Video by PoliticalX, added 6/19/08
Senator Barack Obama announced that he would not participate in the public financing system for presidential campaigns. He argued that the system had collapsed, and would put him at a disadvantage running against Senator John McCain, his likely Republican opponent.
With his decision, Mr. Obama became the first candidate of a major party to decline public financing — and the spending limits that go with it — since the system was created in 1976, after the Watergate scandals.
Shaking my head. Sigh. Still shaking my head.
Read “The Small-Donor Fallacy” by Colgate University economics professor Jay Mandle in the Washington Post, Friday, June 20, 2008, excerpted here:
Not long ago, Sen. Barack Obama criticized special-interest lobbies that “use their money and influence to stop us from reforming health care or investing in renewable energy for yet another four years.” He has said that his army of small donors constitutes “a parallel public financing system,” one in which ordinary voters “will have as much access and influence over the course of our campaign” as that “traditionally reserved for the wealthy and the powerful.”
Obama has raised record-breaking sums from small donors, so his announcement yesterday that he would opt out of the public financing system for the general election did not surprise many. And the idea that the Internet and grass-roots donations will somehow reinvigorate our democracy is appealing. But this notion is not borne out by the evidence.
Despite the importance of small donors, both Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain are still taking lots of big donations from wealthy special interests. In fact, when the nominating system as a whole is studied over time, the evidence suggests that the role of big donors will turn out to be growing, not shrinking.
And from CQ’s Beyond The Dome, David Nather writes on June 19, 2008:
One on the consequences of Barack Obama’s announcement this morning that he’ll opt out of the public financing system is that he’s alienated the allies who worked with him, and praised his work, on last year’s lobbying and ethics overhaul.
Obama was one of two Democratic senators who took the lead on the legislation, and it was the most significant accomplishment of his short Senate career. Reid paired him up with Russ Feingold of Wisconsin – the Democrat who co-authored the 2002 campaign finance overhaul with John McCain – to take the lead in pushing the ethics legislation through the Senate.
So what did Feingold think of Obama’s decision not to participate in the public-financing system in the general election against McCain? Not much.
“This is not a good decision,” Feingold said in a statement today. “While the current public financing system for the presidential primaries is broken, the system for the general election is not. The entire system must be updated.
Government watchdog groups are taking notice:
The reactions were similar from the government watchdog groups that worked closely with Obama and Feingold on the ethics overhaul. Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer declared himself “very disappointed” with the decision. Public Citizen president Joan Claybrook said she was “deeply disappointed.” You get the idea.
Another complication is the fact that Obama is a co-sponsor of a Feingold bill that would overhaul the public financing system, notably by allowing more matching funds in primaries and letting primary candidates spend more if their opponents opt out of public financing. So it would create some awkward moments for a President Obama if Feingold continues to push that bill next year, as he’s likely to do
Early in 2008, I had a serious discussion with a dear friend who was an early supporter and backer of Obama. This was the first political issue that we were ever on different sides of — you know how it goes: Hillary was too divisive, voted for the war, unelectable. “This guy’s something, I read both of his books.” I told him that Hillary’s plans and policies looked more liberal to me and that Obama would surface as more conservative than he appears.
I remember a particular thing he said to me about the passionate way his young adult kids and their friends were supporting Obama. They thought he was so progressive, and everything he stood for was anti-DC-establishment.
You know, they’d be crushed if he didn’t make it, really crushed. They believe so much in what Obama’s doing. He really wants to change everything. The guy’s really got it.
Campaign reform. Right. That public financing is the $3 check box on our tax forms. I hated to see such obscene amounts of money spent in the campaigns this year, when people throughout our country are struggling financially — programs, infrastructure, education, food, housing, energy, Katrina still. Just think what those millions and millions of campaign dollars could have gone for, and still could with what is about to be raised and spent. Once again, this is about top-down power using the money and trust we hand on up, isn’t it?
With the information that was emerging early in the year about Obama’s past, added to his tepid, insecure debate performances, I thought that his supporters would be in for a rude awakening. I wonder what my friend and his kids are thinking now? Are they still floating or has the bubble burst? Do they notice or care? As young adults, and throughout my voting life, we always had to settle for the “lesser evil.” This time The Democratic voter base thought (God knows how) that they had finally gotten their Liberal into power, despite warnings from their better half. What a joke.