November 5th, 2008
06:00 PM ET
9 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. Ghuman

    Congratulations to all fellow American; Job Well Done.

    Now, lets work together so that we can proudly and righly say: "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED". Timely and NOT prematurely.

    November 5, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  2. Mack

    LIFE with Republicans over the past years is not enough for them. Regardless of how bad time are, they persist that they are the party of the future. No wonder Americans can't leave there backyard for fear of someone attacking them. But be it as it may, that's the harsh reality of where they've lead this country so and it's up to them to swallow the bitter pill of reality. No harsh words can replace what this country has fallen over the past eight years under their leadership.

    November 5, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  3. jn

    You losers are pathetic....It's sad that you make the issues about yourself! Talk about selfish...He ran a great, honorable campaign and what he chooses to do with the money is his choice. We, the people donated to his campaign. We gave him the money. We trust his judgement! So all you Obama haters, who can't let us have ONE day of celebration, go crawl somewhere until you need help from this unpopular choice you have taken so much time to bad mouth! I feel sorry for you and now I understand where the hate comes from in this world!!!! I can't wait until January 20th! I can't wait to see President Barak Hussein Obama sworn in, Joe Biden and VP and Michelle Obama the First Lady!

    November 5, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  4. John. Austin, TX

    I sense a change in the air today. People are happy, and neighbors are nice. My country has a new president. And that president is Barack Obama. And that is a beautiful thing.

    November 5, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  5. malclave

    If he has enough left, he should return all the illegal donations.

    If he can figure out which is which... ah, the joys of ignorance and plausible deniability!

    November 5, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  6. Oh, Get over it :o)

    Wow! Can you say bitter??

    BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA, the next President of the United States of America.

    That's the truth, and it really does sting for some of you.

    Bye Bye Caribou Barbie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 5, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  7. Fred, So. St Paul MN

    he will probably give it to Reverand Wright, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharrpten, Lewis Fareicon all have been a non issue now that he has been elected they were all showed crying on national television. Wonder were they have been when in the last 6 elections they were front and center.

    HHHMMM makes you wonder
    congradulation on you victory.

    November 5, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  8. Andrew

    I don't actually think this money can go to Hillary, since that would technically be a donation to her campaign, and he already donated $2300 to her campaign.

    November 5, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  9. former republican for OBAMA

    Rick, You my friend are an IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!!! Careful your stupidity is showing.

    November 5, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  10. Red, Red WHINE!!

    Believe it or not, I'm actually now finding the posts from the GOP to be entertaining. It truly is a pleasure to see them throw a tantrum like the children we knew them to be.

    I think it will further their demise if they continue to act like they currently are. I wonder if they hold their pity parties gathered around burning cross bonfires at night, with white hoods on?

    November 5, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  11. Jonathan M.

    Is a non-profit research group an option. Like say to help research alternative energy? If not I say charity. We have alot of homless shelters around here that are closing due to lack of funds. It's not welfare, it's basic human rights to eat and have shelter. But hey whatever, just an idea. But even 5 million could keep 10 homless shelters open for years.

    November 5, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  12. Joan

    Wouldn't it be thoughtful if Obama paid off Clinton's campaign debt? After all, she and her husband humiliated themselves for his campaign!

    November 5, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |

    I think it would be very hard for obama to refund money that was sent to him from overseas under $200.00 each with thousands of silly names.
    Maybe Acorn will have some suggestions for him.

    November 5, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  14. Debbie

    Yes, I am extremely happy that Obama won. He is intelligent, willing to see both sides of the problem, and has common sense...what seems to be lacking in Government. He will make a great leader.

    This was a devisive campaign, but we now have a new President. He is going to be looking out for our best interests. Even though we may not like some of his proposals, it's time that Americans start jumping in and doing what we need to do and not expect Government to go it alone. It's going to take a lot of work on all our parts. Change is never easy and our way of life will have to change to keep pace with the problems we are now facing. So even if you voted for McCain, and he is a good man, now is the time to put aside all of our differences and make this country great in the eyes of the world again. They are expecting it.

    November 5, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  15. Gerrit

    Deeds speak louder than uttered promises. We North of the border are truly concerned about protectionism especially when it comes to N.A.F.T.A.!! Apparent Mr. B doesn't like it and already he is going to change it. A great way to alienate the only friend that the U.S. has left.!!

    November 5, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  16. 2012

    Use it for the campaign in 2012 Obama!

    November 5, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  17. Independent

    "Dumb Republican":

    The Democrats are equally as guilty of not understanding that Republicans have the right to disagree with them. Take a look at how the American public and the media treats people who support President Bush. It has gotten to the point where the VP knew from the start he had no chance at the presidential office, and the President and VP are staying out of sight because it would hurt their party if they campaigned actively.

    November 5, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  18. Obama Supporter

    'Truth Hurts' you aren't going to convince anyone who isn't already a right wing nutcase so why do you spend your time typing such rubbish?

    As an answer to the question – I don't think his supporters care that much. He can keep it for 2012, give it back or send it to charity... most people are just happy he won.

    November 5, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  19. rosangel..change that im waiting for


    November 5, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  20. ansha harris

    it was a beautiful thing to have watched the racial barrier come down last nite. this was my second presidential election that i voted in. whatever american politics was before, as of 11-4-2008 it no longer exist.

    November 5, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  21. Andrea George

    I would like to say Congratulations to President Elect Barack Oboma! I am so proud and so excited about the future of this country. I think he should transfer the money to his Future Federal Campaign Account. Due to his overwhelming popularity throughout the World I know he will run for re-election as the change in the air took place immediately last night. Anyone that can make the whole world feel the intangible and have the faith of what's to come knows he's a keeper for the full8 years so therefore he will already be ahead of the game with his finances. For those of you that wonder how he was able to raise the amount of money that he did, it was small profitable business' like mine that don't live or do business on credit that are able to make the maximum campaign contibutions allowed!
    Way to Go Barack May God Bless You, Your Family The Bidens and Everyone on your Team!

    November 5, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  22. KJL

    Obama and Biden wouldn't keep the money, even if they could. Remember, these are men who buy their own clothes.

    November 5, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  23. No Support

    You know, if you are NOT an Obama supporter and your comment doesn't make it beyond moderation, then the moderator IS an Obama supporter!

    November 5, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  24. Steven

    Truth hurts,
    You have way too much time on your hands. Go do something productive. You must be very lonely and unhappy with your life. Get some therapy man.


    November 5, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  25. R

    I agree with Morgan. He should do a poll on his website like Hillary did. Have people decide since any of the options are good.

    November 5, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
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