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. sandy

    You all can blame Bush all you want for the economy but please realize these problems began long before any of the Bushs. We are still paying for the NEW DEAL and the stock market crash then. Don't kid yourselves. The winner of the Presidential run doesn't matter. Look to the House and the Senate for what matters in this country. What have you seen them do besides spend on pork-doesn't matter the party of the President?? Congress is who needs to be looked at. Winners or losers–doesn't matter. We had all better be working for this country to succeed. Otherwise we all suffer the loss.

    November 5, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  2. Oregon Duck

    I'd think that President-Elect Obama would help pay off the campaign debt of Hillary Clinton who did the right thing following her Primary defeat, and I hope he puts her expertise on the committee to reform America's broken Health Care System, as that is why I supported her in her Primary bid for President. Our Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is also an expert and one to add to the committee with Sen. Clinton. It would be wonderful if the remaining balance of his campaign dollars could go to the U.S. Treasury as a purchase of U.S. Savings Bonds, something we all should be doing weekly just as the generations before us did during the war efforts when money was tight in that important part of government reserves. In fact, our household is hoping Pres. Obama calls upon us all to purchase savings bonds as something we all can do now that no more campaign money is needed to back our winner. That would be a proper call to action every household could support by at least $25 per week purchases per household member. That is, of course, if we truly understand the dire circumstances this country faces and how to best help it up on solid ground once again.

    It sounds like there are many bitter McCain supporters who still believe the ugly campaign sound bites of the loosing party. The Republicans need to take stock of their alignment with ultra-right wing party members that took over control in 2000, then tried to dictate severe and off-the-deep-end religious doctrine and intolerance to us all. That kind of stuff should end now. We Baby Boomers helped Pres. Elect Obama win this victory and we remember the stuggles of the '60s, so our children need to realize we are all in this WIN together, but we must get busy now and do the necessary work in supporting our government rebuild a war-torn country and our nation' financial well-being.

    November 5, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  3. Texas Teacher

    The kids at my school were walking around with silly grins on their faces all day long! They were relaxed, it was like a weight was lifted off their young shoulders. Sometimes I would quietly say, "It's a proud day, isn't it?" Their faces would shine and they would tell me that it was!

    Now these kids have hope... and they feel like... that just maybe.... just MAYBE America likes them.... we really, really like them! I teach African American and Hispanic students! I love them!

    Oh, hey, I'm American Indian... and half White. 🙂

    November 5, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  4. June in Canada

    Hey Guys, I'm just watching our Canadian news and they say that when the Obama win was announced during the Canucks hockey game, the place went mad and he was given a standing ovation.

    November 5, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  5. move forward

    It would be nice if everyone could just try to pull together for the sake of the country. Democrat, Republican, white, black, red, green, whatever.... why can't we work towards a better tomorrow? Just because you may or may not have gotten your candidate elected let's accept the election and move forward. It isn't Obama's fault the stocks fell today. Who's fault was it last week? and the week before? While it seems an extreme amount of money is wasted on campaigns the truth is that an election year puts a lot of cash in the pockets of several all times one business is hurt and another profits.... wouldn't you have liked to own a sign making company this past year? or banners? advertising? graphic arts for print work? lots of people and business have profited from the money spent on a campaign... money was donated and the money was pumped right back into the economy – how many people were employed to run the two campaigns? think about it....every town a rally was held in whether it was dem. or rep. some business had exposure and increased sales due to all the people that came to isn't all bad

    November 5, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  6. beth

    why not use it to pay for all the tax breaks he plans to give everyone. not sure where else he plans to get the money to pay for a socialized healthcare system, wait and see everyone, you'll all be sorry. I'm moving my money out of my 401k before that is used to share the wealth with everyone who's too lazy to earn their own.

    November 5, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  7. Nelson

    Or maybe he can use the money to pay off Palin's Wardrobe expenses!

    Hey Truth Hurts..... did it hurt last night? LOL! Sorry buddy but you and your party had your chance for 8 years and look where it got us. Your opinion is no longer valid because it's obvious that you have NO idea what being right on the issues is.

    November 5, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  8. Bob PDX

    Steve needs an education. Maybe he'll be able to get one when President Obama enacts legislation to make college more affordable.

    November 5, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  9. Eric

    It seems like only yesterday that my right leaning coworkers would give me a hard time over my anti Bush feelings, even going so far as to call me unpatriotic. My how the tables have turned. And I love it.
    Told them all today keeping the McCain stickers on their cars was just screaming "LOSER!".

    November 5, 2008 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  10. Reaaly

    Wow! So much hatred here in these posts! No wonder our country and our world is filled with pain and wars and suffering! We get what we deserve don't we?

    November 5, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  11. Mike Dallas

    That should teach the reptilians to mock "community organizers".

    Looks like he beat the pitiful old warrior pretty successfully.

    November 5, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  12. Somebody who listened to both candidates' speaches last night

    To all participants in this seemingly unending and poisonous dialogue:

    Did anybody actually LISTEN to either Senator McCain or President-elect Obama last evening? You know, the parts about working together, no red or blue but United States, etc. ? I'd think both of them would be sick at some of the venom their supporters are spewing here. I voted for Senator McCain, but President-Elect Obama will be my President (and all Americans' president) come January 20. The republic comes first, so stop the bickering. I'm a concerned citizen and I approved this message.

    November 5, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  13. Kat

    Pay back Clinton's debt? She's worth $10 million dollars! Let her swallow the debt. Why should we pay it back for her? She's not offering to pay off your debt, is she?

    November 5, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  14. Colin

    Truth Hurts- Obama has already quit smoking and there is an article in Men's Health about him and quitting. Nice try. Also, John McCain was a smoker as well so be careful. Also, they agreed to do public funding but the criteria that was set up to do it wasn't met so they funded their campaigns whatever way they wanted to. McCain could of done private funding if he wanted to. Why are you complaining? Obama's funding came all from private donors while McCain's campaign is being paid for by all the tax payers...give me a break.

    I agree help pay Sen. Clinton's debt since she helped him so much during this campaign and then with the rest give it to a Charity or if there was something he could even do with it for the nation, depending on how much is even left though.

    President Obama it sounds soooo good. All the Republicans now need to get over the fact McCain didn't get elected and rally behind Obama because whether you like it or not he is going to be your President too. Don't give me this "i'm moving out of the country" line either because you aren't moving, plus over 70% of the world is Obama supporters so you'd never escape it. Together we will unite this country and move it forward but it will require the help of EVERYONE!!!!

    November 5, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  15. lou

    hey, truth hurts, so many have had something to say about your comment that i just had to see for myself you were as big an a–hole as it sounded... yup, you are. you are sooooo yesterday's dirty diaper. it must be tuff being you!

    November 5, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  16. michael s

    Hey Steve and all others who think like you:

    You're the idiot, buddy. I work 60 hours too. I'm not on welfare. Between my wife and I, we have 4 degrees. So stuff it, man.

    As JFK said, "ask not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

    True democracy is a shared responsibility. If you do want to partake, I hear the Caymans are nice.

    I'm sure with your paycheck, you can afford the one-way ticket.

    November 5, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  17. Christian

    It is really sad to see that some Americans are so narrow minded. Steve do you even read your word right. The Anti-Christ comes after the rapture. Idiots on welfare?????????? that is rather ignorant of you. Because if you have your facts straight you would know that not only people on welfare elected him. People like you did too.

    He is now the president for the next 4 yrs God willing next 8.


    November 5, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  18. Simmy

    They have made great decisions all during the campaign, I'm sure they'll continue to do so. I have no problems with them handling my money. I supported before and will do it in 2012!


    November 5, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  19. Marge

    You know, you people with such stupid thoughts – how can you supposedly be AMERICANS and think and talk and act as you do. I did not vote for Obama. Actually, I didn't want to vote for either one. But the freedom that we have to vote is precious, and so I voted. I believe the best man won. I am a Christian and nothing will ever change that!! I believe that God is in control regardless of whether it is Republican or Democrat. It is up to us as Americans to stand behind the one that was chosen and do our part in our community to better our system in our towns and cities. We seldom remember that a president alone does not make the decisions. He can veto and make that decision. But it takes a lot of people to either make things happen or not happen and the president then gets the blame or the compliments for same. I pray for Obama. He is our President Elect and he will do well.............with what he has to work with. Trashing him and those around him only shows your ignorance and stupidity.

    November 5, 2008 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  20. Dr. Lecter, Baltimore MD

    Barack Obama saved us, the tax payers, $85 million by collecting small, private donations.

    What's not to love about that?

    November 5, 2008 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  21. John Adamson

    Obama will run this country into the ground. We can then use the excess campaign funds for dole payments to the unemployed.

    November 5, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  22. Max

    The arrogance of Democrats just one day after a victory is deafening. It'll be their downfall. Not regrettably.

    November 5, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  23. sandy

    Democrats need the Republicans to make all the changes Obama talked about. How about both sides coming to the middle and make changes that this country needs to have made to make it a successful and respected country. Play in the sandbox together for a change-no pun intended. AND make Congress do the same.

    November 5, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  24. Dem in a Red State

    He can keep my money for 2012! And I will be donating even more come that time!

    November 5, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  25. Nelson

    Hey Steve – Are you the ones that have been running this country for the last 8 years? Grow up and be a man! We lived through hell for 8 years as you guys trashed our country now move aside and let someone else fix your mess since you can't be man enough to admit when your wrong. Don't blame Obama for anything just like you don't want us to blame your daddy GW Bush for all the dead US troops and Iraq civilians. Think about it!! Nothing you guys did in the last 8 years was beneficial to the country yet you're now the expert? Take your a$$ whooping like a man..Stephanie (Steve)

    November 5, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
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