ATLANTA — The list of presidential hopefuls vying for the White House continues to get smaller as more candidates end their run, raising questions online: what happens to campaign funds after a candidate drops out?

It's a pricey venture to run for president. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the 2016 presidential race reportedly cost more than $2.3 billion. Yet, Brendan Quinn, outreach manager for the nonprofit, said it's often likely candidates have leftover funds once concluding their run. 

So what happens to the leftover campaign cash?

According to the Federal Election Commission, there are rules governing such funds once a candidate is no longer running for president. 

Candidates are not allowed to use campaign funds for personal use, according to FEC guidelines.  

But Quinn explained some ways the cash can be used.  

"They can transfer to another federal committee," Quinn said, "So candidates this election cycle who've since dropped out, people like Kamala Harris and Cory Booker who are still in the Senate, they can transfer back into their Senate campaigns."

Candidates can also choose to donate funds to charity, per FEC guidelines, or transfer funds to state and national parties. 

Election 2020 Debate
Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, second from left, speaks as other candidate including Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., listen during a Democratic presidential primary debate, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
AP

"So candidates who drop out the Democratic race who want to help the eventual nominee may want to help the DNC," Quinn explained. 

According to a spokesperson for the FEC, in some cases, a donor could get a refund. 

"Residual funds remaining may be transferred to another committee of the same candidate but certain transfer rules apply. Since primary election candidates who withdraw from the race will no longer be candidates in the general election, contributions designated for the general election must be refunded with 60 days of withdrawing from the race. The committee may also seek permission from those contributors to redesignate funds to a future election," Christian Hilland, Deputy Press Officer with the Federal Election Commission said. 

In addition, Hilland said a political committee must file campaign finance reports "until it has extinguished all outstanding debt (or filed a debt settlement plan), and is no longer receiving contributions or making expenditures. The Commission does not establish a deadline for committees to terminate its reporting obligation. This web page provides information about the termination process."

Authorized committees of federal candidates could even convert to a political action committee should they wish, Hilland said. 

As a result, 11Alive's Verify team was able to confirm there are multiple ways remaining campaign funds can be spent within federal guidelines. 

FEC.gov lists such guidelines on its website

Interested in tracking a candidates' or political committee's funding? Learn more at the Center for Responsive Politics website