Opinion: Obama says no to public financing; McCain throws hissy fit


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Given Barack Obama’s astronomical fundraising numbers, it was only a matter of time before he decided to eschew public funds to finance his campaign. From today’s Times:

Democrat Barack Obama today rejected public financing for his presidential campaign, changing an earlier stand and becoming the first major party candidate to drop out of the system since it began after the Watergate scandal....Early in the primary season, Obama had said he would use public financing if his Republican opponent did. But that was before the presumptive Democratic nominee harnessed the Internet and became a fund-raising powerhouse.


This move not only makes Obama the first major candidate in more than 30 years to reject public funding (which forbids candidates from raising private funds), but also goes back on his very public indications he would agree to public funding. (See an earlier Times’ editorial admonishing Obama for waffling on his pledge.)

Needless to say, McCain has been gleefully calling foul all morning — he can afford to point fingers, in part because his fundraising numbers are pretty anemic compared to Obama’s.

But McCain is no angel, either. Remember when he allegedly used public funds as backup to apply for a loan, and then tried immediately to withdraw from the public funding system? (Attempting to escape, ironically, from the very system he helped set up.) The outraged Dems filed suit shortly thereafter. The Federal Election Commission, lacking quorum, couldn’t do much about it, either — which probably suited McCain just fine.

That incident aside, there are plenty of other loopholes that allow the private sector to creep in, a point Obama drove home in a video released this morning:

It’s not an easy decision, especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections. But the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system. John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interests PACs. We’ve already seen that he’s not gonna stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations.

Swiftboating, anyone?

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-- Amina Khan

*Photo: Joshua Roberts / Bloomberg News