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. tim

    By the way, those of you making less than a million dollars a year that believe that Bush cut your taxes....add up the rise in vehicle registration and license costs, property taxes(or rent), building permit fees, "service" taxes, and any other costs at the county and state levels. I did. I made 31,000 last year and my fed tax went down $27....I paid 12 more for dl and 15 more for tags...there goes my "tax-break. My rent went up 26% and sales tax inceased .25 percent so just goes to show you that trickle down didn't work again. I'll take the 90's again starting now.

    November 5, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  2. Stokeman

    Is anyone aware of any detailed study of the correlation between the average education levels vs. candidate supported? It seems glaringly obvious from even a cursory browse of county and precinct maps. However I would like to see an intelligent analysis with well reasoned conclusions why GENERALLY (emphasized) the college educated/white collar/higher paid/insured lean Left and why the non-degreed/blue collar/lower paid/under-insured lean Right. Therefore the educated, higher paid and insured vote for a candidate with aggresive tax positions that will ultimately cost them while the non educated, lower paid, uninsured willingly vote for a candidate that will ultimately cost them.

    Shouldn't this be the exact opposite and why isn't it?

    November 5, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  3. Cincinnati Dem

    This is America. Everyone who is in this country has a right to speak their mind (or write their opinion) whether or not they agree with each other or not. That is really what makes America unique - that we can co-exist with different opinions, and different ideologies, and different religions, and different preferences. I would think that after so many years of "if you aren't with us, you're against us" mentality, that we could transcend that kind of rhetoric and just agree to disagree, not tell them to leave, get out, or "shut up" as some talk show hosts are fond of doing.

    A lot has happened in the past 8 years - those children who were Freshman in high school during 9/11 stated when they were Seniors in highschool that they felt that the 1st amendment "went to far" ** - how very sad, and very scary for our country that they grew up with that kind of feeling. We all have a right to free speech - and we all have the right to either try to dialog with people who disagree with our own opnions or to ignore speech/writing that we do not agree with. We need to pull together here, folks and be adults.

    November 5, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  4. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    It amazes me to see all the comments of what Obama should do with excess not knowing if there is any and if so how much. Boy am I glad a lot of you people that have commented aren't in a position of decision making especially when he comes to economics.

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

    Soooooo is he going to give it to Hill Dog? That could be why Bill and her were sooooooo helpful in the last week or so of his campaign.

    Glad he spent all my contributions before I figured out what he is and voted for McCain.

    November 5, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  6. Obama Mama in Denver

    CNN, you baffle me. You never post my comments and yet you post the rambling insanity about Obama's supposed smoking by Truth Hurts? It pains me. So many comments that display outright ignorance, and my thoughtful, rational comments are never posted.

    November 5, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  7. george laurel

    hey Stevie,

    You talk about not winning by that much!!

    who won the popular vote in 2004 you JA.

    November 5, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  8. Pray for HIm

    Truth, you sound like a person who has failed so much in life, that you are hoping for someone to join you. You are alone buddy and now you have to face the music, to all your co worker whom you said i will bet my paycheck, I can't say salary because from your comments you are not smart enough to hold a salary. Back to what I was saying you are probably having to eat humble pie right now becasue you ran off at the mouth telling you friends and co- workers that a black man will never become president. YOu probably you went an bet your paycheck on it. Let it go man you have to deal with him for four years stop whinning you'll get ulcers that way and live life to it's fullness because tomorrow is not promised. Not because Barack is in office. becuse God is in control.

    November 5, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  9. fashion oops

    please do us all favor and spend some of it on a well fitting suit for his wife...and a mirror.

    November 5, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  10. Palin=Weakest Link

    Obama won because he fought fairly for the American people, unlike Mccain who left his disabled wife, a wedding vow is a wedding vow, own up to it, by the way god bless Sarah Palin because she helped Mccain lose and allowed the greatest president to make history

    November 5, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  11. Matt

    I have an idea Barack. Spread the Wealth. Give every American a buck. A pay off is no different then your bribe for votes tax cut. I bet your tax cut is the first promise you break.

    November 5, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  12. Hope

    Keep my money for 2012. Hope has dawned – finally!!! Our 8-year-long national nightmare has ended. Free at last, free at last!!

    November 5, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  13. fashion oops

    please do us all favor and spend some of it on a well fitting suit for his wife...and a mirror.

    November 5, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  14. Truth Hurts

    Only 4 years until The Smoker in Chief gets tossed and the White House can get a paint job!

    November 5, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  15. Palin=Weakest Link

    Dear Sean Hannity,

    Im so sorry that you woke up this morning realizing that you will have no voice for 8 years, we will really miss all of your contradictions.


    Obama Fan

    November 5, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  16. charles, monroe, la

    I'm willing to bet "truth hurts" is one of the people who was resigned to say:

    "Bill Clinton was the closest you guys will ever get to a Black President"

    I wonder how insecure he or she's feeling now?

    November 5, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  17. TjayeInLA

    I say put it towards the next campaign. We all know he is going to be campaigning for the next four years, so why try to front? I will still contribute but he could let it earn interest for the next election.

    November 5, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  18. Matt

    Hillarys debt is Hillarys debt. She can pay that off herself. She has the money and the means and she was the idiot who stayed to long in a race she lost after 2 weeks.

    November 5, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  19. Mernoush

    As an Iranian girl I'm so proud to live in the country where the majority of people can move beyond the boundries of race, gender and etc. But I'm shocked by all the negative cooments about president-elect Barrack Obama. He is a smart, decent and highly educated man who would make a great president and for the record the name "Hussein" means good looking.

    November 5, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  20. Lexington Green

    President Obama should extend an olive branch by donating the money to a special fund for unemployed GOP strategists and party operatives. There will be plenty of them around.

    November 5, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  21. Tyler

    @ Marge,

    I congratulate you on such a thoughtful comment in the midst of a board full of ignorance. I agree it is petty for fellow Americans to insult and trash talk the man who has been fairly chosen to lead the country. The only way the nation can progress is through cooperation, even when things don't go the way we wish. Spreading hateful, intolerant, and shortsighted remarks will do no one any good. As an outspoken atheist myself, I am glad to see a Christian I can agree with. This is not the time to focus on our differences.

    November 5, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  22. M.R. in L.A.

    He should give it to the Democratic Party in Georgia – Go Jim Martin!

    November 5, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  23. angie in dallas 28

    he will give some to all of the above including Hillary

    November 5, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  24. linda from South Dakota

    its time to move onward,,,, im so proud to have seen obama win, i stayed up all night to see him win,,,,my support is and always will be with him and his family,,,, its time to think positive,, and be glad we have barack,,,,he wil do us good,,, it will take time , but in that time , it will pay off plentyful for us all,,,,, the republicans are out, this is good,,, its our turn now,,,, god bless america and obamas family,,,,,, ^i^

    November 5, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  25. Diogenes

    If any funds are left over I would like to see Obama help Hillary Clinton pay off her campaign debt. She was a tremendous help in getting him elected.

    November 5, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
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