Barack Obama announced today that he is not accepting public financing for the general 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,” Obama said.
He spoke about raising money in new way, “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,” Obama continued.
It is no surprise that with a fundraising base of 1.5 million people Barack Obama decided to go back on his promise to accept public financing, but the question is will this hurt him with voters? From my experience writing about public financing, I doubt that the voters will care, but back before Obama became a fundraising machine, he did promise, “I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.”
The McCain campaign has already jumped all over Obama for breaking his promise, but McCain is so cash strapped that it will need to rely on unregulated 527s and the Republican Party to compete with Obama in the fall. They needed Obama to accept public financing or else they are going to be outspent 2 or 3 to 1. Since Obama doesn’t raise most of his money in the usual way, so I don’t think that he can be labeled politics as usual.
If the shoe was on the other foot, I have no doubt that McCain would have done the same thing. My personal experience has been that when politicians start talking about campaign finance voters go to sleep. I don’t think this issue is going to matter to voters. The reason why there hasn’t been real campaign finance reform is that the American people don’t care how the elections are funded, and I don’t think that will change this year or anytime soon.