COLLEGE PARK – Since announcing in March that he will not seek a sixth term, Maryland Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes has started quietly reducing his campaign bank account, returning funds or doling them out to party committees, according to reports with the Federal Election Commission.
Sarbanes has not raised any money since March 31, and had spent almost $53,000 in the second quarter of this year. He still had $108,000 on hand as of June 30, according to the FEC.
Retiring lawmakers like Sarbanes have several options for their campaign funds: They can donate them to charity, give them to other candidates, set up scholarships or just let the money sit in the bank, among other uses.
“They’re just not allowed to pocket the money,” said Douglas Weber, a researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics.
And Sarbanes is not. In June, his campaign committee, Citizens for Sarbanes, contributed $25,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, for example, and a spokesman said other money has been returned to donors who requested it.
“We have asked individuals if they would like their contributions returned and several indicated that they would,” said Jesse Jacobs, a spokesman for Sarbanes.
Jacobs said the campaign is no longer collecting money, but has not decided what to do with all the money it still has. “It could support party activities or support other candidates,” he said.
Kelly Huff, a spokeswoman for the FEC, said candidates who are not running for re-election can do a variety of things with their money.
“People give money to charity or even set up scholarships at their alma mater,” Huff said. “Some people do a combination of things.”
But Sarbanes does not have to do anything with the cash on hand as long as he continues to report to the FEC, Huff said.
“There’s no deadline,” she said. Candidates “can just let it sit.”
Those candidates who do let the money sit in the bank may be keeping it there for a future campaign, Weber said.
“Candidates can conceivably run for another elected office,” he said.
But Sarbanes — who served three terms in the House before being elected to the first of a Maryland-record five Senate terms in 1976 — left little room for a return to the campaign trail when he announced that he would not seek a sixth term.
“When I ran for office, it wasn’t my intention to stay there until they carried me away,” he said at a March news conference in Baltimore in which he announced his retirement.
-30- CNS 08-19-05