Dorgan told The Forum today that the money he’s donated to the nonprofit Aspen Institute is reserved exclusively to fund the center – which focuses on teen suicide prevention, substance abuse and education. The center is housed at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C.
Dorgan started off 2011 with nearly $1.4 million in cash on hand, but since he’s not running for office again, he has to disperse of the funds through various means, such as donations to charitable organizations or contributions to other candidates or political campaigns.
Previously, he transferred a portion of his money to other Democratic candidates facing election contests in 2010.
Federal campaign finance laws are very restrictive on what candidates and former candidates can do with the money they raise – and there’s an especially watchful eye to prevent any personal gain by candidates.
Dorgan said he serves as chairman of the youth center’s board of directors, but otherwise, he has no involvement in the day-to-day operations of the organization. He said he has hired two staff members to run the program.
“I’m not benefiting from any of those funds,” he said. “I had a lot of people with ideas on what to do with the (campaign) money, but I’m just hoping to improve the lives and save the lives of some Indian children, because many of them have been left behind.”
Dorgan’s involvement in Indian affairs issues stems from his decadeslong tenure in Congress. He served as chairman of the Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee before he retired last year. He announced the creation of the youth center in February.
“It’s just something I care deeply about,” Dorgan said. “The country has made promises and signed treaties that have been broken. Among the things I wanted to do was continue working on issues affecting North Americans.”
Although Dorgan and former Rep. Earl Pomeroy are no longer in office, they’ve spent the beginning of 2011 still whittling down their campaign coffers.
Candidates for federal office – even former ones – are required to file disclosure reports every three months, detailing a campaign’s financial activity. First-quarter reports were due April 15.
As of March 31, Dorgan had just $329,853 left in cash on hand in his campaign fund. Pomeroy reported no more cash on hand as of March 23, after dispersing the remaining $4,278 he had.