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Such dormant congressional campaigns still can raise and spend money in a variety of ways. They can keep old donations in the bank, pay down debts or give the money to other politicians. They also can donate it to charity or return contributions to donors.

Mr. LaHood recently terminated his campaign fund, but not before tapping into his leftover money to help his son’s political career.

On. Nov. 15, Mr. LaHood’s campaign transferred $60,000 to Friends of Darin LaHood, his son’s campaign fund. Just 11 days earlier, Darin LaHood lost his bid to become state attorney in Peoria, Ill.

This father-to-son campaign transfer would violate campaign finance laws in federal campaigns and in most state elections. But since Illinois has no cap on state-level donations, the transfer was legal, said David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, which advocates contribution limits.

“While everything is legal, when people donate to their sons or daughters, we’ve always found that to be a really questionable practice,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “Donors to Ray LaHood probably didn’t think the money was going to go to his son.”

After Mr. LaHood was named transportation secretary, his committee filed papers terminating his House campaign with the Federal Election Commission. Through a spokeswoman, Mr. LaHood declined to comment about the transfer.

Three top Obama appointees have campaign accounts with more than $1 million each:

•Mr. Emanuel has two open accounts. His principal campaign committee, Friends of Rahm Emanuel, had more than $1.7 million in the bank at the end of last year.

Mr. Emanuel’s leadership committee, Our Common Values, raised more than $1 million in donations in 2007 and 2008, with the money going almost entirely to Democrats. The committee now has less than $15,000 in the bank, according to records.

• Former Sen. Ken Salazar, Colorado Democrat, reported $2 million in his campaign bank before he became Mr. Obama’s secretary of the interior.

• Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign fund for her Senate seat from New York has more than $5.3 million in the bank, but her presidential campaign committee remained nearly $6 million in debt at the end of 2008. The biggest debt is owed to Penn, Schoen & Berlan Associates, headed by Mrs. Clinton’s former campaign strategist, Mark Penn.

Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, a Democrat who left her House seat from California for a Cabinet post in the Obama administration, reported more than a quarter-million dollars left in her campaign fund at the end of the year.

Former members of Congress are under no deadlines to decide what to do with the money.

“There’s no restrictions in terms of how long excess campaign funds can remain in a campaign account,” said campaign finance lawyer Michael Toner, a former Federal Election Commission chairman who was appointed by Mr. Bush in 2002.