Packing Up a Presidential Campaign Former Gov. Mitt Romney was fond of touting his business management experience on the campaign trail, so, as his run for the presidency comes to a close, what happens to his funds, his staff, their equipment? Is suspending a campaign like going out of business?
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Packing Up a Presidential Campaign

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Packing Up a Presidential Campaign

Packing Up a Presidential Campaign

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Imagine a locomotive hurdling down the track. Now imagine that it comes to a screeching halt then it simply disappears. That's how one former campaign official described what it feels like when a presidential candidate decides to call it quits.

With a string of presidential hopefuls who've recently dropped out of the race; Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, John Edwards and now Mitt Romney, we wondered what actually happens when a campaign stops. What happens to the money, the staff? What happens to all those campaign signs?

Jennifer Palmieri knows a thing or two about packing up a presidential campaign. She was the national press secretary for the John Edwards campaign in 2004 and she was an adviser to the Edwards recent campaign. She joins us now from Denver.

Welcome to the program.

Ms. JENNIFER PALMIERI (Adviser, John Edwards Campaign): Thanks for having me.

NORRIS: So, is suspending a presidential campaign a bit like going out of business?

Ms. PALMIERI: I think that's probably a very good way to put it and certainly being the locomotive metaphor that someone used is very apt.

There's a lot of loose ends to tie up in terms of the business and to things - it takes quite a while - months, sometimes even years.

NORRIS: Years?

Ms. PALMIERI: Yes. I'm sure that there are accountants still dealing with John Edwards 2004 matters in 2008 so it does take quite a while.

NORRIS: Accountants. So let's start there with the money. What happens to the money?

Ms. PALMIERI: Well, you hope that you are not in debt, which a lot of campaigns do end up in debt. But this is why you hear people say that they suspend their campaign as opposed to dropping out or ending their campaign. It's because you need to actually keep the entity around for quite a while to continue to pay staff. You know you have bills still coming in. There's probably some television ads outstanding so that you do need to keep the financial entity going. You know, it's rare that you have more than enough to cover your expenses so it's not as if you're dealing with a lot of money on your hands trying to figure out what to do but you still do have a number of expenses to cover on your way out.

NORRIS: And if you do find yourself in the black, can you hold on to that for the next campaign or - what do you have to do with that cash.

Ms. PALMIERI: There are rules - I mean, there are laws that govern that but you can, in some respects, do that. You know, you're limited to then how you spend that money and how long you can hold on to it for and, you know, who you can raise money from the next time. But you can - there are some pockets that you can put it in to save it for other campaigns.

NORRIS: Can you put it in your own pocket? As in the case of Mitt Romney that you...

Ms. PALMIERI: No. That you can't do.

NORRIS: Well, if you use your own money, can you repay yourself?

Ms. PALMIERI: Yes. If you use your own money, you can do that because it's considered a loan for the campaign. If you have $5 million left over, you can't then take that money and just give it to yourself. It has to be used. In accordance with FEC law, which generally means it can only be used for political purposes.

NORRIS: Now, I wonder about the assets; the office space and the equipment, all the stuff that you acquire.

Ms. PALMIERI: Right.

NORRIS: What happens to all those?

Ms. PALMIERI: Well, most offices spaces - generally you rented them and particularly even the furniture. You know, it's interesting for campaign signs, I also - I always like to look at them with an eye towards what kind of shelf life are they suppose to have, you know? Does it say John Edwards '08 or does it just say John Edwards? I mean in 2004, I think the campaign signs just said John Edwards. Therefore they were packed away and thought, well, if John runs again for president, we have signs ready to go.

NORRIS: So you recycled some of those?

Ms. PALMIERI: You recycle some of them. Now he ended up with specific '08 signs but you do - and I remember Dick Gephardt who ran in the Iowa Caucuses in 1988 had some of the same signs that they had held on to that he used when he ran for 2004.

So you do see if you can, you know, there's a lot of records to store, there's a lot of political research that you've done, you want to store policy records, financial records. It takes about month to shut down a campaign office. To actually move yourself out of there, all of your records, that type of thing. It does take quite a while. And as you can imagine, it is very demoralizing work. I mean, the last thing you want to do after having been shredded by a campaign is then spend a month doing, you know, untidy, uncomfortable paper work to bring the campaign down and wind it out. It's like not - it's not very fun.

NORRIS: I guess, it's not fun being the last person there to turn out the light.

Ms. PALMIERI: It's not fun to be the last person to turn out the light. It usually the lawyers who are the last people there.

NORRIS: Jennifer Palmieri thanks so much for talking to us.

Ms. PALMIERI: Thanks, Michele.

NORRIS: Jennifer Palmieri was the national press secretary for the John Edwards campaign in 2004. For the 2008 campaign, she served as an adviser.

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