June 6, 2008
Obama About to Break His First General Election Promise
On November 27th of last year, Common Cause released its Presidential candidate questionnaire on political reform, submitted to the Democratic candidates by the Midwest Democracy Network. Here are Questions 1-A and 1-B, with Barack Obama's answers:
Question I-A:As President, would you support and work to enact legislation to strengthen, keep the same, or repeal the presidential public financing system?OBAMA: StrengthenQuestion I-B: If you are nominated for President in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?OBAMA: 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 State Senate, and am the only 2008 candidate to have sponsored Senator Russ Feingold's (DWI) bill to reform the presidential public financing system. In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing 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 within 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 (r-AZ) has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election. [emphasis added]
Seems like a pretty clear answer. A few months passed, and here's an excerpt from a Washington Post editorial from April 14th of this year. (What happened to Barack Obama's promise to rely on public financing in the general election?), when Barack Obama first seemed to waffle on his pledge on public financing:
Barack Obama held out the hope of salvaging part of the public financing system for presidential elections. Now he seems poised to drive a nail into it by rejecting the $85 million available to nominees who agree to take full federal funding for the general election. That may be understandable as a matter of campaign tactics; Mr. Obama sits atop a whirring money machine that appears capable of vacuuming up amounts far in excess of the federal check. But going back on his pledge to take public financing if the GOP nominee were to agree to do the same would be an unfortunate step -- and one that reflects badly on Mr. Obama.
Fast forward to today, and here's the headline from Mark Halperin's "The Page" blog at Time.com: Obama Has Cash Advantage, Expected to Bypass Federal Funding. Halperin links to an article at the Los Angeles Times website written by Janet Hook and Dan Morain, Obama has cash advantage over McCain, that reads less like a news story and more like an apologia for Obama's soon-to-be-broken promise. In fact, the article doesn't mention the Senator's previous promise once, although the information is readily available to anyone who knows how to use an internet search engine.
But Obama is such a strong fundraiser that he is expected to skip the system of federal election funding -- freeing him from the timing rules and spending caps that come with it. That will give the Illinois senator the ability to air television spots and organize field staff long before the traditional Labor Day start of general-election campaigning. Obama, for example, can use the money to introduce himself to Latino voters, a group that does not know him well even after the 16-month primary season.
Remember, Obama's original promise was to "return" all funds raised in excess of public financing limits. I wonder what Obama's excuse will be for this flip-flop?
"Today's public financing rules are not the public financing rules that I thought I knew", perhaps?