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. red33 needs to learn how to use quotes

    I continue to be baffled by Republicans' demonstrably poor grasp of the most basic English grammar. It is no wonder they support the most base of human tendencies in their philosophies and rhetoric.

    November 5, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  2. Barbara in NC

    The RNC borrowed a huge sum a week or two before it was over (don't remember the exact amount, but it was a 5 and at least 6 or 8 zeroes). I hope that has to be paid back – it was taxpayer's money, and I don't want any of my taxes going there. If I choose to donate, fine, but don't give my tax dollars to the wealthy repubs.

    November 5, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  3. Imra K3 IL

    It’s Time to Grow Again!

    One day when the peoples of the Earth finally learn that we are only infants on this small planet that we call our home, and that we can only grow if we learn to make the effort of aiding all of us, even if it is at a different pace then others. In the future we will grow into a toddler as we shed our notions that we are better then all those around us, who my look different from any of us, and that have held back for so many years by those who only think that they are the only path to the worlds future. The people of Earth have made a choice to strive to reach their full capabilities, while the few who remain anchored in the past live solely on their hate and fear of what is to come! All of us should strive to create an environment that fosters the growth of all mankind, no matter their background or their past mistakes.

    I am so glad that Palin is going back to Alaska to spend 6 long months in the dark!

    As the song says! It's been a long time coming, but i know, change gonna come! And it has come and we can once again walk with hope in our hearts!

    November 5, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  4. boered1

    PUMAS your help was not needed, but your stupidity will NOT be forgotten the liar hillary will NEVER be elected to any office outside what she can buy in NY. As for the osur grapes McCainiacs posting on here please PLEASE do not accept ANYTHING Obama does! You can rot in the poor house while the OBAMANATION recovers from 6 years of unbridled Republican screwing and two years of useless democratic leadership. We now have a REAL leader in Washington with a REAL mandate from all across the US to change things and make them better. Will it happen fast NO we have to recover from 8 years of misrule and 16 years of republicans dividing the nation first, once that is done we will be on our way! Already worldwide the parties continue the rest of the world sees what you blinded PUMAs and moronic republicans cannot yet see, AMERICA, the REAL AMERICA is back!! We are NOT a nation of hillbillies and rednecks but one of city dwellers and suburbanites who can see where America needs to go!

    November 5, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  5. James

    Hey "Truth Hurts"! Why don't you crawl back under your rock....Ignorance Hurts More!!

    November 5, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  6. Andrew

    New Dream for America

    Barack Obama’s victory in The US presidential election was truly inspirational.
    He will face challenges and he will suffer defeats however he has already won some great victories.

    He engaged and empowered previously disengaged voters particularly young and African American’s. To see voters queuing for up to nine hours to vote, when it is not compulsory, brought back memories of when black South Africans first got the vote and elected Nelson Mandela in the 1990’s.

    His ‘Spread the Wealth’ message challenged and defeated the dominant view that wealth tricked down and individualism ruled. He believes community and collectivism have a place in modern capitalism.

    His election finally broke the shackles of America’s racist past.

    Australia can learn much from the Obama victory,

    Engage, energise and empower.

    Whilst he has inherited an economic and social basket case after 8 years of the Bush Nightmare, there is a new feeling of hope.

    Where Roosevelt gave the US the ‘New Deal’, Barack Obama gives them the hope for an inclusive “New Dream”.

    November 5, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  7. Obama 08

    Open a school for the disavantaged

    November 5, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  8. nelson

    He should bankroll an effort to get Border agents Campeon and Ramos out of jail as thet were railroaded by j. sutton and accomplices
    Latinos should be outraged by the corrupt actions that put them in jail
    It is no wonder our border agents are clearly running scared from our own government officials

    November 5, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  9. Unbelievable

    How much anger I see here! Those of you who do not celebrate President Obama, get over it. It's only 4 years to the 8 years the Democrats had to endure under the Republican regime.

    November 5, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  10. janet

    It is such a same to hear such bad comments from some of these people who wrote in, we should all be proud of our Country and of this special history that has happened. I am not an African American, I am a proud hispanic woman, who is a US Citizen born and raised here and I am so proud of what has happened. Let's put aside all our bad feelings and pray for our Country that Barack Obama will lead us in the right direction and I believe he will. No matter if you are Democrat or a Repulican, let the past be the past and move on to the future. Learn tolerance and be positive, we only have one life to live and with all this wasted anger you are just letting life go. Obama should keep the money for 2012, he will be a great leader for this Country and with all our prayers he will have the strength to get us where we want to be.

    November 5, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  11. Arden

    I hope, like Colorado put forth, the election of a minority president will now mean we can do away with ALL affirmative action laws and initiatives in this country now and forever. I am sick and tired of subsidizing others just because their skin color happens to be "not white" and enough is enough.

    Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps instead of writing laws forcing others to do it for you, or get the hell off my planet!

    November 5, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  12. Pennsylvania Hopeful

    Really Really make sure the poor get a good portion of that money. And please allow the money to get directly to the people – no red tape now,

    God speed to President-elect Obama.

    Oh how well that sounds!

    November 5, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  13. CW

    President Obama can use it to help others, who ever is the
    Truth Hurts, The Truth does Hurt.

    November 5, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  14. Erika, KS

    Truth Hurts,
    this is too funny! It's what I have been saying all along! Obama is nothing more than a slick used car salesman. Frightening how many people marched in a trance following this pied piper. Following him right over the edge of that cliff! He won't change anything! Look who he chose as VP, an old used up windbag like Joe Biden! How is that change? Absolutely, they've been sold a bill of goods.

    November 5, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  15. to: Truth Hurts

    Obama does not smoke.

    As seen by the final tallies, the majority of the country has more sense than to pay attention to asinine antics such as your own.

    Truth Hurts.

    November 5, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  16. Melissa

    The amount of hatred by McCain supporters on here just boggles the mind.

    THAT... dear Republicans... is why you lost.

    We are tired of the hatred, the anger, the fear mongering. Its time for hope. Get over it.

    I hope that Obama uses the money for something useful, not giving it back to the people. He should use it for programs to try to help the economy or help begin the health care he has planned, or back into the education system. Something useful.

    November 5, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  17. Daniel Wagle

    I agree with Jason in paying off Hillary's debt. I think Hillary's refusal to drop out of the race before Obama clinched the nomination enabled him to win such states as Indiana and North Carolina- states that have hardly gone Democrat- Indiana has not since 1964, North Carolina not since 1976. The long extended primary season kept all the attention off of McCain, and it forced Obama to campaign thoroughly and set up offices in such states as Indiana and North Carolina. The "I told you so" from the Hillary people isn't of course, "your man lost" but rather you said the long primary season would make him lose, and no, it helped him win. Even her criticisms forced him to come up with comebacks, which of course helped him formulate responses to attacks in the General Election. I think the 22 debates that Hillary insisted on also made it clearer to the general public just where the Democrats stand on the issues, making it harder for the Republicans to distort the Democratic platform. The long primary season also made us aware of the Reverend Wright long before October and this enabled him to deal with this and break his relationship with Wright long before the General election, so that Wright was not an October surprise. The long primary season also drove up Democratic registrations in Pennsylvania. Governor Rendell helped Hillary win the Pennsylvania primary and then he helped Obama win Pennsylvania in the general. Ted Strickland did likewise with Ohio. Hillary also made 75 campaign appearances for Obama, as well as raising over $10,000,000 for his campaign.

    November 5, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  18. boered1

    I agree with you Tim in LA, CA I trusted him with my money during the campaign and I trust him now with it! I would, personally, prefer it goes to charity but that can be tricky as some "charity" groups are less than charitable!

    November 5, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  19. Sue in MI

    "Socialism will be running rapid"-you mean RAMPANT?

    If you think he's a socailist, talk to Gov. Palin. She taxes oil companies and then writes each Alaskan a nice check ($5000.) No wonder they want to secede!

    November 5, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |

    WAKE UP!!! 2012!!!!!! He will keep it and he should use it in 4yrs!!!!
    I know you people are not that dumb or are you playing dumb LIKE PALIN DID!!!!

    November 5, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  21. Tom in South Dakota

    I have to agree with Lilarose from Brandon Oregon that Obama is not Black but Bi-Racial making him the first Bi-Racial president?

    November 5, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  22. Frank

    Ron: You are the biggest idiot of them all!!!!! It is sick to see folks like you roaming around in the streets of this great nation! My guess is that you are a highscool dropout and live off social security or unemployment, correct? Yup, you would certainly be happier in a socialistic country.

    November 5, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  23. Ghost

    He can keep my donation for 2012.

    November 5, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  24. Grow up

    Republicans- you are such sore losers! Obama and Democrats aren't responsible for the peril the nation is in... Your "wonderful" president Bush is. And quit talking of Obama's ties already. The Bush family has been in kahoots with the Bin Ladens, as in Osama Bin Laden, for years. So much so that they gave your "great" president money to start his first oil company, which he promptly ran into the ground. Sound a little like the economy? Get over yourselves and get on board. What makes America great is not the president it is the people thus The UNITED States of America. SHUT UP ALREADY your making yourselves sound even MORE idiotic, if that is possible.

    November 5, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  25. mitra

    even after last night there are still alot of racist white folks in this world. we as black people will not apologize cause the has been white house now has some color. whoo hoo go OBAMA!!!

    November 5, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
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