November 5th, 2008
06:00 PM ET
6 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. jenkins

    He should invest in CHANGE we can believe in, em, er, like hiring all the ex-Clintonites!

    November 5, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  2. Makes Me Want To Holler

    We all have an election day hangover and it seems the only way to cure it is with the hair of the dog that bit you. By this I mean to say, those that hate will continue to hate, and those that love will continue to love. The Obama hatred and lies will continue and the Obama love and the truth will remain as well.

    Finally, President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama. I just wanted to put in print so that I could see it.

    November 5, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  3. Tim

    And that's the end of public financing of campaigns. And for the worse. Now unlimited and untraceable funds will flow to both candidates and the elections will be bought and paid for. I don't begrudge Obama his success, but let's call a spade a spade.
    And let's all remember the calls to "come together" the last 8 years that were roundly denounced by the people now calling the same refrain. Must be rewarding to know that to regain power, the Dems had to work to have the country go in the toilet. Not Bush's fault, the war yes, all on him, the economy, decades of stupid lending mandates by the Dem congress. I for one will not hope for worsening of the country for the betterment of party. I will be the bigger person. Good luck Obama, you have a useless congress to help you.

    November 5, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  4. susan

    Truth hurts
    It is apparent you are in a lot of pain while everyone else is celebrating a historic moment. I am sorry for you. I guess you did not vote for Obama, oh yeah, he got the EDUCATED VOTE!

    GET OVER IT!

    November 5, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  5. Truth Hurts

    I heard that the secret service code name for the new president is Smokey

    What a bad example all the stupid voters who voted for The Smoker in Chief just set for all the world.

    I just hope that President Smelly Breath doesnt make cigarette advertising legal again just so he can earn big bucks from the tobacco companies when he leaves office after 4 years.

    November 5, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  6. Daddy

    Trust me I am coming. I will give you the power. I will show you death.I will show you how angry I can be. I will make your blood flow like a river and you will truly know who I am.

    November 5, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  7. proud american

    i cannot beleive the hate is some of the people who blog here
    they cannot stand the fact that mccain/palin and their hate filled rhetoric lost

    November 5, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  8. Gerry in Va. for Obama.

    I think President elect Obama, should put any funds he has left over into the fund for 2012. Then he will already be ahead of the game when game time rolls around.

    November 5, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  9. Jawin McCain

    Truth hurts.......you my friend are a biggot.

    November 5, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  10. leo

    I can give him my savings account number

    November 5, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  11. Diane

    What was reflected at those rallies on TV was nothing to "the darts" my friends and family threw at to me, being the only democrat among dedicated republicans. I played the defense well.

    Researching, I found Gov. Palin talking about witches which made me think extremist. But after reading that Gov. Palin slashed the Alaska Special Olympics program budget by 20% in '08 that was it. It's not about religion, race or gender, it's about principality.

    November 5, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  12. Reality Bites

    Bitter much, Truthiness?

    November 5, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  13. California Gold

    I just love the thought that a politician may actually have a surplus. Now that's a novelty!

    November 5, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  14. Dane

    Rick is a sore dork.

    November 5, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  15. shay

    Truth Hurts doesn't it?

    Obama/Biden 2008-2017

    November 5, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  16. c91201

    If it were legal for him to divide up the leftover campaign bucks among all Americans, he would. But he can't. So he should instead put it in a high-interest bearing account and keep it for 2012.

    November 5, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  17. Lil'

    How about the homeless shelters and the soup kitchens ?
    They are the forgotten citizens.

    November 5, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  18. Florida for Obama

    I am sure Clinton will get the maximum federal limit amount

    November 5, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  19. patriot

    Think about it, Obama received adn spent 650 million dollars on being elected President, plus the national media was in the "tank" for him, and he only won by 6% points. What this tells you is that "money" can buy an election with help from the National media. All I can recall now, which scare the hell out of me, is that video on UTube with that young black girl saying "Obama will pay for my mortage and gas". Just hold onto you wallet these next four years. Socialism will be running rapid!

    November 5, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  20. Sera

    Truth Hurts: Maybe you should disappear to Alaska, form a seperate country and appoint McCain as the President and Sarah as the VP, you will then shut up.
    Dont give up on a person even before he has joined the office. You guys made a decision and chose BUSH. And we all know where it has led us. Now let the young and enterprising ones take on the charge. Who knows even you may benefit!!

    November 5, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  21. Morgan

    I think he should put a poll up on his website and let the people decide.

    November 5, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  22. Share

    "Share the Wealth" aka "Welfare" (back to your supporters).

    November 5, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  23. Florida for Obama

    Truth Hurts,

    Here is an advice. Move to Mexico if you don't like Obama.

    Canada is the 2nd most liberal country so that is not an option. Plus I don't think Canadians want people like you.

    November 5, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  24. RichinCT

    He can start by giving it back to the corporations that gave it to him (like the 5 million dollars Lehman Brothers gave him) so WE don't have to bail them out.

    November 5, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  25. Dumb Republican

    "Truth Hurts" is one of the millions of dumb republicans who helped elect Obama. My advice to the Republican Party:

    1) Understand that no matter how convinced you are of the virtue of your positions and viewpoints, others are fully entitled to disagree without be considered less than human.

    2) There are many more people in American than those who look like or share specific history, experience or culture.

    3) Try running elections of concrete ideas. The days of the smears, gimimick symbols, oversimplified or outright lies are over.

    I doubt the Republicans are smart enough to heed these words. Rush, Hannity and the rest of the rabbid right are way too stupid to engage their audiences in legitimate discussion of anyting but their dogma. we do the same in 2012.

    November 5, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
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