Suppose I'm running for some federal-level position in the United States. Along the way, I'm raising campaign funding for all of the usual reasons. Then the election comes, but I lose. I still have money left over, though. What can I legally do with it? Assume the following:

  • This could have been either a primary or the November general election. Or maybe even a special election. I leave that unspecified.
    • But if it's a primary, I don't run in that year's general as an independent or with a third party. I concede gracefully.
  • I'm considering trying again later (possibly for a different office), but have no immediate plans to do so.
  • All of my campaign expenses (and records thereof) up to that point were legitimate and properly reported.
  • For this question I leave the nature of my funding (donation, loan, self-financed, etc.) unspecified, except to say that it's all legal and properly reported.
  • 3
    Since this question is about legality of use of money by someone who is NOT in a government, I would suggest that law.SE is a better place for it.
    – grovkin
    Jul 4, 2018 at 20:50
  • 1
    This would seem to me to be about a political process, and a good fit here.
    – James K
    Jul 5, 2018 at 7:47

1 Answer 1


Source: Open Secrets

Let it sit

You can let the money sit in the campaign coffers. Later, when you run for another office, you can either use the same campaign organization or transfer the money to a new organization.

Give it away

You can give the money to other campaign organizations. For example, it is not at all uncommon to give leftover money to the party. Since the amount is unlimited, that's the simple way to get rid of the money.

You can give the money directly to other candidate campaign committees. This can help you build a network of supporters for future races.

You could also give it to charity.

Give it back

If the money was donated or loaned, you can give it back. If loaned, you really should clear the debt (unless it was a self-loan).

Spend it

You can spend the money on ongoing campaign efforts like staff or polling.

But not on yourself

The one real limitation is that you can't spend the money on yourself. You can't just pocket it or use it to pay expenses not directly related to campaigning.

  • OP specifies that they lose an election then have these "leftovers." Do you know if that actually matters--i.e. presumably one could win and have leftovers... would the answer be the same for a winner?
    – nitsua60
    Aug 15, 2018 at 14:18
  • @nitsua60 It's the same. It's just that if you win, the natural thing is to save the money for the next race or spend it preparing for the next race. You can also do that if you lose, but you may not plan on a next race. Winners almost always plan on a next race.
    – Brythan
    Aug 15, 2018 at 16:13

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