As Sen. Evan Bayh prepared to quit Congress, he called on all Americans to embrace a “spirit of devotion to the national welfare beyond party or self-interest” and declared his “passion for service to our fellow citizens is undiminished.”
Four years later, the Indiana Democrat controls nearly $10 million in surplus campaign cash he could, by law, invest in charities — something other former politicos have done.
Instead, his old campaign money generates thousands of dollars in interest each week while sitting in a Raymond James & Associates investment account.
Bayh, in this regard, is hardly alone.
Nine former congressional members and congressional candidates who are no longer seeking federal office each retain $1 million or more in leftover campaign cash, a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal campaign finance disclosures and Center for Responsive Politics data indicates.
Dozens of other former members and congressional also-rans, both Democrats and Republicans, are squatting on six-figure surpluses.
The former congressional candidates have several options for their accumulated campaign cash, and no law requires them to divest of this money or even close down their committees.
But their collective hoard is now approaching $100 million at a time when numerous charitable organizations could surely use some of it.
For example, a fraction of that amount — $1 million — could feed 12,000 Syrian refugees for a month, by Oxfam America’s estimate.
“Fairly transformative” is how Janet Baker, vice president of development for Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, described what $1 million from Bayh or any other former politico could do for her $3.5 million-per-year charity that spruces up neighborhoods, plants trees and runs youth programs
“Donating surplus money of this nature to a credible, charitable organization only makes sense,” said Randi K. Law, a spokeswoman for Veterans of Foreign Wars. “Unused funds, sitting idle, do nothing to perpetuate the cycle of support that America relies on.”
Added Joyce Raezer, executive director of the National Military Family Association: “The congressmen, they could have a huge impact. Their money would be direct support that has immediate benefit.”
The former politicians offer a variety of reasons for idling their campaign riches instead of giving them away.
Bayh, who today works as an adviser at law and lobbying firm McGuireWoods and asset management firm Apollo Global Management, alluded to re-entering electoral politics, although he has no current plans to do so.
His campaign account expenditures during the year’s first three months primarily went toward political consulting fees, taxes, computer software and a “Christmas card mailing.” He made a $2,000 contribution to the re-election campaign of Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska.
“Because the future is difficult to predict, I don't want to foreclose any possibilities at this time," Bayh said by email.