FEC Rules Give Bayh Room To Decide What To Do With His $13 Million War Chest

February 16, 2010 8:37 a.m.

For years, thousands of donors have poured millions of dollars into Sen. Evan Bayh’s (D-IN) coffers, helping him to establish a war chest of contributions that most politicians would give their right arm to have. But now that Bayh’s decided not to run for reelection, the decision of what to do with the $13 million in campaign cash he has left will be Bayh’s alone. Not surprisingly, people are already lining up to get a piece.

FEC rules dictate what Bayh can do with his campaign money, but within their confines is a lot of leeway for Bayh to reward political allies or establish a beach head for future electoral politics. The choice is his alone.The FEC rules state that candidates can give excess funds away in the form of charitable donations, keep them for future campaigns or donate them “without limit” to any local, state or national arm of a political party.

There’s been some talk that Bayh might run for president, so maybe he’ll hang onto the money for a campaign in 2012 or 2016.

And then there’s the future of his seat — Bayh was expected to win reelection this year, but face one of the toughest campaigns of his political life to do it. With him out, most professional prognosticators have said the seat is more likely to be a GOP pickup in November, meaning that any Democratic nominee will need all the money he or she can get. A $13 million cash infusion to the Indiana Democratic Party could give the Senate nominee a needed boost.

As Politico reported last night, national Democrats are already salivating over the thought of getting some of the money donors gave Bayh so he could run for Senate. The DSCC wouldn’t comment to Politico officially about the money but a “strategist close to the situation” urged Bayh to do the right thing for the committee.

“Bayh’s $13 million would certainly be useful to other Democratic candidates who face a strong headwind this November,” the strategist told the paper.

Late Update
: A Bayh spokesperson tells Greg Sargent that Bayh has not yet decided what to do with the money. “But you can expect him to be helpful to the nominee,” the spokesperson said.

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