Five years after he lost a bid for the presidency to Barack Obama, Arizona Sen. John McCain is making moves with leftover campaign cash. Nearly $600,000 that was restricted to use for legal purposes, such as the possibility of a recount, has been freed up to use for political or charitable purposes and moved to the main long-dormant campaign committee, filings showed Tuesday.
Exactly a year ago, the legal fund transferred nearly $9 million in old donations to a charity run by three major political supporters to establish a personal library bearing the Republican’s name, similar to those of ex-presidents, on the campus of Arizona State University.
Because Mr. McCain took public financing, his campaign could not raise money from supporters during the general election — a major factor in his defeat by Mr. Obama, who mobilized a massive private donation network. Wealthy supporters still wanted to contribute in whatever way they could, so they gave more than was necessary to a legal fund that was not allowed to spend on politicking, and which would up playing little role in the campaign.
With a lengthy audit by the Federal Election Commission of all presidential campaigns finally wrapping up five years later, those restrictions are now lifted, meaning they could be used for his Senate re-election, donated to the campaigns of politicians Mr. McCain supports, or given to a super PAC.
McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said by email that there were “no plans yet” for the money.
“As the mandatory FEC audit wraps up, the remaining 2008 funds are being consolidated in Sen. McCain’s campaign committee,” he said.
In 2007, John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2000, transferred $4 million in that campaign’s legal fund to his own Senate campaign.
Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer at Arent Fox LLP, said the move “may be permissible as long as it didn’t result in anyone who contributed to the GELAC fund making an excessive contribution to McCain. GELAC funds frequently come from people who have already maxed out to the campaign.”
GELAC stands for “General Election Legal and Accounting Compliance” funds.