05 July 2008

Obama And The Presidential Public Financing System

Senator Obama was for participating in the presidential public financing system in 2007:

MDN QUESTIONNAIRE: If you are nominated for President in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?

OBAMA: Yes. I have been a long-time advocate for public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests. I introduced public financing legislation in the Illinois State Senate, and am the only 2008 candidate to have sponsored Senator Russ Feingold's (D-WI) bill to reform the presidential public financing system. In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election. My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election. My proposal followed announcements by some presidential candidates that they would forgo public financing so they could raise unlimited funds in the general election. The Federal Election Commission ruled the proposal legal, and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.

U.S Senator Barack Obama's full and unedited answer to a question on the Midwest Democracy Network questionnaire on federal political and government reform issues sent to all the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates on 11 September 2007, and released publically on 27 November 2007 (Source - PDF)
By June of 2008, however, Senator Obama decided to make the historic move of being the first candidate since the Watergate scandal to reject the presidential public financing system:

Democratic Sen. Barack Obama said Thursday he will forgo public money to help finance his general election campaign, a move that frees him to raise unlimited funds from private and corporate donors.

Obama, who has raked in more than $265 million so far, shattering presidential campaign fundraising records, will forgo some $84 million that would have been available to him in the general election.

But the move frees the Illinois senator and presumptive Democratic nominee from spending limits imposed by the Presidential Election Campaign Fund Act, which is paid for with the $3 taxpayer checkoffs on federal tax returns

Obama Opts Out of Public Campaign Funds - NPR, 19 June 2008 (Source)
Initially, Obama was concerned with private money in campaigns because of "the influence of moneyed special interests." Now, however, after breaking campaign financing records with over one-quarter-billion dollars raised already, Senator Obama is rejecting public financing of his presidential campaign.

Unlimited money and spending, which is antithetical to campaign finance reform, would fall under the category of politics as usual for most pundits. Embracing that money, regardless of how his campaign tries to spin it, helps to show that Obama really is just a typical politician.

Being for the presidential public financing system when it makes you look principled, but rejecting the presidential public financing system when you are breaking fundraising records; now that's Change You Can Believe In.


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