I've seen it stated frequently that large campaign contributions are used, especially by corporations, to buy the influence of a politician. Many places have gone so far as to say that corporate campaign contributions are legalized bribery (and I'm inclined to agree, especially when seeing how these politicians vote). However, this attempted bribery would lose strength if the money must be used for political ads and funding the campaign. (The appeal of bribery is the ability to buy a fancy sports car, nice house, private jet etc., not 'more ads on Facebook')

Are these contributions just cash for the politician, or are they only able to be used for campaigning? For example, if a politician raises $30 Million, and then only uses $25 Million for their campaign, what happens to the remaining $5 Million? Does it go into the politician's personal bank account? Back to the people that donated? To the government? Somewhere else?

If the money can only be used for the campaign and nothing else, what motivation would a politician have to take enormous sums from companies, rather than raising it from voters?

  • @SJuan76 perhaps that question should be rephrased a bit to make it a proper dupe? As it stands, I don't think we can close this question as a dupe of that one. – JJJ Nov 6 '19 at 20:52
  • @JJforTransparencyandMonica: That sounds a bit weird. If part of this question is a dupe, part of it isn't, surely we should keep the non-dupe part? – MSalters Nov 7 '19 at 8:07
  • @MSalters I think the questions aren't dupes. The other question just has an answer that fits this question (even more than the other question). – JJJ Nov 7 '19 at 13:22
  • @JJforTransparencyandMonica Agreed. If we need to close one as a duplicate, that question should be closed as a specific case of a more general answer – divibisan Nov 7 '19 at 18:50
  • @divibisan I think mods may be able to switch the dupes and move answers from the dupe to the more general question, not sure about the specifics though. – JJJ Nov 7 '19 at 18:53

These donations are for a political campaign, and under federal law, such funds are not allowed for personal use. It therefore follows that the candidate cannot transfer any remaining funds to their personal account.

Any campaign funds that remain after all debts have been paid can go to a number of places, such as a future campaign, a national party, or to charity.

It is worth noting that, in 2016, the Clinton and Trump campaigns spent a combined $666 million (not including PACs). That figure is very difficult to raise just from voters, and so corporate donations have to be part of the fundraising mix.

  • The campaign manages and oversees these funds and the candidates are ultimately responsible for their appropriate use. – user9790 Nov 6 '19 at 23:53

Campaign contributions do not go directly to the politician. They go to the politician's campaign, to be spent on the campaign, theoretically. This can include perks like visits to fancy hotels, meals, plane trips, etc. So long as they are done for a campaign purpose.

Campaign money helps ensure that the politician retains their jobs, and the power associated with that job. Politicians are people who usually wanted a public office with power, and are quite willing to do any number of things to retain that position once they get it. Politicians without enough campaign money are unlikely to be re-elected (or elected in the first place).

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