Tracking Political Donations in Zombie Land |

Are you among the countless Americans who felt so passionate about the 2020 presidential election that you wrote a check to your favorite candidate? But if your candidate had dropped out of the race, would you have been able to get your money back?

At one point, there were 29 Democrats running for president in 2020. Collectively, these candidates raised hundreds of millions of dollars in donations, some from big contributors like corporations, some from political action committees and many small individual contributors, perhaps. just like you

Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s campaign raised nearly $80 million, but he dropped out of the race in November 2019, months after the Federal Election Commission reported that O’Rourke still had about 3, $2 million in unused cash.

Sen. Kamala Harris raised about $35 million in her unsuccessful presidential bid. Federal Election Commission filings showed he still had about $10 million stashed away in early 2020.

Senator Cory Booker dropped out of the race in January 2020 after raising nearly $19 million. He still has $5 million in his campaign account. So will any of these losing candidates return money to disappointed donors? They (SET ITAL) can, (END ITAL) but I doubt they will.

Legally, politicians still in office can choose to do all kinds of things with campaign contributions. They are not allowed to use the money for personal expenses, such as mortgages, clothing or groceries, but Federal Election Commission regulations say they can simply transfer the surplus funds to Senate or House campaign coffers. Or they can give the money to charity, give it to their party, or give it to another candidate. They are not obligated to refund your money.

A really problematic, and sometimes criminal, aspect of what happens to these leftover funds comes when a politician retires or is voted out of office. A defeated candidate can simply claim that he plans to run for office again one day and keep the slush fund. A retired politician may claim he needs the money to wind up his official business, which the Federal Election Commission says should take about six months. But lawmakers who have been out of office for many years have continued to tap into their still battered campaign war chests. These are called “zombie campaigns”. Campaigns are dead; the former candidate simply won’t admit it.

A major investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and its affiliate television stations across the country revealed the egregious way more than 100 zombie campaigns spent that leftover money. The paper analyzed more than 1 million spending records and concluded that while the Federal Election Commission has fiscal powers, it is a body that does little to track the unauthorized use of campaign funds . And the Commission does not challenge defeated politicians who conveniently leave open the possibility of another candidacy.

“In their political lives beyond, former politicians and their staffers are accumulating unspent campaign donations for years and using them to finance their lifestyles, advance new careers and pay family members,” reports the research article. “Ex-candidates spent leftover donations on plane tickets, club memberships, limo rides, cellphones, parking and new computers… Some former lawmakers paid themselves thousands of dollars with no explanation as to where the money went. money”.

A former politician spent $940 at a store called Total Wine. Other purchases included football tickets and an expensive portrait. Tens of thousands of dollars were spent on questionable trips. In Hawaii, Rep. Mark Takai’s campaign treasurer paid his own consulting firm $100,000 over 18 months (SET ITAL) after the candidate’s death. (END) New York Rep. Thomas Manton retired in 1999 and died in 2006, but his treasurer drew a salary until 2008.

There’s another way your political donation can end up in a place you never thought possible. The Tampa Bay Times investigation found that 51 of the zombie candidates became lobbyists and gave nearly $4.5 million of their slush fund money to politicians and friendly causes.

Here are the dirty little secrets of what happens to the millions of dollars in campaign donations. The only way to change this insidious practice is if Congress sets a time limit on how long zombie campaigns can live. Do you think Congress will restrict the actions of its outgoing members? It’s highly unlikely, so keep that in mind when making a political donation.

— To learn more about Diane Dimond, visit her website at His latest book, “Thinking Outside the Crime and Justice Box,” is available at To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and artists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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