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house Bill H.R. 1363

Should Former Members of Congress Have to Close Their Campaign Accounts Within 2 Years of Leaving Office?

Argument in favor

Political donations are made for the express purpose of helping a specific candidate get elected. When a politician loses their race or leaves public office, any remaining donations should be returned to donors, distributed to other candidates, or donated to charity (per existing allowable uses) — and this should happen within a reasonable period of time.

John's Opinion
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07/27/2019
Two years is a bunch of crap it should be six months.
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SneakyPete's Opinion
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07/27/2019
Why the devil shouldn’t they close out their Political funding accounts Political donations are made for the express purpose of helping a specific candidate get elected. When a politician loses their race or leaves public office, any remaining donations should be returned to donors, distributed to other candidates, or donated to charity (per existing allowable uses) — and this should happen within a reasonable period of time. SneakyPete......... 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻. 7.26.19......
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RjGoodman's Opinion
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07/27/2019
Political donations are made to help a specific candidate get elected. When a politician loses their race or leaves public office, any remaining donations should be returned to donors, donated to charity (per existing allowable uses) — and this should happen within a reasonable period of time.
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Argument opposed

The FEC already has rules governing allowable uses of campaign funds after a politician leaves elected office or loses their election. While it isn’t ideal for politicians to leave campaign funds open indefinitely, it’s not worth stretching the FEC’s already-limited resources to enforce this bill, given how few people are affected on a yearly basis.

Marty's Opinion
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07/27/2019
They should close the accounts 6 months prior to leaving office.
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Tucker's Opinion
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07/27/2019
It should be no later than when they announce that they are no longer seeking another term. Any money left in their accounts after the last time they ran for office should be donated to either a charity or a general election fund for anyone, regardless of party, who is running for office.
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Annett's Opinion
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07/27/2019
No they should turn them in to Congress and anything else emails etc they used while in/etc office/.. Immediate upon leave or
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What is House Bill H.R. 1363?

This bill — the Honest Elections and Campaign, No Gain Act — would require outgoing lawmakers to close their campaign accounts within two years of leaving office. It’d also ban payments to family members from campaign accounts once members leave office. Additionally, it’d prohibit candidates from transferring leftover campaign funds into their own political action committees (PACs) (which is allowed under current regulations), and require that all campaign funds be disposed of before a former politician becomes a registered lobbyist.

As is already under the case under current law, this bill would allow unspent campaign donations to be given to charity, donated to local, state, or national political parties, or refunded to the original donors.

In its current form, this bill wouldn’t make any changes when it comes to lawmakers who have passed away. This bill would only apply to current and former members of Congress (House and Senate), and not to presidential candidates.

Impact

Political campaigns; politicians; members of Congress; lobbyists; and the FEC.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1363

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to require former lawmakers to close campaign accounts in a reasonable time and bar unauthorized payments to family members. In a letter to her Congressional colleagues seeking cosponsors for this bill, Rep. Castor wrote:

“You might have seen the reporting regarding roughly 100 'zombie campaigns' still spending campaign cash long after the candidate is no longer seeking office.  It is unconscionable for congressional campaign accounts to live on years after a member has left office or a candidacy ended and for funds to be diverted for personal use, club dues, sports tickets, etc. We introduced the bipartisan Honest Elections and Campaign, No Gain (HEC No) Act to stamp out that abuse of power. H.R. 1363 requires former lawmakers to close campaign accounts in a reasonable time and bars unauthorized payments to family members. HEC No also requires that former lawmakers dispense of all campaign funds prior to becoming a registered lobbyist. A member should not be able to have these accounts live on for decades and use those funds for personal use.”

Larry Noble, senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, says retired politicians’ campaigns holding on to funds indefinitely is a “serious issue”:

“It’s a serious issue, because the use of your campaign funds for personal use has been prosecuted by the Department of Justice as a criminal violation. Not only is it a violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act, if you’re using your campaign funds to support yourself, and you’re not paying income taxes on that, you’ve also violated the Internal Revenue Code… If you’re not going to [return the money], then you should, in a fair amount of time, dispose of that money by giving it to a charity or transferring it to the party committee or making political contributions within the limits if that’s what you want.”

This bill has three bipartisan cosponsors, including two Democrats and one Republican, in the current session of Congress. In the 115th Congress, it had four bipartisan cosponsors (including two Democrats and two Republicans) and didn’t receive a committee vote.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) has introduced a similar bill, the Let It Go Act, that’d require outgoing members of Congress to disburse their campaign funds within six years after leaving office (versus the two years this bill would require). Like this bill, Rep. Takano’s bill also requires former politicians to wind down their campaign funds before registering as lobbyists.


Of NoteRep. Castor and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), who’s been a cosponsor of this bill in both the 115th and 116th Congresses, introduced this bill in the 115th Congress in direct response to a Tampa Bay Times / 10News WTSP investigation that turned up around 100 so-called “zombie campaigns” kept open by former politicians to finance their lifestyles, advance new careers, and pay family members.

After the Tampa Bay Times published its report on zombie campaigns, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) announced in April 2018 that it’d start scrutinizing dormant campaigns’ spending. Adav Noti, a former FEC attorney who’s now a senior director for the Campaign Legal Center, praised the FEC’s move as a “really positive step” that was “highly unusual” for the middle of an election cycle. FEC vice chairwoman Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic appointee, added that the Tampa Bay Times report had highlighted a problem not previously on the FEC’s radar, but which the entire FEC agreed needed to be addressed once they found out about it.

OpenSecrets reports that 42 members of Congress who either resigned or retired before the 2018 midterm elections had a combined outstanding balance of $50 million in campaign funds. In theory, these funds can’t be used for personal expenses or purchases unrelated to a member’s candidacy or time in office. However, abuse of the system is rampant. The Tampa Bay Times report found that former lawmakers had used leftover campaign funds to buy college football season tickets or pay family members thousands of dollars — all without being formally investigated by the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Currently, outgoing lawmakers have little incentive to shut their campaigns down in a timely manner, as the FEC allows campaign committees to keep running indefinitely after members leave office. Noble notes that this is for good reason: “The theory behind it is that if they decide to run again, they can convert their campaign into a new campaign committee and just roll over the money.” However, this can be exploited. For example, after Rep. Mark Takai (D-HI) passed away, his committee remained active for over a year after his death, paying political advisor Dylan Beeley’s firm over $100,000 for “consulting services” after Rep. Takai’s death.

In 2013, the FEC issued an advisory opinion in which it recommended that outgoing politicians should wind down campaign expenses within six months.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / rclassenlayouts)

AKA

Honest Elections and Campaign, No Gain Act

Official Title

To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require each authorized committee or leadership PAC of a candidate for election for Federal office to disburse all of the funds of the committee or PAC which remain unexpended after the date of the election, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Administration
      Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties
    IntroducedFebruary 26th, 2019
    Two years is a bunch of crap it should be six months.
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    They should close the accounts 6 months prior to leaving office.
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    Why the devil shouldn’t they close out their Political funding accounts Political donations are made for the express purpose of helping a specific candidate get elected. When a politician loses their race or leaves public office, any remaining donations should be returned to donors, distributed to other candidates, or donated to charity (per existing allowable uses) — and this should happen within a reasonable period of time. SneakyPete......... 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻. 7.26.19......
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    Political donations are made to help a specific candidate get elected. When a politician loses their race or leaves public office, any remaining donations should be returned to donors, donated to charity (per existing allowable uses) — and this should happen within a reasonable period of time.
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    Yes. And they would not have enormous campaign funds large enough to worry about if we simply got rid of PAC funding, ‘soft’ funds they collect and other ‘dark’ money. Let’s elect people based on their character, ideals, and ideas- not upon their ability to out-fund media blitz smear campaigns against their opponents. Let’s stop big money from buying politicians and controlling who gets elected. It certainly doesn’t seem to line up with what our founders would have envisioned- and to me at least, just seems wrong.
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    6 MONTHS MAX!
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    Yes. Campaign accounts must be closed promptly. These accounts breed corruption as Un regulated slush funds. Close these accounts. Make it law these accounts must be closed. And reported. Transparency is essential.
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    How is this not already the law?
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    My argument in favor of this bill - it ban payments to family members from campaign accounts once members leave office. Additionally, it’d prohibit candidates from transferring leftover campaign funds into their own political action committees (PACs) (which is allowed under current regulations), and require that all campaign funds be disposed of before a former politician becomes a registered lobbyist. This bill will help combat corrupt money in politics.
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    Two years! That’s ridiculous. They should be closed the day they leave office.
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    Should be 6 months or less! Montana does not allow DARK money in campaigns!
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    It should be immediately after leaving office
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    2 yrs is more than enough time.
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    Campaign accounts should be closed immediately upon Election Day and should not be opened until another campaign begins. Furthermore, there should be ZERO lobbyists. And, former office holders should be banned from ever lobbying. Clean up our foul, polluted government.
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    6 months is more realistic. 2 years is too long #MAGA
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    They should close these accounts the day they leave office
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    Rick Scott, Marco Rubio, Bill Posey OLC policy: The indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions. It’s time to do your job. You swore an oath to this country, it’s people and me to uphold the constitution. The president has never upheld that oath. How do you want to be remembered?
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    One year, I would stipulate.
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    Just stop trying to get rich off of public service ...
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    It should be no later than when they announce that they are no longer seeking another term. Any money left in their accounts after the last time they ran for office should be donated to either a charity or a general election fund for anyone, regardless of party, who is running for office.
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