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Cashed In? Should Candidates Accept Public Financing?

Barack Obama and John McCain are trading pointed queries over who's spending cash from whom, and it all swirls around the question of accepting public financing.

McCain is urging Obama, the fund-raising powerhouse, to follow through on his promise and accept public campaign matching funds this fall. The funds effectively cap the amount of money a candidate can spend. McCain had already bought into the plan (receiving a $4 million bailout on his faltering campaign last year) and now might be in hot water for exceeding spending limits while still technically in the primary portion of the budgeting.

Public finance reforms aim to give voters more control over government, make politicians accountable to constituents rather than campaign contributors, and provide a level playing field. By combining both an equal amount of dough for candidates, and assuring that a certain amount of donations they do raise are small contributions from a varied audience of voters, the system hopes to give everyone a fair shot at getting elected.

Should Obama keep his promise and accept matching funds, or be the first candidate since 1976 to go private? Do the limits enhance the debate by granting greater accessibility, or limit speech by tying the hands of voters who might want to give more?

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Cassandra57 Cassandra57 8 years
IMO, there are too many ways to game any system. If there's a loophole, they will find it. Even with small donations, there are bundlers and fraud. (Such as Hillary's Chinese friend.) I'd prefer to see public funding, but no other cash or in-kind donations of any kind allowed. I would regulate the amount of television time and the number of debates (which should be open to *all* candidates, not just the top three or four). I would allow volunteer time for things like phone banking and canvassing neighborhoods.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 8 years
IMO, there are too many ways to game any system. If there's a loophole, they will find it. Even with small donations, there are bundlers and fraud. (Such as Hillary's Chinese friend.) I'd prefer to see public funding, but no other cash or in-kind donations of any kind allowed. I would regulate the amount of television time and the number of debates (which should be open to *all* candidates, not just the top three or four). I would allow volunteer time for things like phone banking and canvassing neighborhoods.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
I realize, Jillness, that Obama has had a lot of individuals donate, but, as you said, some people have donated more than once. Are each of these contributions from a "unique individual?" And, the fact remains, that Obama has collected money from state lobbyists and attorneys who work for lobbying firms, but are not technically registered federal lobbyists. (i.e. Greenberg Traurig)(source: Baltimore Sun) I am not denying the fact that Obama has been able to collect a great deal of money in small donations from individuals, but I think it's important to look at both sides of the coin. That's why I didn't dispute your statistic or its importance, but provided another statistic that's also important to look at.
mymellowman mymellowman 8 years
Not me UnDave, I prefer mine in crisp one hundreds. :boss:
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
I think politicians should accept public money, as long as I can accept public money. I'll take my pubic donations in 20's and 50's please.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
I think politicians should accept public money, as long as I can accept public money. I'll take my pubic donations in 20's and 50's please.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
Thats the problem though, does he have 2 million donors? How do we know? If you're counting every key chain as an independent donation... what if I donated 10 bucks and then bought a key chain and a ticket to see him speak, does that mean I count 3 times? Thats why most people don't count the swag as independent donations.... But it doesn't really matter, I think its great that he can inspire people to donate! And its great that he can inspire people to vote... we'll just have to wait and see what he chooses to do should he get the nom.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
Thats the problem though, does he have 2 million donors? How do we know? If you're counting every key chain as an independent donation... what if I donated 10 bucks and then bought a key chain and a ticket to see him speak, does that mean I count 3 times?Thats why most people don't count the swag as independent donations.... But it doesn't really matter, I think its great that he can inspire people to donate! And its great that he can inspire people to vote... we'll just have to wait and see what he chooses to do should he get the nom.
Jillness Jillness 8 years
"So, while 90% of his donors may have been people who gave less than $200, 90% of his total money did not come from donors who gave less than $200."But if people are giving very small amounts, it isn't really mathmatically possible for them to be 90% of his total funds. Maximum contribution is many times larger than $200 ($2300, I believe), so it makes sense. It would take nearly 12 people to match 1 maxed out contributor. I think the fact that 90% of his donors are giving under $200, and he has had nearly 2 million donors says a lot, even considering all of this. I don't think it takes away at all from the fact that he is being supported by a huge number of "little" people like myself. I have donated many times, but only in $10 and $25 increments because times are tough for the Jillster. Also, many sources have tried to say that he is getting funds from large companies. In reality, he is getting funds from people who work for large corporations...like myself. When you donate, you HAVE to say who you work for. I know that some sources out there are counting my small contributions as donations on behalf of my company. For example, if 10 people that work for Citibank in the mailroom decide that they want to contribute to Obama $100 each, some sources have said, "Citibank contributes $1000 to Obama". It is a misrepresentation of the truth. I do think that Obama should stick to what he said, although he isn't even the nominee yet. I don't think that they can jump on a plan with out specifics...and if he would agree to a plan, the Clinton camp would say he is being arrogant and presumptive. If he changes his mind, I expect him to clarify why.
Jillness Jillness 8 years
"So, while 90% of his donors may have been people who gave less than $200, 90% of his total money did not come from donors who gave less than $200." But if people are giving very small amounts, it isn't really mathmatically possible for them to be 90% of his total funds. Maximum contribution is many times larger than $200 ($2300, I believe), so it makes sense. It would take nearly 12 people to match 1 maxed out contributor. I think the fact that 90% of his donors are giving under $200, and he has had nearly 2 million donors says a lot, even considering all of this. I don't think it takes away at all from the fact that he is being supported by a huge number of "little" people like myself. I have donated many times, but only in $10 and $25 increments because times are tough for the Jillster. Also, many sources have tried to say that he is getting funds from large companies. In reality, he is getting funds from people who work for large corporations...like myself. When you donate, you HAVE to say who you work for. I know that some sources out there are counting my small contributions as donations on behalf of my company. For example, if 10 people that work for Citibank in the mailroom decide that they want to contribute to Obama $100 each, some sources have said, "Citibank contributes $1000 to Obama". It is a misrepresentation of the truth. I do think that Obama should stick to what he said, although he isn't even the nominee yet. I don't think that they can jump on a plan with out specifics...and if he would agree to a plan, the Clinton camp would say he is being arrogant and presumptive. If he changes his mind, I expect him to clarify why.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
that was a bit more coherent!
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
that was a bit more coherent!
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
errggh... Its not apples to apples to say that 90% of Obamas individual donations were under $200 because the other two campaigns aren't counting money like that, so in reality, this percentage in an equal comparison is much lower.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
not*
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
not*
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
No but thats now how they count the money, so its not apples to apples to say well Obama had 90% of his individual donations and the others don't.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
No but thats now how they count the money, so its not apples to apples to say well Obama had 90% of his individual donations and the others don't.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
Jillness, I'm guessing you are referring to 90% of Obama's donors giving less than $200, which is a statistic I can't seem to find, but I'm sure you're right on. However, it is a little misleading because these donations only account for about 39.86% of the total money he's raised, according to the FEC. So, while 90% of his donors may have been people who gave less than $200, 90% of his total money did not come from donors who gave less than $200. As for the issue of public funding, I think it should be up to the individual candidate; however, I am curious as to what Obama supporters think about the fact that he once stated he would "aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election." (Source: Wall Street Journal) Even if you are against publicly funded elections, the fact remains that Obama himself stated he would not only be in support of, but "aggressively pursue" a publicly funded election. Obviously we don't know for sure if he will pursue this if/when he's nominated, but if he doesn't, does that make it seem like he said this statement when it was convenient for him, but now that he has more funding, he's changed his thinking?
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
Jillness, I'm guessing you are referring to 90% of Obama's donors giving less than $200, which is a statistic I can't seem to find, but I'm sure you're right on. However, it is a little misleading because these donations only account for about 39.86% of the total money he's raised, according to the FEC. So, while 90% of his donors may have been people who gave less than $200, 90% of his total money did not come from donors who gave less than $200.As for the issue of public funding, I think it should be up to the individual candidate; however, I am curious as to what Obama supporters think about the fact that he once stated he would "aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election." (Source: Wall Street Journal) Even if you are against publicly funded elections, the fact remains that Obama himself stated he would not only be in support of, but "aggressively pursue" a publicly funded election. Obviously we don't know for sure if he will pursue this if/when he's nominated, but if he doesn't, does that make it seem like he said this statement when it was convenient for him, but now that he has more funding, he's changed his thinking?
Jillness Jillness 8 years
So if I buy a key chain, I am not an individual anymore?
harmreduction harmreduction 8 years
This Obama person says..."YES"!
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
Oh and no other campaign does that...
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
Well, thats not entirely true Jill because his campaign counts the sales of $5 speech tickets or $4.50 Obama key chains as individual contributions... sooo... not entirely true...
mondaymoos mondaymoos 8 years
That being the case, Jilliness, he shouldn't have agreed to public funding to begin with. I'd think it'd be a bad idea to start going back on promises that early into the GE campaign.
Jillness Jillness 8 years
I don't see how it can be considered an "equal playing field" when one person has been a public figure for decades and the other has not. "make politicians accountable to constituents rather than campaign contributors"Since Obama's fund raising has been made by 90% individual donors contributing less than $200, it seems as if he IS accountable to constituents rather than companies.Since Obama has all of this money that has been given to him by citizens, it doesn't really make sense to me to have him throw that money away to use public funds.
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