A series of retirements and controversies have prompted House and Senate lawmakers to return $16 million in campaign donations since the beginning of 2009, up nearly 70 percent from the last elections, according to a USA TODAY review.
The uptick comes as campaigns are under pressure from opponents to return money from Wall Street donors following the 2008 banking collapse and, more recently, to oil companies after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. But the bulk of the increase stemmed from retirements and candidates dropping out of races.
"It was just the right thing to do our in our case -- showed integrity," said Nick Jordan, a Republican who withdrew from a Kansas House race in April and returned $114,500 in contributions. "They could put it in someone else's campaign."
The largest refunds came from retiring senators such as Chris Dodd, D-Conn., who turned back more than 600 donations worth $1.1 million, and Evan Bayh, D-Ind., who refunded about $700,000. They both announced this year that they wouldn't run again.
In all, House and Senate candidates have raised about $1.2 billion for this year's midterm elections, which will decide control of Congress, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Democrats, who control Congress, gave back about $10 million, more than double the $4.4 million returned by GOP committees. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is still reviewing recent campaign reports filed by senators, so the number of refunds may increase.
A candidate who drops out before a primary election is required by law to refund contributions specifically targeted to help in the general election. The candidate may choose to refund money donated for the primary but is not required to do so.
Robert Kelner, who heads the election and political law practice at the Covington & Burling law firm, said he has heard from more clients this year who want their money back.
"Because it's a turbulent election year, we're seeing more serious campaigns derailing," he said. "That may be what is engendering broader-than-usual efforts by donors to retrieve their funds."
My name is Patrick M McCormick and I have created this blog as a platform for my political views as well as those of select contributors.
I believe that American Politicians have lost sight of their goal: To uphold the Constitution and protect the rights of the people of the United States. They argue and bicker on the floor of their respective houses, positioning themselves for the next election, while they accomplish very little business for the citizens of this country.
Meanwhile our economy is sliding downward. Millions of our precious jobs have have been exported overseas. Our social safety net and other public services are being cut. Our middle class is rapidly disappearing and the numbers of citizens existing below the poverty line is increasing dramatically.
I plan to examine the causes of these terrible changes to our American way of life. Your comments will help us all arrive at some important conclusions.