missing!!!!!!!!!!! You betcha!!
    Read the article on The Huffington Post.com
    It's in the article where Palin answered the door with a bath towel around her.

    I'm so glad she is gone with "The First Dude". What she did to Senator McCain was horrible. He had no idea what she was doing.

    God Bless the USA

    November 5, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  14. Oblio

    LOL. Where do Republicans move to? Bermuda? Yeesh.

    November 5, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  15. Lyndon,CA

    After two years of campaigning, why not start campaigning for 2012 immediately. So the future federal campaign account makes sense.

    November 5, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  16. Kel

    The people have spoken. They want a chance for change. Give Obama a chance to try. Support him. He has 4 years. He got elected in by a clear mandate, not like 8 years ago where the results were disputed.

    We gave Bush 8 years. Let Obama try for 4. The economy is in dire straits because the Bush team "overlooked" economic policies for 8 years. Obama has a tough job and lots of things to prove.

    Let him do his job. If he doesn't, then don't re-elect him in 4 years. Don't be so sore. It's a democracy.

    November 5, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  17. sweetlou

    I've been donating to the 'bamster since the beginning. I trust he'll use the remainder in a worthwhile fashion. I hope it goes charity but I gave it to him with no strings attached. For all I care, he can use it to get some cool furniture for the kids' rooms.

    Love this new America I woke up in today...

    November 5, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  18. Chris

    I should move out of the country because I did not vote for Obama and do I want him as my President? I'm still waiting for people to move out that said they would when Bush was (re)elected. Yes, I'm talking to you Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, and ilk.

    It's funny how quickly people forget, when the tables are turned.

    November 5, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  19. Jennifer

    I really do not understand why people hate that Obama has been elected president. People say its got to do with his skin color but you know what god made them too. They have the same color blood as we do. Most of the people on here dont seem to have very much faith in america and frankly you attitude stinks. Suck it up and deal cause america just made history and I think it very exciting.

    November 5, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  20. Ryan

    Can everyone calm down and quit throwing around the negativity?

    November 5, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  21. sandy

    The Democrats may talk about the hate rhetoric from the Republicans but you Democrats need to look in the mirror first. Some of the worst blog hate I have read has come from Obama supporters. I won't deny some Republicans have also written blog hate but as I said some of the worst came from Obama supporters. Hate breeds more hate and this country does not need more hate esp over the Internet where you don't have to look someone in the eye to say the nasty things said. Lets begin with changing our own personal behavior in our homes and support our country with respect and love for the Constitution.

    November 5, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  22. Lucy

    Wish we could pay off Hillary's debt.

    November 5, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  23. Some dude

    I noticed a lot of anti-Obama comments. Well, having learned a lesson from the Bush administration, I have only one thing to say to those people:

    Stop being so anti-patriotic! This is our new president, and we live in a democracy. And if you don't support him then you hate America, and if you hate America by not supporting our president, you're not with America, you're against America, and if you're against America, you're a terrorist.

    See? It doesn't feel good to be called an un-American terrorist for simply expressing your views, now does it? Good. Glad we cleared that up. Hopefully we can move on now.

    November 5, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  24. ben

    frankly, i think obama can do whatever he wants with the money. people like me gave it to him and it's his for a future campaign if needed. i do think that paying of hillary's debt would be noble, but not required.

    for all of you who are incessantly whining about this, if you didn't donate to his campaign, what do you care? this isn't your money. it belongs to the 3 million+ of us who supported the campaign financially and will (god willing) be supporting President Obama again in 2012. and until he completely bungles everything (as republican president bush has) why not get behind the guy and help him bring the change he's tryiing to bring to this country?

    November 5, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  25. Ms. M

    Campbell Brown made a great suggestion. I say donate some to charity and help pay down Sen. Clinton's debt. As a supporter, I have full faith that President-elect (I love saying that) Obama will make great decisions on what to do with any remaining funds.

    November 5, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
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