Because this is a new issue, the extent to which VP nominees may spend their own funds is unclear. Federal election law plainly allows politicians to spend unlimited amounts to further their own candidacies. But it also strictly limits contributions to others’ campaigns. A novel question has yet to be asked of the FEC: When a vice presidential nominee uses her own money for general-election activities, does she make an unlimited expenditure on behalf of her own candidacy or a limited contribution to her presidential running mate?To be honest, I don't mind the death of the Presidential Election Campaign Fund as I am generally not enamored of public funding for candidates to run for office. But the question of whether a Vice Presidential Candidate is his own candidate or part of a unit is an interesting one.
The FEC might answer in a number of ways. It could, for example, formalistically say that a VP nominee may self-fund activities that advance only his candidacy, half-fund electioneering that jointly promotes his presidential ticket and not fund activities that support only his presidential running mate. Alternatively, the FEC could draw an inference from existing rules and treat presidential and vice presidential candidates as one unit. This would allow a VP nominee to self-fund all general-election activities without limit.
We cannot know the authoritative interpretation of the law until someone asks the FEC for a formal opinion. But the demise of the Presidential Election Campaign Fund means that the 2008 VP nominees will probably enjoy greater freedom to spend unlimited amounts of their own money for election-related purposes.
While personal wealth may not ultimately determine next year’s “veepstakes” winners, it will certainly be a new variable in the presidential nominees’ running-mate calculus. Chalk up another first for the 2008 election.
On a practical sense, the Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidate are indeed one unit. The voting electorate votes for a President and they get a Vice President in the deal. The two run on the same platform, operate largely from the same staff and funding mechanisms, and hold themselves out to be a unit. However, in formal terms, we do still elect a Vice President separately from electing a President. A formal electoral vote tally is taken in the Senate for Vice President and in the event of a tie, the Senate would vote for the Vice President by states in the same manner as the House would elect a President if necessary.
So the FEC is presented with a choice between the practical nature of how election campaigns work and the formal rituals of actually electing a Vice President. An interesting conundrum to say the least.