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|
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.