Ending weeks of speculation, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has picked former rival John Edwards to be his running mate. According to his latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, Edwards still has nearly $730,000 in campaign funds that he accumulated during the primary season. Can he now transfer that money to the Kerry-Edwards war chest?
Nope. For starters, because Edwards accepted public financing, he can't do anything with his remaining loot until the FEC completes a post-campaign audit. The audit is intended to suss out exactly how much public money went unspent and to ensure that those funds are returned to the United States Treasury. In addition, the auditors look for campaign expenses that shouldn't have been paid for with public dollars. For example, George W. Bush's first presidential campaign was ordered to repay the Treasury $224,518—$95,509 for leasing corporate jets that were used for campaign business and $129,009 in expenses that the campaign rang up in excess of the FEC's expenditure limits. (Neither Bush nor Kerry have accepted public financing during the primary season of this election.)
The problem with the audits is that they take a long time to complete. The FEC didn't complete its examination of Bush and Gore's spending records until December of 2002. It's therefore highly unlikely that the FEC will finish going through Edwards' primary books before Election Day.
Kerry and Edwards shouldn't feel too terrible, though. Even if magic accounting elves were enlisted to complete the audit in a month or two, Edwards' campaign would be still be limited to making the standard personal contribution to the Kerry-Edwards ticket—a paltry $2,000 for the general election. Edwards would obviously be better off giving the fiscal scraps to the Democratic National Committee, which could at least run issue ads that might bolster the candidates' chances.
Explainer thanks Kelly Huff of the Federal Election Commission.