The $240 million question: Who gets Joe Biden's campaign money if he drops out? (2024)

Erin MansfieldUSA TODAY

If President Joe Biden exits the 2024 race, he'll leave behind hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign funds. He currently has $240 million split across a group of fundraising committees, according to Biden's campaign, which refers to its joint operation as Team Biden-Harris.

That's far more than sits in the war chests of any alternative Democratic nominee, including high-profile governors who have been campaigning nationally to fundraise for their own PACs.

But where the money trail would lead from there is unclear, because nothing like this has happened before. Even when President Lyndon B. Johnson dropped out of the 1968 presidential election, current campaign finance laws did not exist.

Here's a rundown of where Team Biden-Harris' campaign money is stashed and where it would go if the president dropped out.

Biden for President

This is the primary campaign committee for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, and it had $91.6 million in the bank at the end of May. The conventional wisdom is that Harris would inherit this money if she became the nominee because her name is on the campaign's formation documents. And federal law says money of a presidential campaign also belongs to the vice presidential nominee.

Dan Weiner, the director of the Brennan Center for Justice's Elections & Government Program, cautioned that the law leaves a lot of gray area. "It’s not crystal clear because I’m not sure if the people who drafted the Federal Election Campaign Act anticipated this situation," he said.

If Harris indeed gets the money, this would be Harris' only existing funding source. Her old war chests from her 2020 run for president and 2016 run for US Senate have both been zeroed out and deactivated.

Democratic National Committee

The Democratic Party ended May with $65.2 million in its campaign war chest. While this money has become synonymous with Biden's presidential campaign, political parties use their money to support whoever their nominee is. That means that if Biden drops out of the campaign, this money would likely be used to support the campaign of whoever wins the nomination at the August convention.

"The DNC keeps that money and would presumably use it for the Democratic nominee, whether it’s President Biden or someone else," Weiner said. "And I want to emphasize right now that all signs point to — it’s going to be President Biden."

Joint fundraising committees

Biden has three joint fundraising committees that pull in donations through a single account and then distribute them among many other PACs, ranging from his presidential campaign to local Democratic parties and the campaigns of members of Congress. At the end of March, Biden Victory Fund had $41.1 million; Biden Action Fund had $19.4 million; and Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund had $1.6 million.

Joint fundraising committees are authorized by the groups receiving the money, and they form with written agreements saying how much money goes to each of those groups. That means, for example, that part of the Biden Victory Fund money belongs to Biden for President.

However, it's common for these types of committees to file new paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to change how much money is allocated to which groups, and they might do that if Biden dropped out of the race.

Super PACs

The main super PAC supporting Biden is Future Forward, which ended May with $92.4 million in cash. Because super PACs are legally required to operate independently from candidates, Biden wouldn't have any official say in how this money is spent.

The leaders of Future Forward or any other super PACs currently supporting Biden may decide to spend the money on helping elect the new Democratic candidate for president, transfer the money to another super PAC, or refund the money to the donors.

Newsom, Pritzker, Whitmer have small sums

California Gov. Gavin Newsom ended December with $3.5 million in his 2022 gubernatorial campaign account. His national super PAC, Campaign for Democracy Group, ended March with $6 million, and the affiliated Campaign for Democracy PAC ended March with $6.2 million.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker ended March with $7.7 million in his state account for governor. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's gubernatorial campaign ended December with about $400,000 in the bank, and her Fight Like Hell PAC ended March with $1.8 million.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had $1.4 million in his Win the Era PAC at the end of March.

The $240 million question: Who gets Joe Biden's campaign money if he drops out? (2024)
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