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Candidates flirt with public financing, but might stand it up

As the election season heats up, candidates begin looking toward the general election. More specifically, they must decide how they want to finance it. As Jeff Zeleny and Michael Luo reported in today’s New York Times, both Barrack Obama and John McCain have flirted with the idea of using public financing to pay for their campaigns but aren’t head over heels in love with the idea.

While McCain has indicated he will agree to receive public funding, which would limit his spending to $84.1 million in the general election, he is currently advising his donors to channel their cash into a special fund that is not affected by the public financing restrictions. But what is the benefit of using public financing if he is going to keep an alternate account, anyways?

Though Obama stated last year that he would accept public financing if the Republican nominee did, he is backing away from that claim now because a number of his online donors are contributing in small amounts. He claims that his smaller donors have just as much access and influence as the big spenders, yet he is still shying away from public financing.

Trey Ellis from The Huffington Post suggests that Obama limit all of his donors to a max of $100 to be able to justify his alternative to the public financing system.

Candidates should accept the public funds and concentrate more on the issues than on fundraising, especially since each has made statements about the benefit of a publicly financed election. Public financing would allow the candidates to spend time campaigning, rather than trying to continuously raise money. It also evens the playing field of influence because donors are held to the same small restrictions.

Track Public Citizen’s coverage of financing this election at White House For Sale.