What Happens to Campaign Funds When a Candidate Drops Out?

What happens to campaign funds

Getty What happens to a candidate's campaign funds after they drop out of a political race?

What happens to the campaign funds when a candidate drops out? Where do those millions of dollars go?

As the presidential race enters Super Tuesday, it’s likely that many high-profile presidential candidates will drop out in the weeks to come. In the days leading up to the Super Tuesday, two major candidates suspended their campaigns. First, Pete Buttigieg dropped out on March 1, surprising many across the country, given his third-place ranking in the polls. Then, on March 2, Amy Klobuchar dropped out, too. That leaves Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg as the last moderate Democratic candidates standing.

Buttigieg was known for his impressive fundraising chops, and for his bevy of billionaire donors. He collected over $25 million in the three-month period leading up to June 30, but The New York Times reports that the campaign spent nearly all of those funds leading up to the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses. The publication adds that the Buttigieg campaign didn’t receive the flood of donations it had expected after those caucuses.

So it’s not clear just how much money the Buttigieg campaign will have leftover, now that the young candidate has dropped out of the race. Lack of funding could have been a primary motivator for him to drop out, but it’s also possible that it could be in the millions.

As for Klobuchar, she confirmed that her decision to drop out of the race was explicitly due to lack of funding. Per ABC, Klobuchar said, “I will say, you know, South Carolina for me, the issue was we got a lot of our funding in after New Hampshire. And while we had operations and staff in South Carolina and for that matter, in Nevada, we didn’t have as big of a staff there as some of the other campaigns. Why? Because we didn’t have the funding and we’ve been basically going state by state.”

Based off of that statement, it’s not likely that Klobuchar’s campaign will have much funding left over. Still, even if there are a few thousand dollars, it’s natural to wonder where they’ll go, now that Klobuchar’s out of the race.

As it turns out, there are only a few legal options for where those funds can go, after a presidential campaign is over.

Here’s what you need to know:

Campaign Funds Can Only Be Used for Charitable Donations, Specific Types of Political Donations, or a Candidate’s Future Campaign

After a candidate drops out of the presidential race, they have only a handful of options, as to what they can do with their leftover campaign funds.

According to the Federal Election Commission, campaign funds can be put towards any of the following buckets:

  • the funds can be donated to charities or political parties
  • the funds can be used as a contribution to another campaign, but only up to $2,000 per election
  • the funds can be saved for a future campaign for the candidate

Some people might remember when Buttigieg called out Elizabeth Warren in an early debate for how she had taken donors from billionaires in an earlier campaign. Though she was no longer taking that type of donation, he explained, her campaign was able to take advantage of the funds she’d earned in an earlier campaign, thus allowing her to hit the ground running for this presidential election. That’s an example of what a presidential candidate can do with their funds.

These funds don’t just have to move from one presidential campaign to another, either. They can be used for any political campaign that the candidate wants to run.

For example, per The New York TimesWarren transferred $10.4 million in leftover campaign funds from her 2018 Senate campaign towards her presidential campaign.

So if Buttigieg wanted to take his leftover campaign funds and use them to jumpstart a Senate run, a mayoral run, or any other type of political run, he would be legally allowed to do so.

Another interesting example is Hillary Clinton’s campaign funds. According to Open Secrets, which is run by the Center for Responsive Politics, Clinton’s campaign committee, Hillary for America, raised a total of $563.6 million for her 2016 presidential run. The campaign technically spent $563.4 million for the duration of the election, meaning that she had quite little left over once the election was finished.

If you’re curious about how much money a politician has raised for any election cycle, you can read about their fundraising information on Open Secrets, by searching their name.

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