Nov. 7, 2003

Campaign Finance Reform GroupsUrge All Democratic Presidential Candidates to Stay Within the $45 Million Campaign Spending Limit for the PrimariesUntil a Nominee Is Apparent

Statement of Public Citizen, Democracy 21, U.S. PIRG,Public Campaign Action Fund, and the League of Women Voters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With George W. Bush opting out of the presidential public financing system and declining to stay within the system’s $45 million spending ceiling during the primary elections, some of the Democratic candidates are actively considering whether also to opt out of the public financing program and its spending ceiling. Howard Dean is expected to announce tomorrow whether he will opt out of the presidential public financing system.

While we wish that all the presidential candidates were opting into the public financing system and running for president on a level playing field, Bush’s campaign spending – which could amount to four times the spending ceiling for any candidate who stays within the primary public financing system – places a Democratic nominee who chooses to accept public financing and limit spending at a severe disadvantage.

Since Bush has no opposition in the primary elections, the $200 million he plans to spend is expected to target the Democratic "presumptive nominee." Some Democratic candidates are concerned that if they abide by the $45 million spending ceiling and become the presumptive nominee, they will be unable to respond to Bush during the rest of the primary period.

If any of the Democratic candidates decide to opt out of the public financing system, we believe those candidates should agree to voluntarily limit their primary spending to $45 million until a Democratic nominee becomes apparent. The rationale for a Democrat opting out of the system so they can respond to Bush does not apply to running against other Democratic opponents. By agreeing to a voluntary $45 million spending limit until the Democratic nominee is known, the candidates would compete on a level playing field as intended by the presidential public financing system.

These circumstances show why it is essential to make reform of the presidential public financing system a top priority in time for the 2008 elections.