Barack Obama Will Not Opt Into Public Financing System

There will be a lot to talk about with regards to this big and extremely important decision, but I first wanted to get it up as soon as possible: Barack Obama will not be participating in the public financing program during the general election.

This is important for a number of reasons:

  • 50-state campaign: Because elections are expensive and not enough American taxpayers check the box to contribute to the public financing program, presidential campaigns tend to get waged in a dozen or fewer states. These swing states get the attention not only because they are competitive on a partisan sense but also because with $75 million or even $85 million to spend over two months, there just aren't enough resources to run all around the country. So as a result of this decision, Obama will be able to compete in significantly more states, seriously contesting not only the traditional swing states but also emerging ones like Virginia, North Carolina, Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Nebraska (or at least the eastern part of it for one to two electoral votes), Montana, and others -- states that the Republicans have been able to rely on in the past but will not be allowed to take for granted this year.

  • Saying No to McCain's Shenanigans: John McCain opted into the public financing program during the primaries, received a material benefit (according to an FEC complaint filed by the Democratic National Committee), then unilaterally pulled out of the program without the agreement of the FEC when he thought it would suit him. By deciding not to opt into the public financing program in the general election, Obama is saying no to the type of cynical gamesmanship of campaign finance law that McCain has undertaken during this campaign.

  • Calling McCain's Bluff: McCain was hoping to tie Obama's hands behind his back by forcing him to opt into the public financing program -- while McCain would still rely heavily on the RNC to finance his efforts. What's more, with the proliferation of 527 organizations willing to say anything and everything to tar Democrats, not the least of which Obama, had Obama opted into the program he would have been hampered in efforts to rightfully defend himself from smears. But Obama didn't fall for McCain's game -- he called the bluff, forcing McCain to show that his real priority in trying to force this election into the public financing program was not reform but rather ambition to be elected President.

Those are just my initial thoughts. What think you?

Read the whole script below the fold...

Hi, this is Barack Obama.

I have an important announcement and I wanted all of you - the people who built this movement from the bottom-up - to hear it first. We've made the decision not to participate in the public-financing system for the general election. This means we'll be forgoing more than $80 million in public funds during the final months of this election.

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. John McCain's campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. 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.

From the very beginning of this campaign, I have asked my supporters to avoid that kind of unregulated activity and join us in building a new kind of politics - and you have. Instead of forcing us to rely on millions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs, you've fueled this campaign with donations of $5, $10, $20, whatever you can afford. And because you did, we've built a grassroots movement of over 1.5 million Americans. We've won the Democratic nomination by relying on ordinary people coming together to achieve extraordinary things.

You've already changed the way campaigns are funded because you know that's the only way we can truly change how Washington works. And that's the path we will continue in this general election. I'm asking you to try to do something that's never been done before. Declare our independence from a broken system, and run the type of campaign that reflects the grassroots values that have already changed our politics and brought us this far.

If we don't stand together, the broken system we have now, a system where special interests drown out the voices of the American people will continue to erode our politics and prevent the possibility of real change. That's why we must act. The stakes are higher than ever, and people are counting on us.

Every American who is desperate for a fair economy and affordable healthcare, who wants to bring our troops back from Iraq. Who hopes for a better education and future for his or her child, these people are relying on us. You and me. This is our moment and our country is depending on us. So join me, and declare your independence from this broken system and let's build the first general election campaign that's truly funded by the American people. With this decision this campaign is in your hands in a way that no campaign has ever been before. Now is the time to act. Thank you so much.

Tags: 2008, Barack Obama, campaign finance, John McCain, public financing (all tags)



Re: Barack Obama Will Not Opt

This was obvious in coming, given his fundraising prowess and supporters' energy. It's for the better. We need public financing in this country, but as long as the system is broken, there's no point playing into its hands. Shame the attack dogs and spin machines won't see it that way, but perhaps one last sordid election is just what we need to kennel those dogs and move on.

by Nathan Empsall 2008-06-19 05:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Barack Obama Will Not Opt

Er. 'Supporters' = Democrats.

by Makey 2008-06-19 05:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Barack Obama Will Not Opt


by Nathan Empsall 2008-06-19 05:15PM | 0 recs
Good, this helps him against 527s

by slinkerwink 2008-06-19 05:20AM | 0 recs
Thank God

I would have been really disappointed if he caved to McCain's bullying and gave up his fundraising advantage, not that I ever expected that to happen.

by Hatch 2008-06-19 05:22AM | 0 recs
Bank Error in Our Favor

McCain gave Obama a gigantic opening with his weak leadership reigning in Republican 527's, by claiming he would have no control over them.

by Homebrewer 2008-06-19 05:22AM | 0 recs
McCain's got himself to blame

His faithless misuse of his own finance laws and complete inability to control even lower level Republican functionaries from cranking up the smear machine, much less the 527s, is more than enough reason not to trust him to follow the finance rules and requirements that Obama required in the supposed "pledge."

by Dracomicron 2008-06-19 05:26AM | 0 recs
Re: McCain

The main issue with McCain and his public finance shenanigans was how he used his matching funds to get on the OH ballot while Rudy 9ui11iani and Mitt Romney, who both did not opt into the public system, spent hours upon hours and several million dollars to get on the OH ballot.  Then, of course, McCain opted out of the system.

by Brad G 2008-06-19 05:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Barack Obama Will Not Opt Into Public Financin

After a few days, I don't think there will be much talk about this.  No one besides McCain & Obama are personally affected by Presidential campaign finance laws so this won't resonate with the public.  

by Blue Neponset 2008-06-19 05:38AM | 0 recs
I hope you're kidding or used a poor choice of


No one besides McCain & Obama are personally affected by Presidential campaign finance laws so this won't resonate with the public.

You have no problem with candidates being beholden to lobbyists, mega-corporations, the pharmaceutical industry, big oil, etc., instead of the people?

Everyone besides McCain and Obama is personally affected by Presidential campaign finance laws.

by PJ Jefferson 2008-06-19 05:46AM | 0 recs
Re: I hope you're kidding or used a poor choice of

Everyone besides McCain and Obama is personally affected by Presidential campaign finance laws.

No they aren't.  You don't seem to know what personally affected means.  Campaign finance laws do not creep into the daily live of Americans.  Gas prices, health care, education costs, retirement funding, day care, highway maintenance, tax cuts are some things that directly and personally affect people.  

by Blue Neponset 2008-06-19 05:55AM | 0 recs
When lobbyists ensure Republicans get elected,

they enact policies relative to:

Gas prices, health care, education costs, retirement funding, day care, highway maintenance, tax cuts are some things that directly and personally affect people

Look at how much Exxon donated to the Bush campaign in 2000, and look at what policies the Bush administration has effectuated as it relates to gas prices - tax cuts for Exxon and a failure to regulate the industry.  Hence, Americans were personally affected by the lack of public financing.

Look at how much big pharma donated to the Bush campaign in 2000, and look at how the profits of big pharma have gone up while medical and pharmaceutical bills for individual Americans have gone up.

Perhaps we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one, because it seems so simple and plain to me, I can't figure out why you're still debating this simple issue with me, and I find that I'm one of the few people on MyDD to give someone else credit or admit I was wrong.  So, again, agree to disagree would be fine with me.

by PJ Jefferson 2008-06-19 06:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Barack Obama Will Not Opt Into Public Financin

Time to donate my monthly $50 to the Obama campaign. It's all up to us now! I can't wait to see his May and June fundraising numbers. McCain will have a stroke when he sees them.

by Makey 2008-06-19 05:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Barack Obama Will Not Opt Into Public Financin

I know people are upset about the money that goes into elections but i have no scruples about this.  Let's get Obama elected and then clean up the system.  Does anyone here think that McCain will play fair by the election spending rules, even though he loves to claim thats what he stands for?  This election is too important to fuck up and let McCain win.

by Makey 2008-06-19 05:42AM | 0 recs
Don't bring a knife to a gunfight

Obama won't.

by JJE 2008-06-19 05:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't bring a knife to a gunfight

Obama's bring sharks-with-lasers-on-their-heads to McCain's fisticuffs.

The key image here is John McCain as an elederly 1920's boxer with curly mustache, trying to swing at Obama only to be beset by a dozen angry, laser-equipped sharks.

by really not a troll 2008-06-19 06:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't bring a knife to a gunfight

BREAKING: the McCain camp is frantically duct-taping Nerf rockets to Sea Bass in an effort to compete.

by fogiv 2008-06-19 08:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Barack Obama to Opt Out..YES!!

Although the MSM and McCain will beat him up the next couple of days, I am sooooooo glad that he did not "play the nice guy" in this.  The Republicans are going to come after the Democrats with all sorts of nasty, disgusting, and vile things.  All the while McCain is saying that he will be different, but he is not calling out his sicko friends. Remember how they did us in 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004?  So, for us to just play by rules that they don't understand leaves us stupid and without the presidency.  I say to them, "[i]f you bring a knife, we bring a gun." That is the only language they understand.  

by smgreene 2008-06-19 05:51AM | 0 recs
Good move

Especially when he can show that he has over 1.5 million Americans giving him small amounts.  Even if just half of those donors could give another $100 it would match anything that he could get via public financing.  It also goes a long way to show that the Democrats are the fisacally responsible party.

And I do hope that McCain tries to make an issue of it because the MSM might finally start to take a closer look at his shady dealings with campaign financing

by monkeyga 2008-06-19 06:03AM | 0 recs
Public Financing

I think it's dishonest to ignore the obvious issue, and that is the undisputed fact that Obama reneged on a pledge to accept only public financing.  I'm not saying that Obama is not justified in doing what he did, but to ignore that he reneged on a pledge is just advocacy, and dishonest advocacy to the extent it is alleged to be journalism.

by bslev22 2008-06-19 06:42AM | 0 recs

The pledge only applied if he could come to an agreement with the GOP nominee on a range of issues.

by parahammer 2008-06-19 07:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Actually


by bslev22 2008-06-19 07:04AM | 0 recs
You would have a point...

...except that he didn't make an unequivocal pledge to use public financing.

by Dreorg 2008-06-19 07:05AM | 0 recs
Re: You would have a point...

You mean it was more nuanced and eminently political to allow for plausible deniability?  Why cannot we at least be honest with each other?  Are we afraid the right-wing is gonna get ideas from us?

Politically speaking, Obama probably made the right move.  But if people want to be disingenuous and pretend that this isn't reneging on a pledge, then we're just like the worst of the dittohead generation.

by bslev22 2008-06-19 07:35AM | 0 recs
Re: You would have a point...

No.  I mean that he said he's consider it if his Republican opponent also opted out, and they could come to agreements on how external financing would operate.

McCain hasn't done that, so Obama has no obligation to opt into a system that will hobble him.  If one's position is "If A, then B" and condition "A" never occurs, it isn't dishonest, intellectually or otherwise, to never move to "B".

by Dreorg 2008-06-20 03:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Public Financing

As others have stated, Obama pledged to pursue an agreement with the Republicans for a publicly financed election. However, before Obama even won the nomination McCain had created his combined fund accepting up to $60,000 per individual; he also gave free license to the 527s and RNC by stating he was "not going to play referee."

So, how could Obama pursue an agreement now when McCain is already violating the most obvious requirements of such an agreement?

by noop 2008-06-19 07:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Public Financing

Yes, I also read about all of the back-and-forth negotiations Obama sought to engage in with McCain.  No matter how hard Obama tried, no matter how many late nights he spent trying to get to yes, he just couldn't close the deal.  So, just like the dittoheads, we can blame someone else, and the blamee is the old guy running with that other party of self-righteous trolls.  So now, we're gettin' good at this, and maybe if we win the election we can test the hypothesis of whether it truly is possible not to recognize oneself in the mirror.

by bslev22 2008-06-19 07:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Public Financing

Not sure if I follow but you are basically stating that Obama should play Mr. Nice Guy even though the other side is going to play dirty and not follow the rules?

And this is simply because of a pledge which relied upon an agreement between both sides which was never reached?

Meanwhile, he should still abide by the pledge even though it may cost us the election?

How would this outweigh the obvious advantages that come from a win this November and Democratic presidency over the next 4/8 years?

Please correct me if I'm wrong.

by mukloidy 2008-06-19 09:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Public Financing

He is a troll, forget about it.

by JDF 2008-06-19 09:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Public Financing

Thank you for engaging me and avoiding the namecalling like the waste of space poster below.  I don't fault Senator Obama for doing what he did, but that doesn't mean that honest people cannot concur that Obama reneged on a pledge.  It will not impact one iota in terms of my intention to vote for Senator Obama.

Life is not linear and neither is politics. I think it was stupid for Senator Obama to make a pledge he hasn't kept, and it doesn't make me a troll if I decline to go along with making believe that this is not a backtrack.  

Is this a chearleading website, or a politicial junkie site?

by bslev22 2008-06-19 11:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Barack Obama Will Not Opt Into Public Financin

Remember today. It's the day Obama won the general election

by Democrat in Chicago 2008-06-19 07:53AM | 0 recs
A troll for disagreeing?

My, my, if I voice a contrary opinion I am a troll. And you are a coward for not addressing the merits of my argument.  With respect, I've probably voted for Democrats for longer than you've been alive and this year will be no different.  But I am my own man, and you are left calling me a troll. Way to stifle debate dittohead.

by bslev22 2008-06-19 11:39AM | 0 recs
Re: A troll for disagreeing?

I happen to agree with bslev.  I will support Sen. Obama, and believe strongly in much of what he stands for, but we must be honest with ourselves that this is a backing away from a previous pledge.  It may be good for the campaign, but I really don't think he seriously worked hard to get an agreement in place with Sen. McCain to carry out public financing.  If he wants to go this route then we should keep pressure on Sen. Obama to make a REAL pledge to work on meaningful and workable campaign finance reform once he is in office.  I, for one, will continue to work to get Sen. Obama elected, but I will no longer be contributing any of my money to his campaign. Partisan-based financing is NOT public financing (even if it comes from the grassroots), and we're fooling ourselves if we think it is.

by sc 2008-06-19 01:24PM | 0 recs


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