What can candidates who drop out of race do with campaign funds?

  • Pam Torliatt (PD File)

As dozens of Sonoma County political candidates continue fundraising to pay for election signs, bumper stickers and get-out-the-vote efforts, one former candidate must decide what to do with her campaign funds.

Pam Torliatt, former Petaluma councilwoman and mayor who has been out of political office since 2010, launched a bid in late 2012 to return to politics by running for Petaluma City Council. There are three open seats on the November ballot.

But in June, she announced she was withdrawing from the race because of time constraints.

Before the announcement, she had hosted several fundraisers and collected about $6,000 in contributions.

What can election candidates do with money they’ve collected from political supporters? Election laws are complicated, but there are guidelines, according to the state Fair Political Practices Commission and Petaluma’s local campaign ordinances.

Torliatt didn’t respond to questions about what she has planned for her funds.

But there are restrictions on what she can do with it, said Petaluma City Clerk Claire Cooper, who serves as the city’s elections officer.

State election laws are fairly confining, said Brian Sobel, a former Petaluma city councilman and now a political consultant. But there is wiggle room.

“She could do research of whether Pam Torliatt could run for office again, which is a legitimate use,” he said. “In the furtherance of her political ambitions, she can do some things.”

Funds collected during a campaign can be used to pay off campaign debts and expenses for the election, such as office supplies and printing costs.

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