November 5th, 2008
06:00 PM ET
6 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. Deb

    * Obama Rocks *

    November 5, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  2. mark

    WOW! the McCain campaign had money left over after sarah's shopping spree?
    John McCain gave an absolutely positive concession speech, and Obama is lucky he did not run his campaign with the same dignity and sincerity I heard in his speech. He regained much of the respect I lost for him during the camapign itself.
    Leftover money – budget surplus? what a concept....no wonder he is looking at ex-Clinto9n people. After all, Bill left a surplus when he vacated the Oval Office.

    November 5, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  3. Yes I did!

    I woke up this morning reflecting about the change about to happen. I worked my way through college, literally, sweat by day, college by night. A veteran. PhD candidate. Did I mention that I work 40/hours week? I earned it, no handouts, just my own sweat and service to my country. yeah, I gave to my country. No one can take away my education – I earned it. What do I need change for? I believed in myself and earned a colege education – not even my parents and grandparents have a college education. What change? Oh yeah, i woke up this morning and am still Caucasian. I worked my way up, bootstraps, why cannot the next person? What change do bootstraps earners need change for when they are fully aware that hard work, sacrifice, and perserverance are the ticket to change?

    November 5, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  4. scared2death

    he'll be lucky to complete his whole term....there is alot of wacko's out there.....and it just takes one!

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

    If the President-elect has any remaining funds, I suggest he donates to Jim Martin's run-off election against Saxby Chambliss.

    November 5, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  6. well

    should he return money to the Saudis first or to the Iranians?

    November 5, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  7. Winchester63

    Florida for Obama,

    Man, you're right! Mexico is so close it's in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Nevada!

    The lack of border security over the last 20 years is likely to get worse so pretty soon, we can all be Mexicans! What a hoot!!

    November 5, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  8. Pork

    How about reimbursing the American people for the billion in pork spending he got for his Chicago consituents in just 143 days in the U.S. Senate.

    November 5, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  9. Que Quedas

    IT IS FUNNY NOW THAT HE HAS WON .....

    November 5, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  10. Caligirl

    I think all the ignorant, fear-mongering McCain/Palin supporters should just accept their fate.

    Don't worry, from Palin's mouth to our ears "I am sure God will do the right thing for this election" or something like that.

    Don't you all trust God?

    November 5, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  11. Roofin Reality, Houston, Tx.

    Hillary Clinton could use some money, so hopefully he sends a little her way. After all, she and Bill did yeoman's work for him in the final days.
    And yes, this is from a person who was furious at Senator Clinton for her tactics in the closing days of the Democratic primary.

    November 5, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  12. oz

    obama can buy some more empty suits

    November 5, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  13. The American Dream is Alive and Well

    Obama can keep my money, I don't want it back. Charity is always best. I am proud of my donations and I know the campaign will put it to good use.

    November 5, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  14. deb in Colo

    You can keep my $15 for your 2012 reelection campaign! :D

    November 5, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  15. Mary

    Would he be able to donate to Hilary's campaign debts (contribute money to other candidates, subject to allowable federal contribution limits)? I regained my respect for her due to her ambitious campaigning in the general to make sure Obama gets to the White House.

    November 5, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  16. Voted for OBAMA on Tuesday in Louisiana

    For those of you who are obviously upset over McCain's loss, it's understandable. But for those of you being so hateful because of Obama's win – you have all shown me we do still have a long way to go. I am a white female. I voted for Barack Obama because he's intelligent and I agree with his policies. Obama HAS provided his birth certificate and it has been examined. Makes me wonder if some people on this post are informed voters or if theyre just too scared of a bi-racial man who is smarter than they are.

    November 5, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  17. texasgreenacres

    To; STALLIE I DON'T REMEMBER HIM EVER SAYING ANY THING ABOUT PEOPLE THAT WAS TO SORRY TO WORK GETTING ANYTHING.maybe you heard something that I didn't?But you got more money than you need just setting back depending on stock lose and gains.It's good that you lost its called gambling. try Vagas you win and lose faster. Same game just quicker and if you want to say socialist? what about the big bail out? was that Ok? big bucks for big bucks tax payer money.So why is it okay for the top and bad at the bottom?

    November 5, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  18. truth hurts doesn't it

    ......... because the truth is your guy lost. So get over it, move on and lets all work together to get this country back to where it was before Bush!

    Obama/Biden

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

    I know an individual who survived an abortion attempt. He's crippled because of that abortion attempt, but is fully employed and supports himself. Can anyone who is prochoice look this man in the eye and tell him he did not have a right to live? Can you do this with a clear conscience? You just voted for a man who can tell this man I know that he did not have a right to live. Congradulate yourselves. You deserve to live more than anyone else on earth!

    November 5, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  20. vera in VA

    I guess the Hillary suppoters get to act like the rest of the dems did in 2000, you remember, the ones who lined the inauguration route and screamed hail to the thief? You Obamabots remember that don't you? And your dumb enough to think the repubs are going to embrace this fraud!!! What a joke LOL

    November 5, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  21. Cary Lacayo

    Save it for the next time OBAMA....Do NOT give Hilary a dime...She wishes she was you....

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

    He can give it to those 95% of Americans there's a start.

    November 5, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  23. stan

    I was very unsure about an Obama win only because i thought that something like the 2000 or 2004 prank would be pulled on him, I am proud to say that I was wrong the, and I love McCain i just wish that he fought a cleaner campain. I was happy the McCain speech was on the money, he is back to o.k in my books. Good luck Mr. President Elect Obama.

    November 5, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  24. HAWK, TEXAS

    To all the republicans out there. you lost, get over it. we voted for the good of america, no the good of the republican party. that is the trouble with you. you care nothing for america. only the party. well the party is over. we have given america back to the people. not the republican party.

    November 5, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  25. American

    For shame the "Get over it, loser" mentality of the Democrats. While I've never been a Republican, I have seen and heard more graciousness from them today than from ANY Democrat in 2004 and since 2004

    The rabid personal hatred coming from my fellow Democrats in 2004 was a disgrace so please don't lecture other people on how to act. We lost that right four years ago.

    Let's all focus on treating each other the way we'd like to be treated and stop acting like vicious schoolyard bullies with keyboards. Haven't we all had enough?

    November 5, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
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