He may have dropped his third party bid, but House Speaker Chris Donovan is still working to raise money to pay off what could be about $84,000 in campaign debts, according to the Federal Election Commission.
While it’s uncertain exactly how much debt Donovan left his failed congressional bid, what is certain is that he will be looking to pay it off.
“We are figuring out what we owe and we’re figuring out a strategy,“ Tom Swan, Donovan’s former campaign manager, said Wednesday. “The goal is to pay it off.”
Donovan lost the Democratic nomination on Aug. 14 to former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty and dropped his Working Families Party bid last week after removing his name from the ballot. The Working Families Party then endorsed Esty.
The next financial report isn’t due until October, so it’s unclear how much money Donovan owes and to whom.
But it’s not unusual for candidates to end their campaigns in debt.
Former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd ended his 2008 presidential campaign with more than $260,000 in debt , which he was still trying to pay off in 2011 as his political career ended.
At the time, Dodd’s campaign was hoping to transfer money left over from his U.S. Senate campaign committee to pay off the presidential campaign debts.
Bob Biersack, a senior fellow with the Center for Responsive Politics and a former Federal Election Commission employee, said Wednesday that Donovan’s campaign is obligated to raise the money to pay off its debt.
There are several ways they can do that.
It can raise the money like any still active campaign would, or it can ask another campaign or candidate to help out with the payments.
But it’s difficult to get people excited about paying off a debt for a candidate who is no longer in the race.
It’s also not unusual for a former candidate to ask their former opponent in the race to help them pay off their debts, Biersack said.
“Sometimes campaigns need help, and with the nomination settled the nominee may pitch in,” Biersack said.
Swan said Donovan has not asked Esty for help.
A campaign also can seek to reduce their debt by renegotiating the costs of previously provided services with vendors, Biersack said.
For example, they can offer 10 cents on the dollar for the services or goods they received and that would be reflected in a debt settlement statement.
But campaign debt can never be forgiven because “otherwise a vendor would be making a contribution to the campaign,” Biersack said.
How long does Donovan have?
“There’s no time limit,” Biersack said, adding that it took John Glenn’s 23 years to pay off the debt from his failed presidential bid back in 1984. He finally did pay it off in 2007.
All campaign committees that either have money or owe money must continue reporting to the FEC until the funds are completely disbursed and all the debts are paid.