November 5th, 2008
06:00 PM ET
5 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. hometowndemocrat

    Truth Hurts.....please just go away. You are annoying the educated intelligent people here.

    November 5, 2008 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  2. Coordinator

    Hey Dutch

    Find a mirror and a new "American" nickname

    November 5, 2008 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  3. Central Scruitinizer

    WoW!!!! Astounding how many sore losers there are in America. I guess the good citezens of this country will carry on the correction work to make our country great again, while the losers sit around and grumble and criticize. The only thing worse than a loser is a sore loser. Are you going to be a part of the solution or plan on being a future problem. Hope your kids have a better sense of patriotism than you do.

    November 5, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  4. Scott

    Keep my money for 2012!

    November 5, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  5. Art W

    Interesting. So, let's just say for the sake of arguement; Obama fails to keep any of his promises, does a terrible job in office and even leads us to the brink of WWIII . . . he can fund his re-election using the donations he received from all his present followers?

    I guess the decision to break his promise on campaign financing sure worked out to his benefit in the short, and long, run.

    November 5, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  6. 3ltnt

    It sounds like you are not a very good investor stallie if you lost money today. I say this because if you lost money then you obviously cashed out your stocks and that would make you an idiot. Remember that you can't get hurt on a roller coaster unless you jump off. Just chill out and relax and don't be a sore loser. The CLEAR majority of this country wants this president which is something that we have not been able to say since 1996. When I lost my vote to George W. by voting Kerry four years ago, I was man enough after the election to support my President and while he eventually lost my support I, like most Kerry supporters, gave him a chance and he blew it. Give BO a chance. If he blows it and you really do lose a boat load of money as I have the past four years with Bush, then you can crucify him. But as for now it should be "Hail to the Chief"!!!

    November 5, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  7. SRon

    create more union jobs and benefits for me!

    November 5, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  8. Ridgeway

    How about donating the money to widows and orphans of the soldiers killed while fighting your Muslim brothers in the Middle East.
    Or maybe you could pay your Aunti's rent in the projects? Or maybe you should redistribute it to your ACORN voters.
    That money will buy a lot of cheese and Ripple. Or maybe you could just stash where the sun doesn't shine.

    November 5, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  9. Patricia in Las Vegas

    to the jp's of the world...he can keep my contributions, sent a little at a time when I could afford it, for his re-election in 2012. And for your information (not that you would know how to process facts...) even when I purchased a $3 campaign pin, I had to fill in a donor sheet. The Obama campaign compliance team kept careful track of all my proudly made donations!

    November 5, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    The American People have spoken 63 Million to 55 Million. It is called Democracy. It is time to get past the petty insults and allow the President Elect the opportunity to bring some good to the United States. Insulting Mr. Obama because he had the greatest majority is disrespectful. Either you are part of the solution or you are the problem. If you believe you can do a better job, get in the next race. Otherwise move out of the way of our President Elect.

    November 5, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  11. Ben

    I'd hope some goes to charity.

    November 5, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  12. Winchester63

    Awesome. Blacks are now officially equal to whites. It's official! It's sanctioned and approved!!

    I hope all blacks know what this means...

    Ok, I'll tell you... It means you can no longer call yourself a victim. You no longer get to complain about how whitey is keeping you down. You no longer get to complain about the racial divide and what a hateful country the USA is. Now, you're one of 'them'. I love it!

    November 5, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  13. s

    Already a surplus president- EXCELLENT President Obama!!!!

    November 5, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  14. C J

    Puff:

    "i'm so proud that America in her wisdom transented race and color, finally realizing that the old hatred is a bastard no longer needed. giving all liberty to become one nation, one people, American"

    But as anyone can plainly see, the Democratic stranglehold on our nation's educational institutes has taken an irreversible toll.

    November 5, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  15. Caligirl

    I am so greatful to all who voted for Obama, it's as though we have taken our country back.

    I also wan to thank all of our Canadian friends who have sent their congrats to Americans for our selfless act in electing the one who can best relate to the real world we live in and have so much influence over.

    Thank you ;-)

    November 5, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  16. Naj0623

    Because thats not an option Ben

    November 5, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  17. Indepentant and proud "I didn't vote for Obama"

    I have an idea give it back to the people since he believes in "sharing the wealth"

    November 5, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  18. Nick From Iowa

    He should ask the people who donated it.

    November 5, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  19. Sean

    Why is it my comments never get posted, but "Truth Hurts" can post 4 and 5 different comments per article?

    November 5, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  20. Astonished

    Why, oh, why do we Americans continue to flaunt our bitterness, ignorance, bigotry, poor sportsmanship, and hateful words for the rest of the world? I cannot believe how idotic we are to air our dirty laundry and comments for others to read. We sound like a bunch of bratty elementary school kids, not the educated, blessed, Christian, tolerant people we advertise our nation to be. On behalf of my fellow Americans, I humbly apologize to the peoples of the world.

    November 5, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  21. Virginia

    I think he should keep the money for re-election in 2012. Since the money was donated for his presidential campaign, using it for his next presidential campaign would be most in keeping with the original wishes of the donors.

    November 5, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  22. Debbie

    I am thrilled that McCain's so called running mate won't get the chance to run the country. I maybe would have gone the McCain ticket if he had chosen a better vp candidate. I like Biden and was unsure of Obama but the more I watched and listened to him, the more I like him. Hooray to US for going in the right direction!!!

    November 5, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  23. Michael S. Fort Wayne, Indiana

    I trust his judgement and I'm sure he'll make the right decision.

    Come together. -John Lennon

    November 5, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  24. high IQ

    ignorance is bliss. although this isn't a great comparison but it shows some of americans stupidity. when tiger first came on to the scene he was going to ruin the game of golf and it would never be the same . few months into his career they said he hasn't done crap, I said give him time. need I say more. barack's playing field is very different but give him time and he will be the best that ever lived too

    November 5, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  25. New Day

    I say he takes that money and makes a 50 ft. statue of George W Bush so we can topple it over on inauguration day like at the end of Return of the Jedi. hehehehehehe too geeky?

    CNN give ya a nickel if you post my comment.

    November 5, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
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