Political Party Time

Election Parties Not Over Just Yet

According to a Bloomberg article published earlier this year, there were about 38 previous presidential campaigns still technically "alive," some of which stretch back as far as 16 years ago (for context, here's Bob Dole's '96 campaign website -- how far we've come). Former contenders such as John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, John Edwards and even Alan Keyes all have active accounts -- but only according to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). Why?

Yes, Partiers, the reason why these presidential hopefuls of the past are still "running" is because their campaigns are still in some serious debt, something the FEC doesn't easily forget.

Even before all the returns have been completely counted (we still have a few House races in doubt), Party Time has discovered its very first 2012 "Debt Retirement Parties." These are fundraisers thrown by politicians after an election to pay off that hefty bill they ran up during the campaign season. Our pioneers: Sen.-elect Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep.-elect Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii. Both listed unpaid bills in their most recent filings to the FEC on Oct. 17. The exact amount of debt they accumulated by Election Day will remain unknown until Dec. 6.

Although only two lawmakers in our database have planned debt retirement parties so far, many more are expected to roll in -- let us know if you find any here!

The Texas Senate race Cruz competed in was a bit lopsided financially; he outraised his Democratic challenger, Paul Sadler, $13.5 million to a mere $600,000. Now the freshman finds himself with a whopping $1.2 million in debt. To pay this off Cruz is doubling up on Nov. 28, hosting a $2,000 "Debt Retirement Reception" followed by a $5,000 "Debt Retirement Dinner" with a special guest, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

According to the latest filings with the FEC, the Cruz campaign owed chunks of cash to various vendors like Oxford Communications ($51,744) and Allegiance Direct ($81,688) as of mid-October. But the campaign's largest creditor by far was Cruz himself; the candidate loaned his campaign $1.43 million, of which $908,000 is still outstanding. What makes this more interesting is that Cruz's committee reported having more than $2.5 million cash-on-hand in mid-October, more than enough to pay off his campaign tab. (To be fair, we don't know exactly how much of that Cruz spent in the last half of the month.) Why is he holding on to all that cash? No one really knows. Welcome to the oddities of campaign finance, Partiers.

Gabbard may be the first Hindu lawmaker in U.S. history, but she's not the first to fall into the red after an election. Her campaign reported building up almost $100,000 in debts, and she's enlisting Gov. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii to help tear them down. Abercrombie, well-known on Capitol Hill (he served 25 years in the House before winning his current job) will be appearing at Gabbard's D.C. breakfast on Nov. 14, where tickets will cost either $2,500 or $1,500 each. Her invite is up front in explaining its purpose, saying, "Please contribute to help retire 2012 Primary Debt." Gabbard entered the District Two Hawaii primary as a distinct underdog to Mufi Hannemann, yet surprisingly overcame that gap. She then cruised in the general election, winning a formidable 81% of the vote.

These are just two of many politicians who will come to Washington bearing a tab that has to be paid off. It's a prime moment for lobbyists to meet the fresh faces of Congress -- and make a donation to a potential future friend who's in need.