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. No Hillary = No Obama

    There was yet one more analysis of how Obama won – money and manpower. That's it. His broken promise of accepting campaign financing bought him the White House. Making history – he didn't make history, he made money. Had he picked Hillary as VP – then he would have made history.

    November 5, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  2. Bushwhacked in Eugene, OR

    I've been an Obama supporter for over a year, but I vote to use whatever portion of my small donation still exists to help pay Hillary's campaign debt. She's earned it!

    November 5, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  3. Independent in NC

    Put it in the treasury so it can benefit ALL Americans. But since that's not an option, give it to a charity that helps people in this nation. Let's reinvest in ourselves – perhaps education?

    One thing I will give Obama is that he an interesting campaign. Online donations basically bought this election (admit it, he would not have been able to campaign nearly as much without it), so I wonder if he will push to continue this trend in government. "Spreading the wealth" works much better when it is voluntary. For example, say we're trying to find money for green energy, so put up a donation site and let the people contribute if they wish. I would much rather give the money to specific issue I believe in rather than as a handout to someone who drives a nicer car than I do.

    November 5, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  4. Truth Hurts

    I have never said anything except to squash the small minded idea that this time, or this guy is any different. IT ISNT. OBAMA isnt.

    McCain is not "my guy". I didnt "lose"

    I merely point out the truth about the sales / con job just laid out on the American people, with the marketing slogan of "Change". It is no different from the last marketing slogans used by the Republicans.

    The funny part is all the little people who think they have actually bought change, for 5 bucks a pop. Too funny.

    Any reason why Obama has not released his medical history, except for a tiny page? Any reason why the media has not attacked this lack of disclosure and transparency?

    What else does the smoker in Chief have to hide, except his smoking?


    November 5, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  5. ding

    What change this newly elected officials are saying?. Change began when the muslims bomb WTC on 9-11-01. The democratic congress useless as they were during Bush time were to blame for this economic mess we're in. Now another bunch of democrats who would run this nation with IQ compared to that of a grapefruit will be in office for four years.. What a messier times ahead of us. To all voters Pray for Peace and Freedom of the great USA. I love USA for what it afford. Freedom, Prosperity and opportunity!
    I pity blkkbbeauty and jn for how they feel. They forgot that america is composed of people of different colors. that's why this country is great. There's so much hatred in them. come on chill off!! America deserves better from who you are!
    The democrats succeeded trashing women politicians to being an object not as a person who deserves respect and dignity with their money. GOD BLESS AMERICA!! Land of the Free.
    Please redistribute the money to the needy and not to the cronies. Thanks

    November 5, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  6. Marek

    The lending mandate had little to do with the economy issues. It was the lack of oversite into the institution who were writing these mortgages. Had many, not all of thses families who had gotten into mortgage trouble had got fixed rates rather than adjustiable rate the foreclosure rates wouldn't anywhere near where they are now.

    Think about it, many of those families were already renting apartment, homes and manufactured homes with similar of high rents than the average fixed rate house payments with no problem, so why would they not be able to handle a mortgage with a fixed rate.

    But "some" of these smooth talking unregulated mortgage brookers con thses folks into adjustable rates and they saw their mortgage payments go from $600 a month to $1600 to $2600 and after fees, penalties and interest they start topping $3600 and above. I

    t sad....that reign of terror will end come 2009!

    November 5, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  7. Lee

    Wow..... Some of the comments that have been made tonight are just racist combined with stupidity. The only thing that gives me a peace of mind that the people who feel this way about the president elect are in the minority because not just blacks voted for him. Whites, Latinos, Asians and others.... His victory would not have been possible unless all races had come together. I know, you don't understand it, but "It is what It is..... " This is reality....

    President BARRACK OBAMA effective Jan 20, 2009.

    PS..... Be careful of the comments you email in.... It just may land you on the Secret Services Watch List....

    Be Blessed and Encouraged!

    November 5, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  8. Joshua

    I hope he gives it to charity. Sad to see the racist, narrowminded, uneducated so called conservative Christians trashing people.

    November 5, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  9. David

    Goodness you are all such a petty group.

    If this is what we have become as a country... I am leaving for Aruba!


    November 5, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  10. Proud

    I became a citizen to this great country, the United States of America in 1995, I have been in the country since 1985, I came as a child. On November 4, 2008, I saw hope take a bow. We are one people and one nation. Let us come together now and reclaim victory in peace and prosperity. Racism still exist in this country without a doubt, there are those that hate those of color because of what we are not able to control, but just as GOD loves us all we the people of color love you too. One statement was raised in this election pertaining to President elect-Barack Obama, that he was a terrorist. But, lets look at this for a moment if you would. He is in our Senate as a terrorist, so for all those that ran with the McCain and Sarah Palin accusation of him being a terrorist shame on you. The Bible tells us that there are those that will believe a lie before they will believe the truth well you have shown me that. To the Obama family I wish you the most high best in your new journey in life. Thank you for carrying the torch of hope all the way to the White House.

    November 5, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  11. Truth Hurts

    Reading all this "he is your president have some respect" garbage is pretty funny.

    Where was your respect for Bush the last 8 years?

    Obama is gonna get the kinda "respect" that you all have been tossing around the last 8 years at Bush. You reap what you sow in this life.

    that is Karma baby...

    Truth Hurts

    November 5, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  12. Damien

    Jesus was a community organizer

    just sayin...

    November 5, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  13. Some dude

    Truth Hurts is right. We really need to resort to more name-calling and concentrating on what color the White House should be re-painted in 4 years. These are the true issues facing America.

    Seeing as Barack Obama smoked (as Truth Hurts says) and George Washington smoked, what color would George Washington have painted it? Surely all smokers think alike, so we really need to determine this before Truth Hurts's expiration date 4 years from now.


    November 5, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  14. Anne - Michigan

    To quote a friend of mine today....To all the Republicans out there take this advice...Calm down; take deep breaths, and in 8 years you can all try again to win back the White House with Sarah P running against Hillary C!

    The other one which one of my college students came up with...Obama's girls should name their new puppy ....Maverick.

    I LOL about both of these....thought it might lighten the mood on this list of comments!

    November 5, 2008 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  15. Obama 2008

    I think it would kind of him to help Hillary with her campaign debt.

    November 5, 2008 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  16. Christina

    Well, we defenitely know he won't give it back to the contributors since HE DOESN'T KNOW WHERE PLENTY OF THE MONEY CAME FROM. Obama received money from people with pre-paid cards and no way of knowing who donated!

    AY!! I hope he does the right thing. He always proves otherwise.

    November 5, 2008 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  17. Hillary

    The people who claim that we made a mistake by voting for Obama are hilarious. These are the same people who voted for George Bush twice. Also, the same people who voted for John McCain even though he could not name one difference from George Bush's policies when it comes to the economy. However, inspite of all that I do value your opinion. Ok, yeah, uhm NOT!

    November 5, 2008 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  18. Josh

    It's campaign finance money. He should give all of it to the fund for public campaign finance. If he spends it any other way he is misappropriating it.

    November 5, 2008 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  19. Penny

    Dear Truth Hurts.....I see your negative postings everywhere.....maybe you should spend more of your time at a job or doing public service work. It might help your sad bitter little life.

    November 5, 2008 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  20. Old Marine Grunt

    I guess Truth Hurts is unemployed as this individual has spent all day – a work day – posting to this thread. Or maybe its being done from work with the employer footing the bill.

    In any event, I was very impressed with John McCain's speech last night – it was gracious and collegian with the best sentiment I've heard this election cycle on working together for this great country.

    Barak Obama's speech was also a call for a bipartisan effort to confront and solve the major issues facing the United States which is something I would think that both Republicans and Democrats would have no trouble getting behind.

    Insofar as the surplus campaign funds go I would hope that it is split between a non-partisan independent charity and his campaign fund for 2012.

    November 5, 2008 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  21. JC

    I am tired of the sore losers calling President-elect Obama a socialist, marxist, or worse. Really, you redneck hillbillies should get a life and an education. Why is it that the republicans say minorities are lazy and on welfare so much and yet they (the republicans) gladly act as if education and intelligence is bad? Obama is clearly much more intelligent then McCain and the retarded cowboy who is our current president. If America had to put up with your idiotic candidate for 8 years then the least you can do is shut up and give our new president a chance to get to work before you jump all over him.

    November 5, 2008 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  22. Hillary

    If money was donated to his campaign by the people, then he should definitely save the money for another presidential run in 2012. People who did not donate money to his campaign shouldn't concern themselves with how the money is spent.

    November 5, 2008 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  23. Anonymous in CO

    I find reading some of the emails I'm shocked by the pure hate that runs through my fellow Americans because McCain lost. Wake up our nation is in a world of trouble!! Obama was elected as our next president so we need to move forward with hope for a better future not only for us but for our children. Unless we are willing to unite as Americans instead of Republians or Democrats our great nation will continue to decline.

    November 5, 2008 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  24. John

    To all you negative, bitter losers,

    Obama won ! You and your whole mentality were soundly rejected by the American people.

    So, SUCK IT !

    November 5, 2008 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  25. Amy, Chicago

    As a volunteer for Obama's campaign, the only thing I wanted in return was a ticket to the Grant Park Obamapolooza. I didn't get paid for my time. I used my own car and own gas to visit 3 battleground states a few times each during the campaign and used my own cell phone to make calls to recruit other volunteers. Many others did even more than I did and also did so for free. Last weekend after 2 days of knocking on doors in Iowa, I came home to an email saying that I did not have a ticket. The volunteers had to give contact info for each place we worked. The rally organizers couldn't have acknowledged the volunteers? To add insult to injury, along with the uninvitation to the rally I had 3 separate emails asking for more donations. I believe that whatever money may be left over should somehow be rewarded to his "foot soldiers" who made calls, drove and worked the campaign offices for no pay. Fair is fair. Without this army, Obama would not have been elected.

    November 5, 2008 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
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