U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor says she’s bringing back legislation to stop lawmakers from hoarding unused campaign funds long after their time as a politician is over.
The so-called “zombie campaigns” were detailed in a 2018 investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and TEGNA TV stations. Lawmakers such as former U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross are permitted to use the funds to help finance other candidates and political causes long after they leave office.
While the money can’t be spent directly on personal expenses, it can still be used in questionable ways. For instance, the money can go toward nonprofits run by family members or to pay owed salary of family or close personal friends who worked on the campaign.
“It is wrong for former members of Congress and other candidates to keep their campaign accounts open for decades and convert those funds for personal use,” Castor said.
“That is why I introduced legislation to end these zombie campaigns — we must tackle this form of corruption and others we have seen grow unchecked for several years under Republican control of Congress.”
The Federal Election Commission “suggests” candidates disperse leftover funds within six months of completing their campaigns. But there’s no actual law requiring them to do so.
Castor’s legislation would mandate campaign accounts be closed within two years. The measure will be added as an amendment to the “For the People Act,” an election reform bill scheduled to be heard this week.
Previous efforts to end the practice failed. But Castor believes fellow Democrats in control of the House will help in moving the bill forward.
“Members of Congress are elected to serve the public interest, not their personal interests,” Castor said.
“It is vital that Congress, pushed by Democratic leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives, clean up the culture of corruption we see in Washington and show that the people’s government works for them, not big corporations and special interests with outsized influence. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that Congress takes this important step towards returning Americans’ trust in this institution.”
While Castor emphasized the desire of Democrats to tackle the issue, the bill does have bipartisan support. GOP U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Florida’s 12th Congressional District cosponsoring the measure. Democratic U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland is also a cosponsor.