But state election law requires candidates to close their campaign accounts and disburse the money within two years after losing an election or being termed out of office. Unless they’re planning to run for another office.
With another campaign on the horizon, however hazy it might be, the cash stays with the candidate — and this rule has forced some veteran officeholders into some unusual political contortions.
For example, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer announced last year that he is retiring from politics, but he has $1.7 million in a campaign account for a purported 2018 run for lieutenant governor....
With the next statewide election four years away, it’s time for ghost campaigns, with prospective candidates saying all the right things about races they may never enter.
“It’s a parking place,” said Tony Quinn, a longtime GOP operative who was one of the first members of the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission when it was formed in the mid-1970s. “While there’s no limit to the amount of money any candidate can have, they have to report it, so it has to be listed somewhere.”
Political contributions, including money for ballot measures, are one of the state-approved ways to spend campaign cash, along with donations to “bona fide charitable, educational, civic, religious or similar tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations,” according to state law. The money also can be returned to donors, which doesn’t happen often.