When a candidate drops out of the race, what happens to their campaign donations?

Presumably, Mitt Romney and John Edwards managed to raise millions of dollars in campaign contributions before they dropped out of the race. Obviously, that money went towards the expenses of the campaign: paying staffers, buying ads, etc.

But, assuming there is a surplus still existing when they left, what happens to the rest of the donations? I don’t suppose every person who gave money to their campaigns gets a rebate. And walking away from your presidential bid with a tidy profit seems a little unseemly. What becomes of the remaining funds?

I’d WAG they probably designate it to another candidate they fall most in line with.

Crap, missed the edit window:

Actually, on second thought, I remember something about the Federal Election Commision stipulating regulations on this.

For one, they can keep it in a fund for a future political campaign (so no buying Yahts with your leftovers).

As I said above, they can donate it to another Candidate’s fund or campaign commitee.

Finally, They can donate it to non-profic organizations (this includes special interest groups such as the Sierra club or national Rifle Association)

Unless the FEC rules have changed during the past 4 years, candidates dropping out of the race can only donate $2,000 in this way.

The same questions were asked about Richard Gephardt in 2004, the reply including the following wisdom:

A donation to the Democratic National Committee, or a Democratic state party, isn’t quite the same animal as giving the cash to a candidate’s fund or campaign committee.

The other options for Romney and Edwards are described herein.

The contributions can even sit around long after a politician has gone to the big caucus in the sky.

PA Campaign Funds

Here is a related question. From what I understand Romney dumped a bunch of his own money into the campaign. If there is any left can he take it back? My guess would be that he will leave it for a run in 2008 (the campaign for that should be starting anytime now). But if he wanted to could he take it back?

Any campaign may simply return a donation to a donor. Assuming that Romney is legally considered a donor to his campaign (he may have lent the money, the way Hillary Clinton lent her campaign $5 million the other week) then the Romney campaign can return the donation.