Bernie Sanders has proven to be a prolific fundraiser. In March, the senator from Vermont clocked in more than $44 million, according to his campaign. That broke his previous record of $43.5 million set in February, bringing his total for the first quarter to a whopping $109 million.
On Tuesday, Sanders’ chief strategist Tad Devine told the New York Times the campaign will “reassess” where the Vermont senator’s candidacy stands after five states vote Tuesday, which is expected to be a rough night for Sanders (though Devine insisted Sanders would remain in the race through the convention).
But should Sanders drop out, what happens to all those millions of dollars?
Campaign finance experts Kenneth Gross, a former associate general counsel of the Federal Elections Commission, says whatever money was raised for the general election will have to be returned to donors and cannot be spent.
“You can ask donors to re-designate the funds to either Sanders for Senate or the Democratic National Committee,” Gross told TheWrap. “But they have to sign a form,” adding that when Clinton finally conceded to then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008, she had to return close to $20 million in donations.
But Gross says the millions that Sanders raised were mostly earmarked for the primary race. And that’s where things get a little tricky.
According to a report by the New York Times, as of April 21, Clinton had $29 million on hand while the Sanders campaign had about $17.5 million left.
That’s enough to buy you a timeless Lady Blunt Stradivarius violin (sold for $15.9 million in 2011), Victoria’s Secret’s Red Hot Fantasy Bra (about $15 million) or you could stay at the most expensive suite in the world in Geneva (complete with a Steinway grand piano, a private fitness center and a chef) for about eight months.
But Sanders would not be allowed to console himself with any of those things.
Here are Sanders’ options, according to Gross (this does not include Super PAC money, as Sanders doesn’t have one):
- First order of business: Retire any campaign debt. Candidates may also continue to raise funds to repay their debt after they “suspend” their campaigns or “drop out” of the race. Contrary to
commonbelief, there is no legal difference between the two terms.
- He could return it to the donors.
- He could give it to either national, state or local committees, such as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee or even the Vermont Democratic Party.
- He could use the money to pay for a speaking tour to promote his revolution.
- He could keep the money for his own future campaigns.
- He could give it to charity.
Either way, buying a yacht and sailing off into the sunset isn’t an option.