Who is Killing the Presidential Public Funding System?
Suspect #1: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
– He recently called for the abolishment of the presidential public
funding system. His defense is that presidential candidates are
choosing not to opt-in and that the public doesn’t want to pay for it.
McConnell says fewer people are checking a box on the federal tax forms
to give $3 to program. Is it true that the public doesn’t want to pay
for this? A poll from last summer showed that 74% percent of the
public supports publicly funded elections. They believe the cost of
running for office is out of control and would rather it be paid for by
the public than by special interests. Also, many states and
municipalities have passed public funding or “Clean Elections.”
Suspect #2: The Presidential Candidates – Current candidates have all decided to fund their campaigns from private sources. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.)
is asking her biggest supporters to fork over $1,000,000. At this
rate, the 2008 presidential candidates could be expected to raise more
than $500,000,000. With these exorbitant entrance fees for the
presidential elections, it is no wonder the public funding system can’t
keep up. No one in 1974 ever expected this kind of largess.
– it is worth mentioning that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has pledged
that if he makes it to the general election, he will give back all his
privately raised money and use the public system, if (and this is a BIG
"if") his opponent does the same. His attempt to rescue the system is
honorable, but it may end up a day late and a dollar short.
Suspect #3: The 109th Congress – The presidential
public financing system has been in trouble for some time with both
Bush and Kerry opting out in their primaries in 2004. Congress should
have passed the bills by Reps. Shays and Meehan and by Sen. Feingold
and McCain when it had the chance to update the presidential public
funding system to make it a viable option for the 2008 slate of
candidates. Luckily, bill was re-introduced last month and the 110th
Congress can correct a past mistake.
What’s the verdict? It may be too late for 2008, but the system can and must be salvaged.