Obama Opts Out Of Public Financing
I'm jumping on this announcement by candidate Obama, because I hope to subvert the impulses of some of my fellow Fellows and some of our readers to make of this moment a chance to accuse Barack Obama of being a liar, breaking a promise, not really being about reform, undermining efforts to reform our increasingly broken system of elections, and other ways not to like Obama that I'm not clever enough to even think of.
You don't need to go there; the VRWC is way ahead of you. As Roy notes, there is high comedy to be had in the deep disappointment of the McCain campaign, the Republican Party, and their right-winger supporters, most of whom have bellowed long and hard against any sort of limitations on the financing of political campaigns. Of course that was when they were the ones rolling in money.
Yes, I know, McCain has been an advocate, of sorts, and a sponsor, of sorts, of campaign finance reform, but when Obama states, as he does in the video message in which he announced his decision, that the entire system, including the so-called reforms of it, by which we finance our elections is "broken," he's right.
"We've made the decision not to participate in the public financing system for the general election," Obama said in a video statement e-mailed to reporters.
Obama said the decision meant his campaign would be forgoing more than $80 million in public funds during the final months of this election. But the move allows him to raise as much private money as he can.
"It's not an easy decision, and especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections," he said. "
"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,” he said. “John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. And we’ve already seen that he’s not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations."
Obama said his rival McCain's campaign and the Republican National Committee were fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest groups that can make unlimited donations.
"From the very beginning of this campaign, I have asked my supporters to avoid that kind of unregulated activity and join us in building a new kind of politics -- and you have," he said.
"Instead of forcing us to rely on millions from Washington lobbyists and special interest (groups), you've fueled this campaign with donations of $5, $10, $20, whatever you can afford," he said.
"And because you did, we've built a grassroots movement of over 1.5 million Americans."
Yes, Obama is going to get criticism from the press for having broken a pledge, and McCain and Republicans will pretend to be aghast, despite the fact that McCain has already pledged to appoint the kind of Federal Judges who will continue to make it impossible to squeeze the outrageous costs we've allowed to become attached to our elections out of the system, and despite the fact that the entire right-wing has never met a campaign finance reform they could even pretend to like.
I think Obama did exactly the right thing in refusing to be limited in his ability to campaign by McCain's inability to raise the kind of money to which Republicans usually have access. It means that Obama will be able to context all fifty states; it means being able to run a massive voter registration campaign, and a just as big GOTV campaign. It means he'll have the money to answer the kind of smear ads the 527's have already started airing. And all of that is good for the liberal/progressive movement, even those aspects of it that are taking place outside of the electoral politics.
Lastly, dear readers, especially those of you who continue to admire Hillary Clinton, among whom I count myself, ask yourself if Hillary was now our candidate, and if, based on the kind of money she eventually was able to raise through the internet, she was looking at the kind of cash-flow Obama is, whether or not she wouldn't do exactly what he is doing. I know what I think.