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Where super PAC money goes when a candidate drops out

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When Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the race for the GOP presidential nomination, he left behind a Texas-sized pile of money that was aimed to help his campaign.

The money, reportedly totaling $13 million, was in the coffers of three super PACs, which operated in concert as the group Opportunity and Freedom.

“This was a complete surprise,” says Stefan Passantino, the lawyer for the super PACs. “We had just, in the days before the announcement, made a significant ad purchase.”

Because super PACs can’t coordinate with a campaign, and candidates can’t directly communicate with their PACs, officials at Opportunity and Freedom said they did not know that Perry was going to drop out of the race ahead of time.

Passantino says there have been no discussions yet as to what to do with the money that was helping Perry’s candidacy.

The group has a lot of options, says Jan Baran, who heads the election law practice at the law firm Wiley Rein.

“I’m guessing that the Perry super PACs are hearing from many other super PACs who’d like their money,” Baran says.

They are likely also hearing from donors, he says, who might want a refund. The super PACs could choose to return the money they’ve raised, direct it towards supporting another candidate or give the money to charity. And there is another possible outcome.

“Theoretically, if there was candidate out there that Gov. Perry’s supporters did not particularly think should be the Republican nominee, this group could certainly pay for independent ads opposing that candidate,” Passantino says.

Could that candidate be the current frontrunner, Donald Trump?

“That would be an example,” Passantino says. “But, again, there’s been no such discussion.”

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