Carly Fiorina’s 2010 run against Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer ended in defeat, but after the election was over, she proceeded to take campaign funds to first reimburse her personal contributions to the campaign. Staff who worked on her campaign were left empty handed to the tune of $500,000.
The incident raises tough questions about Fiorina’s moral compass and how well she can or cares to truly relate to everyday Americans.
Debts at the end of campaigns are not unusual, but the size of those left by Fiorina saw even her campaign manager Marty Wilson out of $60,000. Wilson commented on the debts, “The problem with campaigns is you project debt based on what you think revenues are going to be. People say they are going to send money, but Election Day comes and goes, and you’ve lost, and those receivables don’t materialize.”
Federal election laws allow a candidate to spend unlimited amounts on their own campaigns, which they can then choose to reimburse once the campaign gains outside sources of funding. Fiorina acted quickly to take her $1.25 million check from the campaign purse because the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002 limits the time that such payments can be made.
The law’s original intent was to prevent lobbyists from paying the campaign expenses of candidates. Paul S. Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center reinforced the criticism of Fiorina’s move, “It’s not illegal, but one may draw their own conclusions about the type of person who would rather pay themselves back a loan, when they are free to spend as much money as they want on their campaign, rather than repay others who they owe money to.”
Fiorina let the debts remain for five years, until she decided that she would run in the 2016 Presidential race. At that point she made the decision to pay the remaining balance on the debt of $487,410.
Unlike her Senate bid, Fiorina’s current campaign has only seen a total of $5,400 donated from both she and her husband. Maybe she has learned her lesson, or the more likely case: She wants to avoid any possible bad press by appearing to pursue the same shady strategy as in 2010.