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What happens to the leftover money after each 2016 candidate drops out?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016 11:05
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(Before It's News)

By The Sunlight Foundation

Carly Fiorina, in purple jacket, speaking before lectern
Carly Fiorina is just one of many 2016 candidates who dropped out with money still in the bank. (Image credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Sixteen candidates have already come and gone in the 2016 election, raising (and spending) millions of dollars along the way. But campaigns tend to come to an abrupt end — usually with some cash left over. In total, $13,921,325 remains in the campaign coffers of candidates who have dropped out, and $25,158,594 in their supportive super PACs. What happens to all this unspent money that’s still in the bank?

Several defunct campaigns are sitting on a lot of money. Carly Fiorina’s campaign committee, for example, has $1,767,911 remaining and no debt; the pro-Fiorina super PAC, CARLY For America, is sitting on $1,405,799. While Rand Paul’s campaign only has slightly more cash on hand than debt, $473,702 to $406,281, his two super PACs — Concerned American Voters and America’s Liberty PAC — have a combined $2,656,992, with no debt. Jeb Bush’s campaign has barely more cash on hand than debt, at $465,192 to $452,065, but the pro-Bush super PAC Right to Rise USA still has over $16 million in the bank — and much of that debt is to Bush himself.

Other ex-campaigns are in a less comfortable position. Scott Walker, who dropped out in September, still has $1,093,568 in campaign debt, and only $77,754 cash on hand. Rick Santorum, who dropped out after Iowa, has $547,609 in debt and only $10,346 cash on hand, making his debt 53 times more than his cash on hand.

Candidate Date of drop-out Campaign cash on hand Campaign debt Super PAC cash on hand Super PAC debt Last super PAC filing Debt as percent of CoH
Rick Perry 9/11/2015 $2,403 $0 $0 $0 12/31/2015 0.00%
Scott Walker 9/21/2015 $77,754 $1,093,568 $1,396 $0 1/31/2016 1406.45%
Jim Webb 10/20/2015 $206,841 $0 N/A N/A N/A 0.00%
Bobby Jindal 11/17/2015 $0 $0 $8,055 $0 2/29/2016 0.00%
Lindsey Graham 12/21/2015 $57,242 $57,040 $250,598 $0 12/31/2015 99.65%
George Pataki 12/29/2015 $19,332 $20,000 $0 $0 2/22/2016 103.46%
Martin O'Malley 2/1/2016 $108,561 $19,423 $189,336 $172,946 12/31/2015 17.89%
Mike Huckabee 2/1/2016 $74,493 $90,621 $251,174 $0 2/29/2016 121.65%
Rand Paul 2/3/2016 $473,702 $406,281 $2,656,992 $0 Varied 85.77%
Rick Santorum 2/3/2016 $10,346 $547,609 $34,784 $11,865 12/31/2015 5292.95%
Carly Fiorina 2/10/2016 $1,767,911 $0 $1,405,799 $0 2/29/2016 0.00%
Chris Christie 2/10/2016 $286,982 $485,650 $119,081 $25,582 2/29/2016 169.23%
Jim Gilmore 2/12/2016 $33,657 $124,075 $15,252 $196,000 12/31/2015 368.65%
Jeb Bush 2/20/2016 $465,192 $452,065 $16,119,705 $0 2/29/2016 97.18%
Ben Carson 3/4/2016 $4,870,800 $360,078 $659,850 $566,801 12/31/2015 7.39%
Marco Rubio 3/15/2016 $5,466,109 $1,015,007 $3,446,572 $0 2/29/2016 18.57%
Totals $13,921,325 $25,158,594
Note: Marco Rubio and Ben Carson dropped out after the last filing period, so we don’t have numbers for their post-candidacy campaigns yet.

And campaign debt can follow ex-candidates around for many years: In January of this year, Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign committee still had $4,631,534 in debt from his run in 2012, and eight-time candidate Lyndon LaRouche still owes millions from White House runs stretching as far back as 1992 (when this author was two years old and unaware of the existence of the United States).

For those campaigns and super PACs with money left over, the question is: What exactly will happen to it? Campaigns have a number of options. They can return money to donors, donate it to charity or give it to party committees. Super PACs can really do whatever they want, except donate it to a federal candidate. As CBS put it, “The leaders of [a super PAC] could legally cash out, buy a yacht, name it The SS Thank You FEC and sail off into the political sunset.” But they tend not to, because “they have a real profession incentive to not abuse the good will of their donors,” according to Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center, speaking to CBS.

We’ll be keeping an eye on their filings to see where it all ends up.

The Sunlight Foundation is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens, alike.


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