Chances are, your phone is blowing up today. And in between the #Ivoted selfies, updates from Fivethirtyeight.com, and the usual "what are we getting for lunch" check-ins from your coworkers are likely texts and emails from whatever campaign you support, asking you to please, please, please donate $15 now, saying that it still matters. But does it?
Yes — and no. We won't know how much money either candidate has left over for a few more weeks, but historically, campaigns often end up with leftover cash — in the 2012 election, Obama had $134.7 million dollars remaining and Romney had $193.3 million. But although it sounds like a lot, the majority of it is needed to sort out debts sustained throughout the campaign, which may not immediately be apparent on Election Day. Once debts are paid (and you can see a list of each candidate's campaign expenditures at the disclosure page on the Federal Election Committee), candidates can then use the money for future campaigns. The cash can also be refunded to donors, donated to charities, or rolled over into a Super PAC. If the candidates follow precedent, once all bills are accounted for, the funds will likely be rolled into the Democratic National Committee/Republican National Committee or funneled into supporting party candidates in local elections. But we all know this has been no normal election. Regardless of what candidates do with the remaining cash (one of the things they can technically legally use it for is to buy thank-you gifts for donors who are not related to them), they explicitly may not use it for any personal expenses. Broadly speaking, that covers any expenses that would exist if the candidate had not run for office, including college tuition, groceries, hotels (staying in them or building them) — and, you know, funding right-wing TV stations and the like. And, just as it has done during the campaign, the Federal Election Committee will likely be watching to make sure this doesn't happen. Bottom line: No, that $15 in your wallet today isn't standing in between your candidate and their ability to pay for the fuel to jet across the country for last-minute stump speeches. But if you believe in your candidate, the money you give today will ensure their bills are paid — and the money will continue to support a cause you believe in. So if you haven't donated yet, it isn't too late to make Jess (or whoever sends texts from your candidate of choice) happy by coughing up some cash.