Now that Biden dropped out, what happens to his campaign funds?

First lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Douglass Emhoff watch as President Joe Biden raises the hand of Vice President Kamala Harris on the balcony of the White House.
President Biden raises the hand of Vice President Kamala Harris from the balcony of the White House on July 4. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Biden's withdrawal from the 2024 presidential race puts a spotlight on what happens to the tens of millions of dollars he's raised for his campaign.

If Vice President Kamala Harris is the new nominee, will she get access to those funds? If one of the other rumored Democratic options gets picked, can they use that money?

Here’s a breakdown.

The Biden team announced it raised $127 million in June, bringing its cash on hand to $240 million across multiple committees. It said $33 million was raised during the debate and in its aftermath. A year ago, the campaign said it planned to raise and spend $2 billion throughout the election. These figures include not only the Biden campaign but also the Democratic National Committee and joint fundraising committees.

The Biden campaign itself ended June with more than $95 million cash on hand, according to its most recent campaign finance filing.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) categorizes campaign funds into two categories under its presidential public funding program.

There is money collected during the primaries and then general election fundraising. Both are funneled into the total pool of campaign funds.

But now that Biden has withdrawn, Democratic convention delegates will be charged with selecting a new nominee. Should there be entirely new Democratic presidential and vice presidential nominees selected for the ballot in August, the primary funds and the general election funds would be treated differently.

Harris has received Biden's explicit endorsement to replace him. If she were to secure the party’s nod, she could access and control both the primary money and general election funds the Biden campaign has collected, according to Kenneth Gross, a senior political law counsel and consultant at Akin Gump.

She has been part of the Biden campaign since the beginning; her name is already listed on FEC filings. But Harris can only clearly access these funds if she is the presidential nominee.

“It becomes her campaign money if she wishes to claim it,” Gross told Yahoo News before Biden made his announcement.

Harris ran against Biden in 2020 and is widely expected to seek the presidency again. Accordingly, it’s hard for many political observers to imagine her readily stepping aside to serve another Democratic nominee as vice president. But if that were to happen, Gross said it “presents a difficult issue” for Biden’s campaign funds since “that presidential candidate has not raised that money.”

Ultimately, the FEC would make the final call. But the pair would not necessarily have to wait for FEC approval before spending that money.

“She could say, ‘Look, I think this is my money, I'm entitled to it.’ And go ahead and have her and whoever the presidential candidate is spend it,” Gross said.

If Democrats opt for fresh faces as their party nominees, they will have to raise their own money.

Biden’s primary campaign donations would become excess funds that could be donated to the Democratic National Committee, which could spend it on national organizing efforts. Gross said general election money would be refunded to donors, although other experts are not entirely certain whether this is mandatory, The Hill reported.

Another option would be for the excess Biden campaign funds to go into a super-PAC, a committee that can raise and donate unlimited amounts of money to finance political expenditures. The super-PAC would not be allowed to directly coordinate with Democratic candidates, including whoever the new nominee is.

“The way that the money could be used most effectively to influence the outcome of the presidential election is to convert it into an entity that does not have limits, such as a super-PAC,” Gross said.

➕Read more

  • Read the full text of Biden’s letter announcing his decision. “I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down.” [Yahoo News]

  • Timeline: Biden exit caps tumultuous three weeks in U.S. politics. “Here’s a summary of the milestone events in a roller coaster period in U.S. politics.” [The Guardian]

  • Biden's 2024 reelection bid meets its ultimate match: Time. “Yahoo News' analysis on the president's big decision, and how we got here.” [Yahoo News]

  • Political reactions to Biden's decision. “America is a better place today because President Joe Biden has led us with intellect, grace and dignity. We are forever grateful," House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said. [Reuters]

  • Americans react to Biden's historic decision. “Finally a brave act from a politician." [USA Today]

  • Obama calls Biden 'patriot of the highest order' after Biden drops out of 2024 race. “Joe Biden has been one of America’s most consequential presidents, as well as a dear friend and partner to me. Today, we’ve also been reminded — again — that he’s a patriot of the highest order.” [Yahoo News]

  • House Republicans say Biden must resign after ending reelection campaign. “If Joe Biden can’t run for re-election, he is unable and unfit to serve as President of the United States. He must immediately resign,” House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik said. [The Hill]

  • FAQ: How will Democrats pick a new presidential nominee? “What’s next for the Democratic Party as they hurtle toward a convention and the November election against Republican nominee Donald Trump?” [Yahoo News]

  • Until 1968, presidential candidates were picked by party conventions — a process revived by Biden’s withdrawal from race.The tradition of picking a nominee through primaries and caucuses – and not through what is called the ‘convention system’ – is relatively recent.” [The Conversation]

  • Who will replace Biden as the new Democratic nominee? “Here are some of the hypothetical Biden replacements being discussed — along with how they ranked among voters in a Yahoo News/YouGov poll conducted after the debate.” [Yahoo News]

  • Harris says she intends to ‘earn and win’ Democratic nomination. “I will do everything in my power to unite the Democratic Party—and unite our nation—to defeat Donald Trump and his extreme Project 2025 agenda. We have 107 days until Election Day. Together, we will fight. And together, we will win.” [Yahoo News]

  • Harris: What to know about her as she seeks to replace Biden as the Democratic nominee.A brief guide to her background, historic firsts and record as VP.” [Yahoo News]

  • Harris' 2020 campaign was a mess. If she ends up atop the ticket, this time could be a lot different. “Admirers say that Harris has grown in the job.” [NBC News]

  • Would America be ready for President Kamala Harris? “But from the start, there has been a hesitancy to fully embrace the country’s second-in-command, with some Democrats openly overlooking her.” [USA Today]

  • Democrats rally behind Kamala Harris in bid to avert divisive party convention. “Democratic donors who had pressured Biden to drop out of the race wasted no time in throwing their support behind Harris, the New York Times reported, quickly raising millions of dollars.” [Yahoo News]

This story was originally published July 5 and was updated July 21 to reflect Biden's announcement that he is exiting the race.