From NBC's Jim Popkin
Fans of screaming television infomercials have heard the slogan hundreds of times: "Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back!" Improbably, the late-night mantra also applies today to politics, and to thousands of donors who have contributed to Clinton's stunted presidential campaign.
That's right, when Clinton officially drops out of the race tomorrow, thousands of donors who contributed to her general-election war chest soon will be entitled to a refund. Under federal election law, Sen. Clinton must either refund the donations or, within 60 days, must write to each general-election donor requesting their permission to use the funds for her future Senate or (gasp) perhaps presidential campaigns.
Thousands of well-heeled Clinton fans will be entitled to rebates. As of the end of April, Clinton had collected $23.7 million for the general election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Many of those hardcore donors gave the maximum, or $2,300 each for the primary and general elections, and might welcome a $2,300 refund check this summer. But presumably most will encourage Sen. Clinton to hold on to the money, to battle on another day.
Not so for former Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani. During the campaign, he raised nearly $6 million in donations for his ill-fated general election campaign. According to the Federal Election Commission, he's now refunded nearly every penny to donors.
Hillary Clinton loaned her campaign a stunning $11.4 million, and could conceivably be able to use some of her general-election leftovers to pay off that debt. Here's how the Center for Responsive Politics explained the law in an article in January:
"To pay off debts from their primary campaigns, candidates can tap general-election funds from contributors who didn't max out in the primary, with the donor's permission. If, for example, Hillary Clinton doesn't make it to the general election season, she'll have to go back to the donors who've given her at least $16.7 million toward November's election and get their permission to use it to pay off primary debts, transfer it to her Senate committee or use it in a future presidential campaign."
There will be some long faces tomorrow at the National Building Museum in Washington, when Senator Clinton finally bows out. For a few in the crowd, though, the prospect of a $2,300 refund check may help ease the pain.