Thursday, June 19, 2008

Barack Obama Opts Out of Public Financing

Barack Obama just released a video announced that will will forego $80 million of public campaign financing.

"It's not an easy decision. Especially, because I support a robust system of public financing of elections," said Obama. "But the public financing systems of elections, as it exists today is broken."

Public financing is used by presidential candidates with fundraising woes. The pretenders accept public financing. The players raise mountains of cash and go to the White House. I pointed out that Obama is beating John McCain over 2 to 1 in campaign contributions. Republicans will attack Obama for not accepting public financing. That is a bad move. McCain broke the rules by spending over the public financing cap.

Sen. John McCain has officially broken the limits imposed by the presidential public financing system, reports filed last night show.

McCain has now spent $58.4 million on his primary effort. Those who have committed to public financing can spend no more than $54 million on their primary bid.

So has McCain broken the law? The answer is far from simple.

Jane Hamsher accused McCain of breaking the law. McCain was rather disingenuous about the scandal. The truth is his lawyers screwed up by thinking that the Federal Election Commission would honor McCain's intent to withdrawal from public financing. McCain's lawyers sent a Feb. 6 letter announcing the Maverick's intent to withdraw from public financing. The FEC informed the campaign they lacked four member to make a final decision. McCain's status was in limbo and he made questionable moves, under the impression he was free of public financing. Obama is right. The public financing system is broken.

I have never been a fan of public financing the McCain-Feingold bill. Getting big money out of politics is a fantasy. The Obama campaign showed that small contributions can outset major special interests. What we have now is a campaign finance system that is so complicated that no one understands it.

Update: Ezra Klein thinks the Obama video was good PR. I still think Republicans will attack him for opting out of public financing. My impression is most voters won't care one way or another. That is the reason the McCain public financing story never caught on with the media.

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