Mar 12, 2024 - News

How Kyrsten Sinema can spend millions in leftover campaign cash

A woman gestures with her hands while talking.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in May 2023. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Now that U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema won't seek re-election this year, she's got another big decision to make: what to do with all the money she's raised.

State of play: As of the end of 2023, Sinema had about $10.6 million in her campaign account, according to her most recent report to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Totals from the first three months of 2024 are due April 15.

  • Because she's no longer a candidate she is very restricted in her ability to raise more money or spend what she has.
  • Sinema's staff had no comment on her plans.

Spend it: A retiring officeholder can use campaign cash for "winding down" costs and "ordinary and necessary" costs connected to their official duties, according to the FEC.

  • That can include things like moving expenses, staff payments and gifts.
  • She could also use her funds to make contributions to federal, state and local candidates, within contribution limits, or to ballot measure campaigns, which have no limits.

The fine print: The FEC prohibits candidates from using campaign cash from personal use.

  • Yes, but: Those rules can be a bit "squishy" if you can claim a reasonable connection to the campaign, says elections attorney Roy Herrera, who represents the campaign of Democratic Senate candidate, Rep. Ruben Gallego.

Save it: If Sinema has any thoughts of running for federal office again, she could simply maintain her campaign committee and save the money.

Share the wealth: She could convert her account into a "multicandidate committee" that could give contributions of up to $5,000 per primary and general election to other candidates.

  • Reality check: Depending on what she does with such a committee, it's unclear whether she'd be able to convert that back to a candidate committee afterwards, per a 2022 FEC opinion.

Super PAC: Sinema could give all of the money to an independent expenditure committee, which could influence races independently of candidates.

Plus: She could also donate money to a nonprofit — though she wouldn't be able to receive a salary or other compensation from that nonprofit until all is spent.

  • Or she could give it to a political party committee, though Herrera said that's unlikely, considering Sinema's highly publicized split with the Democratic Party.

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