EXPLAINED: What Happens To Biden’s Campaign Donations If He Drops Out?

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With Joe Biden almost surely set to drop out of the race soon (or be removed, or die) you may be wondering like I was: what will happen to all his campaign contributions?

Millions upon millions….

Remember just a few weeks ago when Barack Obama helped Biden raise $28 million?

WATCH: President Barack Obama Has To Guide A Confused Biden Off Stage As He FREEZES Again

So what happens to all that money if Biden drops out, dies or is removed?

Does it all go to Kamala?

Is it just transferred to whoever replaces him?

Not exactly.

Allow me to explain how it would be dealt with....

If Joe Biden were to drop out of the presidential race, the handling of the campaign donations would follow the Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations.

Here is how it would work in order of what would happen first to last (I've included citations to my sources and legal authorities):

  1. Debt Repayment: Campaign funds can be used to pay off any outstanding debts or obligations incurred during the campaign. This includes costs associated with winding down the campaign, such as office space rental, staff salaries, and office supplies​ (​​ (​.
  2. Refunds: Contributions made for the general election must be refunded to the donors if the candidate drops out before the general election. This refund must occur within 60 days unless the donor gives permission to use the funds for other purposes​ (Investopedia)​.
  3. Donations to Charities or Political Parties: Leftover funds can be donated to charitable organizations or transferred to other political committees, including national, state, or local party committees​ (Investopedia)​​ (Mental Floss)​.
  4. Transfers to Other Candidates: The campaign can make contributions to other federal candidates, subject to limits (e.g., $2000 per election per candidate)​ (Mental Floss)​.
  5. Future Campaign Use: Funds can be saved for a future election campaign by the same candidate. If Biden decided to run for another office in the future, he could use the remaining funds for that campaign​ (Investopedia)​.
  6. Prohibited Personal Use: The funds cannot be used for personal expenses. Personal use includes expenses that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign or duties as a federal officeholder, such as household items, personal mortgage or rent, and personal travel​ (Investopedia)​​ (Mental Floss)​.

Ok, so let's dig into #4 a bit....

So let's just say that The Rock ends up replacing Joe Biden.

It's true that only $2,000 of the Biden Campaign Funds can be transferred directly to The Rock's campaign, which of course is basically nothing.

But that's not really the end of the story.

There are many loopholes and workarounds.

Here are the three biggest ones:

  • Donations to Charities: Donate an unlimited amount to charitable organizations, provided the donation does not benefit Biden personally​ (Investopedia)​​ (​.
  • Transfers to Party Committees: Transfer unlimited amounts to national, state, or local political party committees​(Mental Floss)​​ (​.
  • Leadership PACs: Establish a leadership PAC, which can be used to support other candidates and political activities. This is more flexible but still subject to restrictions on personal use​ (Mental Floss)​.

So that's probably where we'd see the bulk of it places like the DNC or other PACs.

Forbes recently published a similar analysis that lines up very nicely with what I've just posted above:


If a presidential candidate dropped out of the race, they would first need to repay all of their campaign vendors, and if the campaign ended before their parties’ respective conventions, where they officially select a nominee, they would have to refund all contributions designated to be used in the general election, elections lawyer Brett Kappel told Forbes.

After that, Biden or Trump could try to use any leftover money to support their party’s new candidate—but campaign finance laws only allow them to transfer $2,000 directly to another federal campaign, so the vast majority of their eight-figure war chests would need to be given to other groups like political parties or PACs, a complicated process.
The funds could seamlessly be transferred, without limits, to national, state or local party committees, such as the Democratic or Republican National Committees, which could use the money to support a replacement nominee or other Democratic candidates in federal down-ballot races—a scenario that would make the party largely responsible for funding a candidate’s presidential run, representing a break from most modern campaigns.
FEC rules also permit limitless transfers to political action committees and to nonprofits, which can support candidates that align with their broader mission statement, though engaging in political campaigns cannot be their primary activity.

Political action committees and super PACs supporting presidential candidates could seamlessly begin spending their money to support replacement candidates, but super PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating directly with campaigns.

A presidential candidate who drops out of the race could also create what’s known as a leadership PAC, which are controlled by federal office holders and used to help other candidates for office, but leadership PACs have a $5,000 limit on donations to and from the organization, Kappel said, noting “it would be more efficient to just give [unspent campaign money] to the party committees.”

CNN also had an interesting analysis more generally exploring what happens in several key things if Biden is replaced:

Who could replace Biden?

You can assume, for instance, that Vice President Kamala Harris would be a top contender to be on the ballot in such a scenario. But there would be other potential candidates who previously argued they could run a more effective campaign against former President Donald Trump.

Would someone like California Gov. Gavin Newsom – who offered unqualified support for Biden in the wake of Thursday’s debate – challenge Harris at the convention? Settling on a replacement could be divisive and ugly. It would be up to the delegates to decide, in a series of votes after frantic lobbying, who to pick.

On the Democratic side, there is also another group to consider: the “superdelegates,” a group of about 700 senior party leaders and elected officials who are automatically delegates to the convention based on their position. Under normal party rules, they can’t vote on the first ballot if they could swing the nomination, but they’re free to vote on subsequent ballots.

What if a candidate left the race after the convention?

It would take a drastic event for a candidate to leave the race in the few months between a party’s nominating convention in the summer and the general election in November.

Democrats and Republicans have slightly different methods of dealing with this possibility. You can imagine the end result would probably be that the running mate stepped up to be on the general election ballot, but that is not necessarily guaranteed.

Democrats – The Democratic National Committee is empowered to fill a vacancy on the national ticket after the convention under party rules, after the party chair consults with Democratic governors and congressional leadership.

Republicans – If a vacancy occurs on the Republican side, the Republican National Committee can either reconvene the national convention or select a new candidate itself.

Would the running mate automatically become the nominee?

An in-depth Congressional Research Service memo also notes that if an incumbent president becomes incapacitated after winning the party’s nomination, the 25th Amendment would elevate the vice president to the presidency, but party rules would determine who rises to become the party’s nominee.

Neither party, according to the CRS, requires that the presidential candidate’s running mate be elevated to the top of the ticket, though that would obviously be the most likely scenario.

Has a candidate ever left the race after the convention?

In modern times, per the CRS, the Democrat running for vice president in 1972, Sen. Thomas Eagleton, was forced to step aside after the convention after it was discovered that he was treated for mental illness. (1972 was a very different time! Today, thankfully, there is not nearly the stigma attached to mental health.)

The DNC actually needed to convene a meeting to affirm Sargent Shriver as Democratic nominee George McGovern’s second-choice running mate.

What if a president-elect was incapacitated after the election?

If a president-elect was to die, timing is again important.

Under the Constitution, it is electors meeting in state capitols who technically cast votes for the presidency. While some states require that they vote for the winner of the election in their state, in others they have leeway.

The CRS memo, which cites several congressional hearings on the subject, suggests it would clearly make sense for a vice president-elect to simply assume the role of president-elect, but the law itself is murky.

Under the 20th Amendment, if a president-elect dies, his or her running mate, the vice president-elect, becomes president.

There could be some question, for instance, about when exactly a person becomes president-elect. Is it after the electors meet in December, or after Congress meets to count Electoral College votes on January 6?

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