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. Don

    As for the money, if he really believes in the values he professes, he should give it to charity.

    As for the rest, arrogance remains a poor excuse for failing to "really" use the gray matter between your ears. Liberals are no more intelligent than conservatives. Remember, China's communist government started with a school teacher. Liberals and Obama do not have magical wands that can turn the current bitterness in this country around. The country needs leadership and commitment. Words, no matter how pretty, are empty without action.

    Liberals slinging words like racists, haters, stupid, loser and other equally nauseating symbolisms will not change this country either. If it is indeed "your turn", than use it wisely. Otherwise, it will be a very short opportunity.

    November 5, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  2. Michelle in Chicago

    Amy in Chicago......

    Wow.. I did almost 8 months of volunteer work for the Obama campaign and I didn't get a ticket either, but I didn't "volunteer" to be paid or to have a ticket in hand. I volunteered because I knew it was the right thing to do.. I knew going into it that I was going to be investing a lot of MY time and a bit of MY money.. that's why it's called volunteering. If you expected something in return, maybe you shouldn't have volunteered. You could have easily tried to get a small staff position in the office downtown filing papers like a few of my friends did. You should be proud in the accomplishment that we made and that you were a part of it. Everyone involved helped achieve a moment that people will read about for YEARS... your great great great grandchildren will read about it in history books and they can say "wow someone in my family helped make this moment" Stop looking at what's in it for you monetarily........

    November 5, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  3. democraticandlovingit

    Excuse Me can someone tell me what time it is....

    It;s Obama Time. So watch your clock and see the change.
    Throw that old watch out that should have been thrown in the ocean with those ballots in florida eight years ago.

    If you dont understand how to tell time let me tell you how.
    Watch the dial move forward to change at Noon

    When it gets to 4 remember to flash back to the last 4 years of debt, foreclosures, war , decit and lies.

    When you get to eight remember the next eight years of your life may just be better than your last 4.

    When you get to 10 ask yourself 10 things you dont have today that you had ten years ago or could afford 10 years ago,oh like a job, gas, food, clothing,a car or maybe a house or rent payments (just a suggestion)

    When you reach 12 again and you are in complete darkness you need not wonder why .

    Get that watch tuned up for Change ,rather small or big is better than none at all.

    Obama is America's choice and if someone is out there that has a degree in Presidency, please apply the next time around so that we can restart our watches. Tic-Tock my watch is set to President-Elect Obama time.

    Do your thing MR. President my watch is ticking and what a nice watch it is...

    November 5, 2008 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  4. Jason

    When GWB was finally elected President, I and my fellow Gore voting friends decided we would give GWB a chance. After all, we were told, he was supposedly a nice guy who had talked about building a bipartisan coalition in Washington during his campaign. Lets forget about the Florida chad debacle and move on. We stood by him after 9-11, but we learned soon thereafter that he was an incompetent, highly partisan liar. We came to this conclusion after we gave him over a year to prove himself.

    To conservatives – give Obama the same Presidential deference we showed GWB his first year in office. Let him do his job. This country is in a mess and 2009 promises to be a tough year for the economy. If, however, he too proves to be an incompetent dolt like GWB, then criticize him and tear him to pieces.

    But until then, spare us your vitriol, hatred and your crystal ball predictions on how awful he is going to be. You're just making yourselves appear petty and childish.

    November 5, 2008 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  5. Red State

    Truth hurts,

    I never comment on these boards. Someone else just needs to help you understand something very simple and basic.

    While you are excercising your freedom of speech rights, perhaps you may want to take note that your posts reflect below average intelligence and are an insult to the party you are trying to support, not to mention yourself. Hence, the reason more Republicans voted for Obama. Even they are sick and tired of hearing, and reading such diabolical nonsense. Do yourself a favor......

    Try a brain food diet. www.

    November 5, 2008 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  6. RAY J


    November 5, 2008 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  7. Diana

    Amy in Chicago,

    Thank you for working so hard for Obama. A person like you has truely brought victory to Obama. Thousands of hard-working people like you... Your devotion won't be wasted when Obama brings the real change to our country. As he said last night, this is just the beginning. He still needs our help and together we will make this country a better place for us and our children.

    November 5, 2008 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  8. Michelle

    Dear Amy:
    I also spent a good deal of time working for the campaign. And I also would love to have been at Grant Park, and I would very much like to go to the swearing in ceremony and the parade. But when I signed up, I knew that I was GIVING my time–that's what volunteering is. It was unconditional and an act of love for our democracy and for all that I knew that this country could be. Obama's winning is more than enough for every minute I put in. I will party with my friends; it doesn't make my time any less meaningful or my commitment any less valued. There were millions who made this happen. As we welcome this amazing victory that over half of America contributed to, please take a step back, look at how much you accomplished and how much more you can achieve, and get over yourself.

    November 5, 2008 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  9. Pennsylvania Teacher

    Yes, Please donate some of that money to a school in urban school district. I would give the address, but I'm afraid I might get in trouble.
    I'm a teacher. Thanks!!!


    To Truth hurts can it! Can't you see were trying to having a celebration?
    By the way, did I mention I'm a Social Studies teacher? They said the same thing when Clinton was re-elected President – "You'll be sorry". Guess what? We weren't. And I imagine after eight years (hopefully) with President Obama it will be the same.
    So, you'll just have to deal with the most amazing person ever elected for a while.
    Give him the opportunity Sir/Madam (Truth Hurts) to prove you completely wrong.
    If you know history like of course I do, you'll know that given the past we need to just "chill out". Appreciate that we are seen around the world as a better group of people, regardless of what you think about this man. Give him your respect. And most of all give him a chance. That's the very least and most decent thing you can do.

    November 5, 2008 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  10. Ryan Buaron

    Finally America has woken up. From a non-American POV, it is time for your country to reclaim the respect it has lost from the international community. I congratulate my American friends for choosing intelligently this time and for showing the rest of the world what America is all about- a country where dreams and lofty goals can actually be achieved regardless of race, creed and affiliation. Obama will not only be good for the United States but for the world in general. If Bush called himself the "Decider" (which obviously he wasn't very good at), I see Obama as the "Uniter".

    Again, Congratulations America! Well done!

    November 5, 2008 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  11. Oh Yeah!!

    Use it wisely...everyone needs you to be a role model.
    I trust Obama. I pray for his means success for our country.

    November 5, 2008 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  12. barb

    Obama is a genius. I have never seen a campaign run like this before.
    The website he had set up was a direct example of this kind of genius. It appealed to all of the young people of the nation, the techies of the new world. And they helped carry the vote.
    You can see all of their faces on TV in Grant Park in Chicago and all over the world. The reaction was like a tidal wave that just washed over people. It had a cleansing action as the tears ran down the faces of people of all colorsand all ages. If a man like that can build that kind of support then what can he do for the country? A lot I say. With his people behind him I know he will do well. Let us get behind him, too.

    November 5, 2008 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  13. Simon

    USA you have made the best choice in this election. I salut you!

    November 5, 2008 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  14. Ryan

    Just LOL at the people talking about the stock market tanking today. I guess you blame Obama for the 1500 point surge in the 5-6 days prior to his election. Or do you people think that Wall Street looked at the poll numbers and thought that McCain was going to win. Today's drop was a much needed pullback in every sector.

    November 5, 2008 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  15. Kevin Steed

    LMT from Missouri
    Sometimes change starts with revolution! Why don't you get your new president and ask him why he can't salute the flag. He will never be my president, and I am not a racist or hater, as some of you like to put it. I don't care what color he is. I have noticed a lot of racist statements on this blog. They seem to come from Obama supporters more than those of us on the right. I'm sick of the lack of morals in this country. Don't think I'm leaving. If I did there would be no one to pay for all the crap odama wants to do. Yesterday was a sad, sad day for a once great nation.

    November 5, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  16. Michelle

    I am amazed reading through these postings. A bunch of you must be living under a rock!!

    To JP, Obama's birth certificate has been released, long ago, and authenticated. Hawaii was indeed a state then.

    Ann, Obama has given all he can to HRC by law. I wouldn't want any of my donation to Obama to be siphoned to HRC anyway. If she truly has so many supporters, she should have been able to pull herself out of the hole.

    Truth Hurts, there isn't any comment you have left on this thread that makes any common sense. Lots of Presidents have smoked by the way, and it didn't affect their job performance.

    Does PUMA stand for Pretty Uneducated Morons of America? Any HRC supporter that would vote for McCain when their platforms had absolutely nothing in common must be a moron.

    The un-Christian behavior among those on the far right is rather disturbing. My family has stopped going to church as I want my child to grow up with GOOD morals, not the lying, biggoted, hatred spewed by those who believe they can only worship in buildings with others spewing the same hatred. You like to spout the WWJD slogan, but absolutely none of you actually think about it and you most certainly don't practice it.

    November 5, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  17. vjohn-north carolina

    PRESIDENT OBAMA is too intelligent for us to try and start telling him what to do now, I am certain that he and his campaign are STILL intelligent enough to manage their finances responsibily and for the good of the nation! Yes We Did! And Yes We Will! Prayer changes thing!!!!!!!!!!

    November 5, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  18. Edmund

    No. Whatever Obama does with it does not necessarily have to be the right decision. He is not Jesus.
    Obama wants to spread the wealth, so let him put his money where his mouth is (pun completely intended). I and many Americans will be watching closely what Obama will do with this money, because the right move will strengthen our faith in him, and a wrong (read: selfish) move will strengthen our dislike for him.

    November 5, 2008 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  19. Edmund

    Look at how better the World is already? We have cautionary comments from countries, Russia aligning troops near Poland, and suicide bombings coinciding with warnings to the U.S.
    The sky didn't open up, people aren't singing bonding songs by a campfire. Wake up to reality: Obama needs to keep his promises and back up his claims. America and the world are watching.

    November 5, 2008 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  20. be happy

    Thank you God for giving President Obama a landslide, i trust what ever decisions he will make with any left over money. Bless you Mr. President.

    November 5, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  21. monique

    I am pretty sure that everyone that is bashing Obama voted for Bush both times and look where that got everyone. Stop being so hateful. That's why we are so divided now. What did Mccain say that was supposed to be all that good for everyone to praise him. It ws a good thing that he did not win because if he can give up in one state what does that really say about him??? All of the bad talking that he did, I can't recall one time that she said anything that was of any use to me personally. He talked about Joe the plumber but what about that school cook, the janitor, the college student, the maintenance man, the mechanic, the single parent...nothing. So stop being hateful and support our new president elect.

    November 5, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  22. Wydok

    Both candidates should donate their money to The Global Fund to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa. Or some other charity of their chosing.

    November 5, 2008 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  23. michael

    i think the idea that liberals have been on bush's case for 8 years is flawed. while we might not have been thrilled when he was elected, most of us did rally around him on 9/11 and many of us supported the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan. it was the lies and poor decisions in the following years, from WMDs in Iraq to "Mission Accomplished" that dropped his approval ratings, even before the economic meltdown. and if Obama invades another country under false pretenses, and if he makes poor decisions which embroil us in a war that would cost thousands of american lives, he will be scrutinized just as heavily. but for now, we need to give him the benefit of the doubt, we need to reforge the strength of our unity, just as we did under bush in the aftermath of 9/11, we need to eliminate the hatred, judgment, and condescension from our discussion, and support our newly-elected leader.

    November 5, 2008 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  24. janet in ohio

    Okay, I gotta say a few things.

    I'm thoroughly enjoying all the loving, unitive comments by Obama supporters who feel they must use the words LOST or LOSER repeatedly. (though they spell it LOOSER- lol) Do you happen to realize that gloating makes you a sore winner?

    While you are calling me an idiot and a moron and a racist and backwoods and inbred (though at least I don't spell it INBREAD), and whatever else comes into your little mind, I'm sure you do so with a view toward peace, love, unity, bi-partisanship, etc

    Lastly, I'm sure that if McCain had won, you would all be doing the right thing and supporting him as President, as you are preaching to us to do, just as you have President Bush.

    November 5, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  25. Truth Hurts

    There seems to be alot of change going on here being represented by Obama supporters.

    It comes in the form of shutting down free speech, labeling people terrorists, telling people to move, all because they dont agree with what you say.

    Change Indeed Obama Supporters Change indeed!

    November 5, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
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