What happens to campaign contributions after a campaign ends?
January 7, 2008 8:56 AM   Subscribe

What happens to campaign money when a candidate bows out of a campaign? Does the money funnel to the party?
posted by Hantra to Law & Government (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It depends entirely on the candidate. Sometimes they keep the money for their next campaign. Sometimes they give it to other candidates. It doesn't generally go to the party general fund.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:43 AM on January 7, 2008

A lot of times candidates go into debt. For instance, in 2004 Howard Dean ended his campaign $400,000 in debt despite raising more money than anyone else ever had.

In a lot of cases like this, this debt is paid off by the nominee. Hillary Clinton did this for Tom Vilsack when he dropped out earlier this year.

John Kerry on the other hand, got into trouble for having millions of dollars left over in his bank account after 2004. It will be interesting to see what Ron Paul does with all the money he has raised online if he is unable to win the republican primary contest.

I suspect if that is the case, his supporters will call for an independent run at the White House.
posted by cjoh at 10:27 AM on January 7, 2008

Response by poster: But it does have to be used FOR campaigning, right?
posted by Hantra at 10:44 AM on January 7, 2008

Best answer: But it does have to be used FOR campaigning, right?

No, Hantra. I was disgusted to learn years ago that in many, if not most, states, candidates were able to keep any leftover campaign funds for their own personal use. Here's an article about just that from last February:

Retired Politicians Spend Unused Campaign Funds

A review of campaign expenditures at the State Board of Elections found other former officeholders whose unused campaign cash has been put to uses that their contributors probably never envisioned — and with little or no scrutiny from state regulators. While the officeholders are required to report all expenditures from their committees to the board, purchases can be listed only by general category and, when described, often without much detail.

Eric N. Vitaliano, a former Democratic assemblyman from Staten Island who is now a federal judge, had about $92,000 in his campaign account when he left office in 2002. He decided to give it to a nonprofit charity: the recently formed Vitaliano Foundation, headed by his wife.

Former State Senator Roy M. Goodman, a Republican from Manhattan, who last ran for office seven years ago and is president of a public state agency that oversees the United Nations complex, has spent tens of thousands of leftover contributions on club dues, parties and gifts, filings show. The expenses included $2,257 in 2005 for a lunch at the “21” Club...

And Howard D. Mills, who left the Assembly in 2004 and served as state insurance superintendent until last year, continues to use his old campaign account to make monthly $588 car payments, pay cellphone bills and buy gifts. In December, Mr. Mills, a Republican from Orange County, spent $98.19 at Macy’s.

That just recently changed in North Carolina. I think if more folks knew about this kind of thing, it would be over in a heartbeat. But until it is, it's a major scam that's guaranteed to keep drawing crooks into politics.
posted by mediareport at 11:05 AM on January 7, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the info mediareport. I am from NC, and I remembered hearing something about it, which is what sparked my interest this campaign season.
posted by Hantra at 11:12 AM on January 7, 2008

Some of them create a PAC and funnel the money to candidates and colleagues of their choosing. Others hold onto it for a future race or to pay off debt and legal fees. The more nefarious pols use it to hire their relatives as "consultants."
posted by HotPatatta at 11:19 AM on January 7, 2008

Art Buchwald once wrote a funny fictional history of a guy in Ohio who ran for local offices, always to lose, so that he could keep the excess campaign contributions. The opposing candidate would make a sizeable contribution to get this guy the nomination, knowing that he would not campaign much.

Not On Topic, but my friend's grandfather once ran in the Republican party for sheriff someplace in New York. The race was considered a safe Democratic seat, so he was the only one they could get to run. A few weeks before the election, the Democrat was caught in some morals scandal, and either had to resign or else ran under the cloud of an indictment, and my friend's grandfather won the race unexpectedly. I guess it was too late to change Democratic candidates. In any case, he became sheriff, even though he had no experience or real interest in law enforcement. He served for a week or so, then resigned and let the relevant administrator (a Republican) appoint a successor.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 1:12 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Art Buchwald once wrote a funny fictional history of a guy in Ohio who ran for local offices, always to lose, so that he could keep the excess campaign contributions.

Springtime for Hitler for Mayor?
posted by Asparagirl at 9:37 PM on January 7, 2008

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