The PJ Tatler

Crapped Out of Congress? Need Cash? No Problem!

Ever wonder what happens to all that money candidates raise and somehow don’t spend on their campaigns?

No matter how they exited — a loss, a resignation, a retirement — former members of Congress can pretty much do whatever they want with leftover campaign cash as long as it’s political or charitable.

Evan Bayh has kept $10 million in campaign contributions since leaving the Senate in 2011, raising plenty of questions about the Indiana Democrat’s political future or perhaps his children’s. Mary Landrieu has more than $146,000 since her Senate loss last year and the Louisiana Democrat is talking about giving some of it to former Republican colleagues, much to the chagrin of Democrats.

Hey, wait a minute — that’s two high-profile loser Democrats. Should we get a Republican in there, just for balance?

Mark Foley, the Florida Republican who resigned in disgrace in 2006 after the revelation that he had sent sexually suggestive electronic messages to former male pages, is holding onto $1 million — and hoping for a political miracle.

There, solved that problem and reminded people that Republicans are gay-hating mountebanks… who somehow sent same-sex text messages to… oh, never mind. Still, it’s not like it was in the good old days:

In an age of furious fundraising, dozens of former senators and House members are sitting on tens of millions of dollars in unspent campaign money. They can’t use it for personal expenses, but they can hold onto it indefinitely, donate it to political causes or give it to charity, as former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman did when he gave $815,000 to a college scholarship program.

Up until the 1970s, the one restriction placed on leftover campaign money was that it had to be spent on “lawful purposes,” including just keeping it for personal use, said Bill Canfield, a Washington-based lawyer who is an expert in campaign finance. “It was like a savings account — once you retired you could take it home,” Canfield said.

Yes, but creative Democrats have figured out a way to, um, recycle that cash without technically, you know, pocketing it:

About 35 years ago, the Senate and House revised their rules to allow the leftover money to be used only for charitable and political purposes. The Associated Press examined campaign finance reports filed through the first half of 2015. New reports are due this week.

Of his $10 million, Bayh has given away $53,700 in the past 2 1/2 years, almost entirely to Democratic candidates. That has stirred speculation of another political run, though Bayh has ruled out running for Indiana governor or an open Senate seat next year. Dan Parker, who served two terms as state Democratic Party chair at Bayh’s request, said the former lawmaker might consider a future race. “He is still young and does not know what the future may hold,” Parker said of the 59-year-old Bayh.

But Ann DeLaney, who managed one of Bayh’s gubernatorial campaigns and was the state Democratic Party chairman when he served as governor, suggests Bayh might be saving his money to create an instant campaign account if one of his children runs for office someday. Bayh is the son of former Sen. Birch Bayh. DeLaney acknowledges that many Indiana Democrats are frustrated that he’s sitting on millions.

Wouldn’t you? Dynastic politics is all the rage these days, so nothing like salting away some tax-free millions until your little genius is old enough to run for your former seat. Hey, they don’t call it a racket for nothing.