What do Former Members of Congress and Losing Candidates do with Leftover Campaign Funds?

Friday, May 23, 2014
(AP graphic)

Once the phone lines have been disconnected, the volunteers thanked and dismissed, and the campaign office closed, politicians often still have something left over once their run for office has ended: cash.


Lots of cash.


Former members of the U.S. Congress and those who failed to win a seat in the House or Senate today sit on top of nearly $100 million in campaign funds that weren’t spent by the time Election Day rolled around, according to the Center for Public Integrity.


In some cases, the campaign war chest is brimming with money.


Evan Bayh, former U.S. senator from Indiana who hasn’t been in office for three years, still has almost $10 million in surplus campaign cash.


That money is currently sitting in an investment account accruing thousands of dollars in interest each week.


Bayh is not the only ex-lawmaker with a million-dollar campaign account.


At least nine former congressional members and candidates done with their races have $1 million or more, the Center for Public Integrity reported. And there are dozens of other former members and candidates with six-figure surpluses under their control.


So what’s a politician to do with this money? After all, they’re not required under law to divest it or shut down their accounts.


Some, like Bayh, intend to hold onto it, claiming they might still run for office again someday.


Others have found ways to siphon some of the money to family members or to nonprofits they control.


Eric Massa, who resigned from his New York congressional seat four years ago after he was accused of inappropriately touching male staffers, used his campaign funds to pay his wife nearly $700 a month for “accounting services” in 2012, even though his campaign brought in no revenue that year, according to USA Today.


Former Representative Allen West (R-Florida) had nearly a million dollars remaining in his campaign war chest and donated more than half of it to two foundations, including one bearing his name (The Allen West Foundation). Asked by USA Today’s Fredreka Schouten why he used campaign money to set up the foundation, he responded, “It's something that's been done before.”


Those in the nonprofit world say these politicians should contribute their remaining campaign money to charitable causes.


“Donating surplus money of this nature to a credible, charitable organization only makes sense,” Randi K. Law, a spokeswoman for Veterans of Foreign Wars, told the Center for Public Integrity. “Unused funds, sitting idle, do nothing to perpetuate the cycle of support that America relies on.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Nearly $100 Million in Campaign Cash Sits Idle (by Dave Levinthal, Center for Public Integrity)

Ex-House Members Spend Campaign Money after They Depart (by Fredreka Schouten, USA Today)


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