WASHINGTON – Over the course of a week early in May, Sen. Harry Reid cut $864,226 in refunds to campaign donors, money he no longer needed — and could no longer keep legally – after announcing he was retiring from the Senate at the end of next year.
Some 350 individuals, Indian tribes and political action committees received the windfalls ranging from $100 to $5,000, according to records at the Federal Election Commission.
They varied from regular citizens to recognizable names such as Steve Jobs‘ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs ($2,600), Las Vegas philanthropist Elaine Wynn ($2,400) and Walt Disney Co. Chairman Bob Iger ($2,600).
Also getting checks back: More than 100 PACs that had put money behind the Senate Democratic leader giving it one more go, including MGM Resorts International ($5,000), NV Energy ($5,000), Sierra Nevada Corp. ($5,000), ATT ($5,000) and Boeing ($5,000).
The money had been given to the Nevada Democrat and earmarked for his participation in the 2016 general election campaign, which will not happen since he announced on March 27 he will not be running again. The FEC required the refunds be made within 60 days.
Reid had slowed his fundraising even before suffering a New Year‘s Day exercise injury that has left him blind in the right eye. Until then, it was expected he would be raising $25 million or more to defend his Senate seat. Reid still counted $584,928 in his campaign bank account as of the end of June. He also controls his Searchlight Leadership Fund, which had more than $115,000 on hand as of the end of 2014.
Reid has not indicated what he might do with his unused campaign money when he leaves office. Federal rules say he can‘t convert it to personal use. But he can give it to nonprofits, make contributions to the Democratic Party or to other candidates within allowable limits.
He also could form a new political action committee and transfer his balance to that, which is what former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona did when she left Congress and closed down her political operation following her near-fatal shooting in January 2011.