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. Jeff

    So many people are still so angry and cynical. We will leave these folks behind. I know you people hate everything, but for god sake's give this guy a chance!

    November 5, 2008 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  2. Dave from Menifee

    Save it for his next run for office.

    November 5, 2008 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  3. Darren

    My vote would be to help get Katrina victims back on their feet...The lack of action by the current administration continues to be a stain on our country!

    November 5, 2008 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  4. Barbara in Palm Springs

    Is it impossible for the hateful comments to stop?

    Please...let's all just get along and support President Obama.

    We live in a democracy...and Obma won!!

    November 5, 2008 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  5. bubbaslaw

    Anyone who hasn't seen "Some dude's" comment below should check it out, whether you are an R or D. Seems that many can't swallow the same medicine they doled out 4 and 8 years ago.

    Moreover, the wicked vitriol being spewed by the conservative right in this discussion seems to oppose every principle of the Christian conservativism the social conservatives seem to trumpet. The language from the Christian right displayed on this website is certainly not WWJD. Then again, hypocrisy has been the name of the game for the R party the last 8 years.

    November 5, 2008 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  6. IAviewer

    Lest we forget that the Democrats took control of congress a few years ago. Wake up people – congress makes the laws, not the president. You can thank the good ole dems for not regulating back in the 90s which led to this nice housing market where people bought way more than they could afford, 100% financing or interest only loans when home prices were at their highest. Hello? Everything is Bush's fault, even this darn weather. I'm so glad the dems have full control over the house, senate and presidency. So now everything should be fixed in the next few years, right? If not, who we going to point the fingers at? They better step up...

    November 5, 2008 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  7. Joe

    It's too bad that many of McCain's supporters can't be as gracious in defeat as their candidate. Similar thoughts about many of Obama's supporters. Poor winners and sore losers – lessons that should have been learned in kindergarten. The election is over; it's time to pull together. We have more important issues that require us to put aside our differences and work together to solve them.

    November 5, 2008 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  8. Daz

    Wait til 4 years from now. The backlash against Obama will be so bad even Democrats will realize what a mistake they made, and most likely try to get rid of him.

    People who can think and reason clearly can see the mistake electing Obama already.

    electing Bush was even a bigger mistake.... but no ones crying
    The Real Truth Hurts worse

    November 5, 2008 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  9. Callie369

    To AMY........

    Get used to being stiffed by Obama, you will not be alone. There are over 300 million that are going to get stiffed in the next 4 years. The only ones that will get anything are the ILLEGAL ALIENS when he hands the country over to them.

    November 5, 2008 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  10. Proud Alaskan

    I want my money back – am not happy with the service....


    November 5, 2008 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  11. RAY J


    November 5, 2008 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  12. oneworld

    Your right America is dead! At least it was under GW Bush. And now, it's about to CHANGE, it's about to come alive!

    China is on the rise, so better prep yourself for the possiblity of a Chinese-American president too.

    November 5, 2008 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  13. maria

    he should use it towards somekind of "thank you" (not payment!) for all the people who voluntered for him. OR, hold on to it for re-election!

    November 5, 2008 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  14. Listen

    Heal the divide, people.

    November 5, 2008 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  15. Frann Altman in CA

    Everyone! Take a deep breath!

    There are many good ideas for the money, if there is any left. To those who didn't get acknowledged for the hard work they did, let me thank you personally. I know it's not a ticket to the event last night, but I appreciate your time, funding and action. Sincerely. I got lost in part of the shuffle as well.

    We are in a time in need of a great reconstruction. Reconstruction of beliefs, systems, programs, regulations...we needed a paradigm like no other. In the midst of this shift, there will be mistakes made and reparations and corrections needed. This election was only the beginning of what must begin. The work ahead is hardy and the climb is steep. There will be disappointments but the possibilities are endless.

    Stay the course. Yes we can. Yes we will. Yes we must.

    November 5, 2008 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  16. kp

    I guess no one wants to talk about the national debt and how we or going to pay it

    November 5, 2008 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  17. mike

    wow the stupidity by people who blog here is staggering and that is on both of the major parties. Not to mention the hypocracy by everyone as the roles are reversed from the last two elections. With democratcs telling republicians to get on board where four and eight years ago they were doing what the other was doing. Except they were also bringing up lawsuits in florida to recount only certain counties and change rules of what counted as a vote and for who.

    November 5, 2008 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  18. Truth Shall Set You Free

    Just look at how the World has changed for the better already. Other countries are warming up to us again. Obama has a big job ahead of him trying to repair the damage to Foreign Relations. We don't need any more enemies. We need peace!
    Peace has to start with all of us individually!
    I voted for Obama because he is a decent man. His campaign refrained from the dirty nasty attacks that he was subject to himself.
    Signed ,
    Independent who voted for Obama

    November 5, 2008 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  19. Vote, Vote, Vote

    Amy fron IL

    Here is the meaning of Volunteer, just in case you were not aware...
    To perform or offer to perform a service of one's own free will.
    To do charitable or helpful work without pay:

    You do it because you want to do it and do not expect anything in return.

    BTW, I was there last night. What ticket are you talking about? I had not purchased any ticket and I was able to get please, feel free to lie but you should join your friends from Fox News!

    November 5, 2008 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  20. Bruce

    There are two Americas, but it has nothing to do with how much wealth you possess.

    The fact is some people in America are traditional and some are "progressive. " Both groups have reasons for feeling the way they do and neither group are right or wrong. However, it's unlikely that someone who is traditional can be made to feel that Obama's message of share the wealth collectivism will square with the philosophy of rugged independence that has defined us as a nation in generations past.

    I have hope that Obama will be a pragmatist and govern from the center. If he does not, he will be a one term president

    November 5, 2008 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  21. biracial

    Lets get it right...Obama is bi-racial, african americans got half of what they wanted, and what is this talk about illegal aliens. I didnt know we had inhabitants from other planets taking our jobs and using our health care and welfare, I actually thought they were illegal immigrants.

    November 5, 2008 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  22. Billy

    Barbara and others...Ignore the hate…these people can't be reasoned with. They think Obama is part of a plot to overthrow the government from the inside. They are not the conservative base, they are radical fringe people who lack intelligence and logic. I know…sounds ridiculous, but that's what they really believe…stop trying to get them to work with us, they won't. In a year, when they are proven wrong, they will quietly go away (until the next election). Just ignore them, as they are a very, very small part of our society. The majority of us know that this is a tremendous change, and that our country and the world will be better off because of our choice. We have voted for change, for peace, and for a better society for everyone. He just may turn out to be the best president we've ever had...maybe.

    November 5, 2008 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    He should at least use some to buy all the crybaby posters on this sight some fresh diapers.

    November 5, 2008 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  24. David

    Ignore the hate people...the folks posting the ridiculous comments are domestic terrorists. They represent a very small population of arrogant, derranged individuals lacking intelligence. America, and the world, knows we made the right choice.

    November 5, 2008 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  25. Moon Maiden from Lake Michigan


    November 5, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
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