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. Gerry

    He should take the money left over plus anything that he made over $250,000 and redistribute it to the homeless.

    November 5, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  2. Craig a Texas Democrat

    My greatest joy today was appreciating the moment for President-Elect Obama but also listening to and watching my conservative republican co-workers cringe in fear for no reason and not care about showing it in front of me as an african-american. Over 65 million people and votes are still being counted supported Obama.... all races, genders and religions. God Bless our new leader and God Bless the United States of America from sea to shiny sea.

    November 5, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  3. FLORIDA for Obama

    To all our Brothers and Sisters out there who were supporting John McCain and Sarah Palin........come on over to the 'transparent' side.

    Even though you continue to put us down for being the Peace Lovers that we are, we offer you our heart felt Love and Understanding.




    November 5, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  4. Mike, Ohio

    Wow, so much hate in a lot of you out there. We have elected Obama. Why don't you all give him a chance. Don't waste your energy on negativity, try to do something useful with it.

    November 5, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  5. k-town

    for everyone who doesn't know obama doesn't take charge until january 2009,Bush still holds all the power til then Bush makes all decisions til then but change has come with a little smarts you would have seen that last night with a crowd of 250thousand+ all COLORS 2gether NO hate NO tention NO color boundaries CHANGE HAS COME

    November 5, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  6. jo in TX

    How about paying off Hillarys campaign debt FINALLY!!!

    November 5, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  7. Taxes

    He's fine–save for the fact on can you take from someone who works hard and earns his money and distribute it to those who don't. That's unamerican! Also, he's black–that's great..don't rub it in my face. he couldn't have been elected with just the black votes alone. White people voted for him as well. Remember that. We don't look at him as a black man–black people do! We look at him as a leader and our president. Stem cells, abortion, education–we will be fine. Taxes, spending and health care–not so good. He needs to cut spending, leave taxes alone and for god's sake, make people earn something! We can't give the poor money and health care.....they should have to earn it through ahrd work like the rest of us!

    November 5, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  8. Mr. Annoyed

    Does anyone else in this thread hear the sound of a really annoying McCain mosquito buzzing around under the name "Truth Hurts"??

    Somebody get the bug zapper!!!!!!

    November 5, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  9. guest

    truth hurt sounds bitter and has may need anger mangement courses. So your candidate didn't win. a lot of people had to deal with having a president that they didn't vote for for the last 8 years. get over it and love your country!

    November 5, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  10. Saya

    Black/ there anything else beyond color that some of you can speak of?
    God has given humans 'brains' why not talk about that? The more brilliant amongst them won.
    America..if you only let color blind your senses, you can no longer call yourselves as "forward thinking nation" when you still live in stone age nd act ignorant and intolerant of other color and religion.

    November 5, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  11. jn are as stupid as you are blind!!!!!

    Truth hurts...maybe you should stop are not setting a good example either!!! and go get your used car off the a new one for CHANGE!!!

    November 5, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  12. Winchester63

    Dutch, duuuuude...chill out, man. I can see the veins in your forehead. Please try to construct coherent paragraphs.

    November 5, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  13. Austin

    Money can't just buy elections. Sure its a factor, but the message that Obama brought to America won it for him. Obama is not the used car, he is the new blood, the person who will reinstall faith into the government and change it from the problem to the solution.

    Also people fearing socialism: I wish we could take away your right to a police station, fire station, public schools, and social security, just to show you that not everything that relates to socialism is bad. You're just a product of propaganda that still flows with us today from our first conflicts with Russia.

    November 5, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  14. patricia deldin

    Hey–please take another look at "daddy". He is being very threatening. Can you please have the cia or someone check on that guy!!!!

    November 5, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  15. Sebastian

    President-elect Obama – Use the money to help Georgia elect a Democratic Senator.

    And use it to put an end to the sophomoric gimmicks employed by your opponents...

    Goodbye Joe-The-Plumber .... Hello Ann Nixon Cooper!

    Goodbye Sarah Palin ... betcha know what a community organizer does now ... don't chat.

    So long Maaaverick!

    November 5, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  16. Jimmy

    Haha, I love all the sore Republican losers on this page.

    I think he should save most of it, but donate it to other important campaigns later on. I'm sure there will always be close Senate races for him to help out with.

    The amount of whining Repubs on this page shows just how gracious McCain supporters are – please, take a hint from Senator McCain and be a good sport about it.

    November 5, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  17. proud army and navy mom

    I think he should give it to trinity baptist in Chicago.....Then the rest he can give to Father Flager

    November 5, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  18. Truth Finally

    Hey "Truth Hurts", you want to compare people to used cars? Well, in that case, common sense should tell you that you would get much more milage out of a 47 year old car than a 72 year old car. Nobody wants an old jalopy.. Grow up and deal with it. Republicans had the last 8 years to make a better world, and they blew it.. Its our turn now.

    Yes We Can~

    November 5, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  19. Ajax

    Give it to some deserving people.

    November 5, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  20. Bob From Texas

    What a bunch of liberal idiots. You don't even know what you have elected but since you are on this site, you will never know. I think the stock market knows, down 489, people selling before the "tax on the rich" people. How many of you have ever got a job from a poor guy that was worth keeping? In two years, you will see a conseverative swing and in four years, this guy will make Jimmy Idiot Carter look smart. Or do you remember, 21% interest rates, no gas, 12% unemployment and Carter kissing Iran butt trying to get hostages back. Joe Biden is a joke, he can't find it with both hands and if the media has given him the treatment they gave Palin, he would have left the country, for good reason. Glad I live in a state that went red, just wish we would succeed and yes Texas has the right to do that. Read your history.

    November 5, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  21. courtney

    He has already stop smoking...the truth doesn't hurt when you don't know what the hell you're talking about

    November 5, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  22. Tara Kleinhans

    To JP and the like: Your comments just barely mask your deep-seated sense of white entitlement and racist fear. Any honest student of American history, republican or democrat, had to have been moved profoundly by the result of this election. Anyone truly familiar with and knowledgeable of the Civil Rights Movement in America had to have wept at that moment. As a person born at the start of the 70s, I can say unequivocally, that in my lifetime thus far as an American, I have never been more proud of this nation. "Stick a fork in it ... America's dead."? I beg to differ ... and so do 55 million plus across this country. America's not dead. America's been given new life! Rejoice! God Bless you, President Obama, and your beautiful baby girls and wife! And God Bless the United States of America!

    November 5, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  23. Gary of El Centro, Ca

    Maybe as a gesture of goodwill Obama could by a new wardrobe for Sarah Palin. I understand she has to give back all the nice clothes the Republicans bought her.

    November 5, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  24. TDav

    I'd like to think that all those negative comments are from McCain supporters.

    His presidency hasn't even started already and you're bashing him? Good job, this is exactly the kind of bickering that you need to get through the economic mess.

    November 5, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  25. Chela

    All these negative comments from former McCain supporters are nothing new. What's important now is to come together for COUNTRY FIRST and help President-Elect Obama in cleaning up the mess left us by George Bush & Company.

    November 5, 2008 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
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