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Obama Rejects Public Financing

Obama Refuses Public Financing. What Does This Mean?

I might be a special brand of crazy, but when I woke up to this news this morning, I started hyperventilating: Obama is not accepting public financing.

In shunning each tax-payer's $3 contribution we kick in when we pay our taxes, Obama is the first candidate to do so since Congress passed 1970s campaign finance laws after Watergate in the 1970s. McCain, the Republican nominee in waiting, has already taken steps to accept the public funds in the general election — matching funds that put a cap on how much each candidate can spend.

Obama said of his decision in a video released to supporters:

It's not an easy decision, and especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections. But 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. 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.

There are a million factors to consider:

  • Does the above statement mean he's going to police all 527s on his behalf, making sure they're silent and not "broken"?
  • Obama is the best fundraiser this side of an ATM — he's coaxed $265 million in donations so far. But do his supporters want him raising money? Or focusing on being the best, most prepared person for the job?
  • Last November he said this: “If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election." Is he going back on his word, or should "publicly financed" be in quotes with a winky-face after it?
  • The campaigns and respective fight/momentum each has had to work with has been vastly different. Obama's been in a grudge match to the death until two weeks ago. That will inspire the wallets of supporters much more than a candidate who's been assured for months, creating an inequity that starting the general election fresh, with public-financing, would solve.

Those are just some of the thoughts that are racing through my tending toward indignant head. What do you think? Is Obama making the best, fairest decision for his own campaign? Is public financing broken like he says? Or did he just cash a blank check made payable to "The Next President of the United States"?


jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
I find this interesting. I felt like this was a real turn-around though some here managed to make it seem consistent. Here is something I read in the NYT this morning:
In January 2007, he told Larry King that the public-financing system works. In February 2007, he challenged Republicans to limit their spending and vowed to do so along with them if he were the nominee. In February 2008, he said he would aggressively pursue spending limits. He answered a Midwest Democracy Network questionnaire by reminding everyone that he has been a longtime advocate of the public-financing system.
Then, a few short months later when it's clear that his opponent is going to accept public funding and the accompanying spending limits, Obama suddenly wants nothing to do with spending limits or public finance. BUT, what really felt like the sleazy part of the turnaround to me was the way he tried to pin it on Republicans.
We face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system. John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs.
I didn't know enough about campaign financing to realize how slimy and untruthful he was being until I read this:
To say that either the McCain campaign or the RNC are "fueled" by money from lobbyists and PACs is an overstatement, to say the least. Such funds make up less than 1.7 percent of McCain's presidential campaign receipts and 1.1 percent of the RNC's income. ... The lobbyist figures we give here could stand some minor refinement. The totals might be reduced somewhat if the CRP used Obama's rather narrow definition of "lobbyist." Obama makes a point of refusing money from those who are currently registered to lobby at the federal level. The CRP has a broader definition, counting money from anyone working at a lobbying firm, registered or not, state or federal, and their families as well. By CRP's definition Obama himself has taken in $161,927 from lobbyists. ... Also, for what it's worth, the Democratic National Committee has historically been far more reliant on PAC and lobbyist money than the RNC. In 2004, PACs provided about 10 percent of the DNC's total fundraising and only about 1 percent of the RNC's total, according to the CRP.
So, the first part of his statement about his opponents being the ones "gaming the broken system" is the complete opposite of the truth. And the second part of his statement about McCain and the RNC being "fueled" by PACs and lobbyists is a bald-faced lie. Is this clean campaigning?
Lady-Boleyn Lady-Boleyn 9 years
Jilliness, your statement is incorrect. Do you have information to support this information? Because the FEC outlines the information you presented differently.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
Actually, Jill, I work in campaign finance. And entering the general election is about timing. You cannot spend funds for the general election until after the convention. And McCain has been refunding or asking for things to be designated for his compliance fund, not for the actual election. He publicly committed to public funding (I don't understand how it's for the second time, considering that for the primary the bank that he borrowed the money from has repeatedly stated that he did not use public funding as collateral.) He has not officially been cleared for public funding for the general election yet because the FEC hasn't had enough members due to some confirmation issues.
Jillness Jillness 9 years
Entering the general election isn't about time as much as it is about how much a person spends. They can only spend so much before the funds fall into the general election category. Are you saying that McCain has been refunding money before he committed to public funding (for the 2nd time)?
klynnmorton klynnmorton 9 years
...and McCain is indeed a hypocrite. And this has NOTHING to do with political affiliation, but it has everything to do with right and wrong!
klynnmorton klynnmorton 9 years
First, let us NOT forget that this is an election in an ever-changing financial climate...and changes will be made. Just because a candidate changes his mind, that does not make him a hypocrite. He has to make the BEST choices for both his campaign and the financial health of the American system and citizens. Second, after BOTH of those statements were made by Senator Obama, John McCain attempted to opt-out of matching funds program in the primary, but before he ever received an okay from the FEC he exceeded the spending limit. Additionally, in FEBRUARY Obama and his campaign had no idea how far reaching and successful the campaign would be. Furthermore, I cannot begin to see what is wrong with using the money that people who support you have personally contributed to you...instead of taking tax-payer money that can be used for something else...HELLO, we are in a financial CRISIS in America and giving 84 million dollars back to the government is a GOOD THING! Beyond that, Obama has made a SMART decision. He is not bound by what McCain wants or expects. HE is smart and he is confident and he is doing what is best in his situation. The comments he made in November or February are just is June and many things have changed. Obama does not OWE McCain anything...that was a deal he was attmepting to reach with the Republican candidate NOT the American people. So now, that McCain has publicly stated that Obama is the candidate of the terrorist Hamas...called him immature and unseasoned...and began a hosts of negative attacks on him when he PROMISED time and time and time again to run a respectful campaign...Obama is entitled to change his mind as well.
Lady-Boleyn Lady-Boleyn 9 years
I have one more quick comment/question. What is so wrong about accepting money from PACs? PACs get their money from individuals and individuals are limited in the amount they can give to PACs. Accepting money from a PAC is, in my eyes, just like accepting money from a bundler, which Obama has done.
Lady-Boleyn Lady-Boleyn 9 years
I have found some discrepancies in the previous post: 1) McCain and Obama do not enter the general election until after their party's convention (Per FEC Guidelines) Neither Obama or McCain have entered the general election. 2) Secondly, McCain has been returning contributions designated for the general election or has been asking that they are designated for his compliance fund. So, he has not entered the public financing system JUST today. 3) Under FEC regulations even if you accept public funding you can still have a compliance fund that is not subject to spending limits and must be used for legal FEC issues. 4) How aggressive was Obama's pursuit? I mean, when did this happen? I don't know... does anyone want to help me out here? Thanks for your help and opinions. Sincerely, Megan
Jillness Jillness 9 years
WOW. People call Keith Olbermann bias, but then how come he is the ONLY person who is quoting Obama's full 250 word answer about public financing? The questionaire that McCain is trying to slime Obama with had the following answer, McCain appears to only have read the last sentence. Yes. I have been a long time advocate for public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests. I introduced public financing legislation in the Illinois Senate, and am the only 2008 candidate to have sponsored Senator Russ Feingold's bill to reform the presidential public financing system. In Feb 200, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public finance system in the 2008 election. My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay with in the public financing system for the general election. My proposal followed announcements by some Presidential candidates that they would forgo public financing so they could raise unlimited funds in the general election. The Federal Election Commission ruled the proposal legal, and Senator John McCain has already pledged to accept this fund raising pledge. If I am the democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly funded election. *end of answer. John McCain offically entered the general election 4 months ago. If he isn't going to return the excess funds that went towards his general election campaign, then he isn't abiding by what Obama was saying. That is not Obama's "flipflop". Also, how come no one is noticing that McCain decided TODAY to finally enter the public financing system 4 months after he became the presumptive nominee????
yesteryear yesteryear 9 years
ok i just know everyone's going to jump down my throat for quoting something i saw on countdown... but it looks like this is being skewed a bit by the media. mccain has jumped in and out of the public financing ring a few times over the past few months -- AND obama never said he wouldn't take public financing, he said if the OTHER candidate wanted to agree to a "truce" and both go with public money then he would too. apparently that didn't happen and now we are where we are. i'm still confused because for some reason this all seems really complicated, but i believe i smell a bit of a spin here. this was a politically smart decision for obama, and he clearly knew he was going to catch some heat for it -hence, the video- but i don't think it's as big of a deal as i'd previously thought this morning when i first read this story.
Jillness Jillness 9 years
I read this today on CNN Obama counsel Bob Bauer said Thursday he had met with Trevor Potter, his counterpart on the McCain team, on June 6 to discuss a possible joint townhall appearance later in the month, and that the two discussed the public funding issue for 45 minutes. “I asked him to address a [series] of issues of concern to the Obama campaign–the McCain campaign's active raising and spending of private money since February for a general election campaign, including for media, while we were still in the middle of a primary contest,” said Bauer in a statement. “He gave me his perspectives–the best arguments he could offer for an agreement on both sides to accept public financing–and it was clear to me that these offered no basis for any further exchange.” ...So it seems that the 4 months of fundraising and spending that McCain had before Obama reached the appropriate number of delegates was part of the issue. I heard someone say something I agree with, that public financing is supposed to take "big money" out of politics. The way things are now, you cant take just "the money" out of politics. We need more reforms to make that a possibility. Obama's fundraising has been hugely supported by the people directly, and so he is therefore already achieving the purpose of public financing. McCain does take money from PACs, and the fact that it is individual's small donations fueling Obama's fundraising success is a good thing. Oh, and the McCain campaign is saying the above conversation never took place, so I am sure this will get dramatic in the coming days. Oh boy.
TsuKata TsuKata 9 years
To clarify one item from lilkimbo's explanation: Per campaign finance laws, if you donate to a candidate's primary fund and the candidate wins the primary, those funds *can* be used for the general election. However, it doesn't go in reverse. If you donate during the primaries and earmark it as being for the general election, those funds *cannot* be used until after the convention. If the candidate doesn't win the primary (or the general) and has funds left over in either account, those funds can either be saved for another election or put into a compliance fund, as lilkimbo described. Slate actually did an article about this back when Obama changed his statement on campaign finance from "I'll take public funds" to "I'll take them if my opponent does" to "I'm thinking about it." Unfortunately, I can't find it to provide a link, but the gist was that Slate believed Obama made an early gaffe in making the statement. It was an easy statement to make when he was an underdog in the primary and when, if he won, his opponent was likely to be Mitt Romney, fundraiser extraordinaire. Romney was highly unlikely to agree to use public funds, so it was a safe bet then. But, once it became McCain, in a similar upset to Obama's own, Obama's commitment to public finance was going to hurt him far more than it would hurt McCain, plus McCain's participation in the bill that created the restrictions made him very likely to accept Obama's challenge. I do wish that Obama had referenced his original statements in this new position. I wish he had said, "Earlier in my campaign, I made a decision based on available evidence at the time. Given the state of the election now, to continue that path blindly in the face of considerable evidence would be a stubborn and wrong-headed move. Admitting to mistakes and correcting them, even with political cost, is one of the ways I hope to change the face of politics. [Insert reference to Bush's stubborn insistence on a failing Iraq policy.]" 'Cause, honestly, I think that statement would be accurate, and it'd end this talk of hypocrisy. :(
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
Haha Rac no you don't have to find it! I was just wondering if you read it so I could read it too cuz it sounded like a neat hypthesis, but no worries!
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
Anyway, I really am leaving for the day now! There is work to be done. Citizen just always draws me in! :sneaky-evil:
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
I meant the deal with McCain's loan. It came out much dirtier than I intended! :innocent:
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
Torgelson, if he had accepted financing for the general election, he would still be able to spend as much as he wanted up until the convention. Each individual can give up to $2,300 per candidate per election cycle; the majority of Obama's donations thus far have been for the primary election. The only donations that would have gone to the general election so far would be ones from people who have given over $2,300 or from people who specifically asked for their donations to be designated for the general election. Any donations that he has accepted over the $2,300 mark would either have to be returned or be designated to a compliance fund. Even if a candidate accepts public funding, he or she is still allowed to have a separate "compliance fund" to pay for legal and financial fees associated with FEC compliance. The deal with McCain's load is that some people are claiming he told the bank he would be getting public funding for the primary election , which he opted out of. These people say he used the public funding as collateral for the loan and is obligated to accept public funding and the limits that go with it. Does that help at all or am I making it more confusing?
True-Song True-Song 9 years
I am still confused about what happens to his 270 flippity squillion dollars if he were to accept public financing. And what the deal is with McCain's loan and why its problematic. Campaign finance is hard.
jenintx jenintx 9 years
I'm a little surprised by the number of people who have responded negatively on this. I never even thought of it being anything devious until reading the responses. My initial thought that was he was rejecting the money in the same way he rejected PAC money, since he has so many small, independent contributors.
yesteryear yesteryear 9 years
raciccarone, cabaker may not care, but i would like you to source that quote, and while you're at it could you please look up a low-calorie salad dressing recipe for me? something spicy, please.
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 9 years
The quote from Citizen about Obama's desire to commit to public financing was from 2007. He was not raising fistfulls of money back then, and he had every reason to believe that he'd be at a disadvantage in terms of fundraising, going up against the "republican machine." I'm a little torn about this. The quote implied strongly that Obama wanted to work w/ McCain to level the playing field not only in terms of public financing, but in terms of what these 527s could spend as well, since right now it's totally unlimited. The 527s got in trouble during the 2004 election for violating rules and I bet they will do it again. (Note: both Rep and Dem 527s got in trouble so this is NOT a one-sided issue - it's just that the Rep ones take in more money.) However, his about-face on the issue is, to me, a political move specifically designed for him to re-claim an advantage in the fundraising. I can certainly see why he would do it - I think he will need the help - but to couch it in the fact that the system is "broken" just seems false to me.
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
Cabaker, ugh. It was a lecture given by someone at the Commonwealth Club. Do I really have to look it up? I can't even remember the guys name but it was a lecture on the psychology of why republicans are harder to convince than democrats and why democrats tend to be more "swing" voters (i.e. Reagan Democrats - you don't hear the term Clinton Republicans). If I find I find it, but honestly, it's sort of a pain.
amybdk amybdk 9 years
"Neither McCain or Bush tried to behave like they were better than any other politician thats ever existed." :ROTFL:
trésjolie1 trésjolie1 9 years
Just too offer an olive branch - I do understand why it rubs people the wrong way. I just believe a great candidate doesn't mean perfect candidate. Back in the day, after super Tuesday he said he wasn't going to commit to either alternative right then. I think it was because it was in the midst of primary spectacle. I think he should have exposed this earlier too. But this morning when I read that citizen was hyperventilating, and everyone calling him hypocrite.. it just made me feel like anything and everything he would do would be TERRIBLE. It got a little out of hand. But the discussion since has been interesting, with both sides (and the middle)saying what they think. I really, really hope the DNC and Obama won't put out smear campaigns. I trust Obama more than DNC on this, and vice versa on McCain and RNC.
Jillness Jillness 9 years
"I find it hard to believe that he would not come out and say "Look, I sat down with John McCain and we weren't able to come to an agreement. Therefore, I won't use public funds." if the explanation were that simple, Jillness." I see your point, but I think it is better that he didn't mention McCain at all. It would be seen as a dig against McCain, when really I think it comes down to fighting off the smears. Just my opinion, but I find it a little hard to believe that McCain couldn't call off the NC GOP, when he has been a republican Senator for so many years. He has no connections or friends who are connected to this state that could have influence? I just think if they thought he sincerely wanted them to pull it they would. That same NC GOP will want to be on McCain's good side in January if he wins. As for the comment about the system being broken in 7 months, it seems to me that condition for public financing for Obama was that certain things needed to be addressed by both Obama and the other nominee. To me, that reflects that he thought there were problems, even all those months ago.
mymellowman mymellowman 9 years
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