Rep. Michele Bachmann is one of the most prolific campaign fundraisers in all of politics. As of March, her 2014 re-election campaign had $36,759 of cash on hand. Her 2012 campaign committee claimed $2,070,568 of cash on hand at the end of last year.
There was a time when politicians were free to keep the cash but that changed with passage of an ethics law in 1989.
According to OpenSecrets.org, which last visited the issue in a wave of retirements in 2008:
The law stipulates that leftover campaign funds should be returned to donors, transferred to a political party or candidate, or donated to charity. Because of the logistics of returning partially spent donations of different sizes to an array of contributors, that option is not widely exercised. So far the retiring lawmakers have given away $200,000 to charities, churches, little league teams, alma maters and other nonprofits of their choosing. Besides being generous with their donors’ money, some of the departing representatives appear to be going out in style, with spending on “events” and “meetings”–code for meals at high-end restaurants and lavish fundraisers–totaling $1.2 million last year. The Capitol Hill Club alone, a perennial favorite hangout for GOP congressmen and their staffs, last year made $84,000 in meals paid for with retiring members’ campaign funds.
If Rep. Bachmann decides to become a lobbyist, she could use her campaign money to reward sitting politicians who vote her way. Each politician is eligible for $2,000 per election. If she converts the money to a PAC, she can give $5,000 to an individual politician. She could also make gifts to anyone other than her family members.
If she’s so inclined, it’s possible for Rep. Bachmann to keep some of the money.
Like other politicians, Bachmann has a leadership PAC, which ostensibly uses contributions to elect like-minded politicians. But at last check, MichelePAC has only about $50,000 left.
But that’s hers to do with as she pleases because of a loophole in campaign contribution rules.
And there’s nothing to prevent a politician from donating her campaign contributions to a charity, even a foundation a politician runs.
“Between these two sources of money, authorized campaign committee funds and leadership PACs, and considering that there are very minor restrictions, I would say that any retiring lawmaker with even an ounce of common sense can do just about anything they want with the unspent money,” Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, told ABC News in 2010.