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Obama’s Mistake on Public Financing (and how McCain is skirting the law, too)

Originally by Andy Wilson at TexasVox.org

Today’s New York Times reported that life is not all peaches and

cream for the Obama campaign after they opted out of the presidential

public financing system.  (See Article “Straining to Reach Goal, Obama Presses Donors“)

Pushing a fund-raiser later this month, a finance staff

member sent a sharply worded note last week to Illinois members of its

national finance committee, calling their recent efforts “extremely


The signs of concern have become evident in recent weeks as early

fund-raising totals have suggested that Mr. Obama’s decision to bypass

public financing may not necessarily afford him the commanding

financing advantage over Senator John McCain that many had originally


But the campaign is struggling to meet ambitious fund-raising goals

it set for the campaign and the party. It collected in June and July

far less from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s donors than originally

projected. Moreover, Mr. McCain, unlike Mr. Obama, will have the luxury

of concentrating almost entirely on campaigning instead of raising

money, as Mr. Obama must do.

It is not yet clear whether the Obama campaign will be able to

ratchet up its fund-raising enough in the final two months of the

campaign to make up the difference.

Public financing is a boon to any politician who accepts it, as it

allows her or him to run free from the strings attached to

big-dollar-donations and to focus the campaign’s time on where it

should be spent: connecting with voters.  This is why when I explained

Public Financing to Congressman Nick Lampson, currently running in the

most competitive House race in the country, he was exuberant to think

of a time when he would no longer have to dial for dollars.

Considering the other two competitive House races in Texas, in CD 7 and

10, think of the race it would be if the campaigns were on equal

footing moneywise and ideas, not dollars, affected the outcome of the


And, if you don’t think that money doesn’t change policy, think again.

Every issue, from the War in Iraq to Consumer Protection to Global

Warming to Education has powerful monied interests who are willing to

pour money into the debate to get what they want.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, McCain, once a champion of campaign finance reform, is still soliciting donations to his campaign,

even though he has already accepted public financing money.  A loophole

allows the campaign to get money for “compliance” issues, but really

it’s a backdoor for the same kind of big money influence peddling we’ve

seen so far, as recently as the last two weeks at the GOP and Dem Conventions.

Kate Kaye, the author of the blog who brought this to our attention, explained it best:

According to a disclaimer on the McCain campaign site,

“Because the McCain-Palin Campaign is participating in the presidential

public funding system, it may not receive contributions for the any

candidate’s election. However, federal law allows the McCain-Palin

Campaign’s Compliance Fund to defray legal and accounting compliance

costs and preserve the Campaign’s public grant for media, mail, phones,

and get-out-the-vote programs. Contributions to McCain-Palin Victory

2008 will go to the Compliance Fund, and to participating party

committees for Victory 2008 programs.”

That Victory fund is operated by the compliance fund, the Republican

National Committee, and the Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania


Hmmm…I wonder what states are in the most contention this year….

The lesson is clear: we should support full, airtight public financing NOW and we should make our leaders accept it– a “Great divorce” of Money and Politics.

Obama originally opted out of public financing by citing that the

presidential system was “broken” and that he had created a “parallel

public financing system” via the netroots.  This, along with McCain’s

continued fund-raising, is an argument to shore up the presidential

system, not scrap it.

We can pass full public financing laws.  We can keep elections fair

at the local, state, congressional, and federal level.  Currently, the Fair Elections Now Act

sits idle in Congress with some serious inertial problems.  We should

change that, and call our leaders and ask them to sign on to Fair

Elections.  We can make it a priority of the next Congress, insuring

that future elections are clean and fair.