The Political Junkie Opts Out

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

When Barack Obama announced last week that he would opt-out of public financing for the general election, it became an instant campaign issue. Because Obama promised to take public funds, and agree to limit fundraising, earlier in the campaign, the decision left a huge opening for John McCain's campaign to seize on the issue. For his part, Obama says the system is broken, and being exploited. Republicans argue he broke his promise, and is not to be trusted. Do you care that Obama broke his pledge to take public money? Will this be an issue for you come November?

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No, I don't see Obama's decision as a problem. I'm hoping the program will also examine McCain's over-spending the limits during the primary, and his end-run around the rules using his public funding as collateral for a campaign loan.

Sent by C. Bird | 2:04 PM | 6-25-2008

It's Obama's perogative to opt out of the public financing system. He is able to outraise McCain by an order of magnitude and he intends to take the fight to states where Republicans thought they were safe.

Sent by Jeff Friedlander | 2:10 PM | 6-25-2008

I think it's very important that Obama has already established that keeping his word takes a back seat to increasing his power. That's already the status quo in Washington, yet he's the one who claims to be trying to change it. It's just disappointing, and makes me unable to trust anything else he's said.

Sent by Bryce Lowder | 2:10 PM | 6-25-2008

I am not bothered by his change in position. It was not quite a promise to take public funding as you are suggesting. Besides, why are you not mentioning the fact that McCain opted in to public financing during the primary, took loans based on that, and then opted out. Isn't that against the law? Besides, wouldn't he be foolish not to take advantage of such an advantage? Aren't there more important issues to discuss?

Sent by Scott Strahan | 2:12 PM | 6-25-2008

A man is only as good as his word. He also promises to negotiate with Iran wih no preconditions. And he promised give Iraq back to the insurgents by pulling out, just when the war is finally beginning to pay off. If he has any sense, he'll rescind those promises too. And don't forget how he could "no more disown Rev. Wright than he could his own white Grandmother." So long grandma, Barak's got an election to win. I

Sent by MO | 2:15 PM | 6-25-2008

I think Neal Conan posing the question in this way: "Does it matter that Obama broke his word?" is an unfair characterization. What he actually said was "If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election."

I believe representatives of the candidates did meet, although no agreement was reached and no further meetings took place.

It may be fair to say Obama wasn't that aggressive, or they should have tried harder, but to acuse him of lying (which is what going back on his word means) is to adopt the McCain campaign's talking points without appropriate examination.

Sent by Marylou Ferrara | 2:17 PM | 6-25-2008

On June 12, 2008 John Mccain in the Boston Herald said he would adopt a hands off approach to 527s. Obama opting out is a smart move. I really do not care and hope that other people will not care.

Paul.

Sent by Paul F | 2:18 PM | 6-25-2008

It doesn't bother me one whit. Obama is generating more money from common citizens than anyone in U.S. history and it speaks volumes about his platform, all of it positive.

Sent by John D. Anthony | 2:21 PM | 6-25-2008

It depends on whether his donations are small-dollar donations or not. The issue is really about "big donors" and the influence they have. I would be more comfortable if he had stated that he wouldn't accept donations that were larger than, say, $500.

Sent by Kirk Steijn | 2:21 PM | 6-25-2008

I'm glad Obama rejected public financing. I've been donating $50 per month(about) and plan to keep doing so. His decision allows the "little" person like myself to counter the Big-Money Swiftboaters.

Sent by J-Raye | 2:21 PM | 6-25-2008

It is totally disingeoiuos to speak about Obama's decision as somehow getting rid of a "level playing field" as Ken Rudin said, when the Republican National Committee has something like 15 times the amount of money to spend on the general election than the Democrats. The Obama campoaign needs to make up for that shortfall and would be foolish to play by these rulers.

Sent by Jonathan Krasner | 2:24 PM | 6-25-2008

I'm shocked (shocked, I say!) that a politician would break a promise for the sake of campaign funds. On the one hand, Senator Obama IS a different kind of politician: the first since Watergate to opt out of public funds. On the other hand, he is the same kind of politician we've been plagued with for too long: the kind that will do whatever it takes to get elected. I've gone from being an Obama supporter to an Obama foe as his "happy, shiny, hopeful" rhetoric has been belied by his actions and those of his surrogates. This is the final nail in the coffin; I will NOT be voting for Senator Obama in the fall.

Sent by Bob ierien | 2:24 PM | 6-25-2008

It seems to me that Senator is being supported by public financing namely the vast number of the public who are contributing directly to him.

Question...where does the money for come "public financing"? If from the box checked on income tax returns who many people actually participate?

Joanne

Sent by Joanne Betts | 2:24 PM | 6-25-2008

I have been working on the Obama campaign since February 207. Obama did not break his pledge to take public money. He always said that he would take public financing if he could come to an agreement with his Republican opponent that they would do their best to limit the issue ads run by 527's.

They were not able to come to such an agreement, so Barack Obama will not take public financing. If he had taken public financing, he would have been limited to $84 million dollars as a cap. So he would not have been able to roll over any leftover primary money.

In 2004, John Kerry could not respond to the Swift boat ads, in part, because he did not have the money.

Sent by Hannah Banks | 2:25 PM | 6-25-2008

did he promise or did he say he consider it. i believe that it would be best serve againsit the 527's in november

Sent by lynnette | 2:26 PM | 6-25-2008

McCain signed up for public funding, took out a significant loan backed up the promise of public money, and signed a contract for the loan that required commitments from him to continue his campaign, even if he was losing badly, simply to make sure that the public money would come in to pay off the loan.

That's potentially criminal. Please comment.

Sent by Scott | 2:27 PM | 6-25-2008

Barack Obama is a hypocrite as are all the "campaign finance reformers" who said nothing while Obama and Clinton raised nearly $1,000,000,000 for the primary. Where are the screamers? And, unions intend to spend another $1,000,000,000 for Obama in promoting him for the election so he will allow unions to avoid having to have elections.

Sent by Dart Everett | 2:28 PM | 6-25-2008

RE: Senator Obama and public financing

The decision to not accept public financing will not influence my vote or view of Senator Obama. Infact, it tells me he has the political savey to be successful in swamp we call Americian Democracy. The swift boaters will rule the day, without adequate funding in the control of the candidate. This decision will give the Senator more influence in the message that the public receives.

Sent by Diana Quealy-Berge | 2:28 PM | 6-25-2008

How about if one candidate drops out of public financing, the other candidate takes all that the two would have been allowed and maybe another 50% bonus as a penalty to the drop out?

Sent by Tim Tyler | 2:29 PM | 6-25-2008

Obama and public financing is a non-issue that the press has been trying to push since January of this year.

Bottom line: voters don't care but the press is inflamed about it.

Most voters support Obama's stance to save tax-payers $85 million and get the "public" to pay in a way that can be tranced. Good for him! If McCain did so also, I think it was be even better for Democracy.

What the press SHOULD focus on is if Obama and McCain were to change stands on actual issues that will affect our lives like: war, the economy, roadworks, jobs, and our environment.

McCain's change in position to expose our country to off-shore drilling is the issue that WE care about.

The press' focus on non-issues like this is why George W. Bush was elected twice.

Sent by Sarah | 2:29 PM | 6-25-2008

Could you ask the Republican spokeman how McCain's acceptance of public funds in the primary and then rejecting them is different from Obama's actions?

Sent by Ken Howell | 2:31 PM | 6-25-2008

I have absoluely no problem with Senator Obama's not accepting public financing.
I don't consider it dishonest nor do I consider it "flip flopping." It is all right to change one's mind!

Senator Obama needs to be able to reach every nook and cranny of the country with his message and public financing won't allow him to do that. John McCain may go forward with public financing, but the conservative 507 organizations will raise much more than the public funding to defeat Obama. McCain will benefit from that money in spades.

Sent by Leota Roesch | 2:31 PM | 6-25-2008

I believe Obama made an ethically sound decision. The RNC out raises so much to contribute to McCain and the 'swiftboat' money are both outside of the campaign limit structure. Obama has rejected much of the lobby money, unlike McCain. Further, he has much disinformation to address. Is it still 10% of the American population that still believes he is Muslim?

Sent by Vicky | 2:31 PM | 6-25-2008

After all the dirty tricks the Republicans pulled during the last election with the Swift Boat Veterans et. al., I don't blame him for raising as much money as he possibly can to ward off such attacks. This would not influence my vote and I thing the John Does could care less.

Sent by Judy | 2:32 PM | 6-25-2008

The fact that we are even having this discussion when John McCain is currently breaking Federal Campaign laws every day and we are not talking about that is amazing. McCain chose to enter the public financing system in the primaries, secured ballot access at no cost, secured a loan to finance his campaign, then attempted to opt out of public financing. When David Mason, head of the FEC told him he could not unilaterally opt out of public financing, he was removed from his position by Bush.

And yet, only recently has the AP even mentioned this. It is appalling!

Sent by Arlie Hart | 2:32 PM | 6-25-2008

I've been a supporter of Obama since I saw him speak in the 2004 convention. I have always planned on voting for him, and still plan to vote for him, but this does bother me. When you make a pledge, I feel you have a certain amount of moral responsibility to see that pledge through. I really hope he doesn't make this a habit of ihis in future decisions.

Sent by Zac in Boise | 2:32 PM | 6-25-2008

Is Sen Obama's decision to opt out of public funding based on his ability to raise money or his ability to control the money? The answer could be instructive about his governing style.

Sent by John Rinehart | 2:32 PM | 6-25-2008

Obama sold-out, again! I am a Democrat--but I don't wish to win at any cost. This entire country is apparently willing to do so. Democrats acting like Republicans. Democrats not even willing to be objective enough to say yes Obama is wrong, but we want him to win anyway---they just completely deny it. It's a sad state of affairs, especially when it is being sold under the headings of Hope and Change. It's more secrets and lies.

Sent by Scott M. | 2:32 PM | 6-25-2008

One other thing- I think Obama's decision is really about the underticket. The sheer volume of money may cause a major shift towards Democratic candidates in state-wide races.

Sent by Kirk Steijn | 2:33 PM | 6-25-2008

If Barrack Obama were getting contributions from special interest groups, I would care. When money comes from regular folks, it should be used.

Sent by Jesse Luoma | 2:33 PM | 6-25-2008

as an Obama suporter this is yet another disappointment.
On the other had, McCain will have plenty of "swift boat" - type groups supporting him. It will take lots of cash to attempt to counter it.

Sent by Rick Bady | 2:34 PM | 6-25-2008

Pleeeeze,
The GOP has been all too willing to take public financing because of their effective use of 527 groups to slime candidates like Al Gore and John Kerry.

Why is it that when a Democrat running a national campaign has a rare funding advantage, suddenly whether or not he abides by public campaign limits becomes an issue?

Democrats should not unilaterally disarm.

Sent by Mark Davis | 2:39 PM | 6-25-2008

As an angry democrat - a gay democrat - I have to say I have NO sympathy for McCain or the Republicans with regard to Obama's fundraising advantage. For years I have had to sit there powerless while church after church was allowed to raise money and filter it to Republican campaigns influencing their outcome - all tax-free. Obama's campaign has broken the back of that system and that to me is REAL fundraising reform.

Sent by Victor Salvo | 2:39 PM | 6-25-2008

I have no issue with Senator Obama not accepting public campaign financing. It is amusing to hear criticism from the other party that has an unpublished motto: Win; no matter what it takes.
I DO, however, object to the enormous amount of money spent on a painfully protracted primary; the extravagant amount of money that is about to be spent on two self congratulatory political conventions, and on the up coming Presidential election. For a nation in financial distress such a show of extreme waste is egregious and shameful.

Edward Bottone

Sent by edward bottone | 2:40 PM | 6-25-2008

Each election one hears of the "Republican War Chest" yet this election, because Mr. Obama happens to have amassed so much more than McCain, he is perceived as lying. How disingenuous that strategist is, and good the party is at disseminating half-truths and inuendoes. Most polls show Mr. Obama ahead of Mr. McCain, so you are attempting to perform your own "swift boat". For shame!

Sent by Cora | 2:41 PM | 6-25-2008

Hmmm. I am surprised at the unbalanced discussion regarding Obama opting out of public financing. Why didn't any of the guests address the fact that McCain opted in, then unilaterally opted out -- which he is not allowed to do under Campaign Finance law -- and has spent over the cap, used the public financing to finance a loan and get on the ballot in Ohio during the primaries. Incredible how your supposed experts missed these points re: McCain. I see the love affair continues.

Sent by Maureen | 2:42 PM | 6-25-2008

Everything I hear about the Obama campaign reminds me of "The Selling of the President" book.

Sent by Gale | 2:43 PM | 6-25-2008

I only heard the end of the program but what I heard really made me angry. Was there any discussion of McCain breaking his own Campaign Financing Laws or was this just a subtle smear piece on Obama?

Sent by Lori Gormin | 2:44 PM | 6-25-2008

Yes, It bothers me that Obama, whom I've championed
since the beginning of his campaign, has caved to political expediency, as Hilary Clinton has clearly done. What has until this point separated him from the pack in terms of integrity, is now weakened. I'm not naive, I know there are political decisions to be made, to be successful, but at what cost? This dilema must certainly had been considered early on, so I can only assume that at that time there wasn't as much to lose. The issue is that now that more is at stake, does it mean we won't be able to count on Obama when it really counts?

Sent by Martha Kelley | 2:46 PM | 6-25-2008

Seriously why is NPR Talk of the Nation making this a story.

Mr. Obama clearly stated, "He would not accept private money, as long as McCain would not." What part of this don't you people understand...? Now that Mc Cain needs money it's no surprise he is going to use private financing. And since McCain has decided to do that; so shall Mr. Obama.

This is not Rocket-Science people...

Sent by Tim Nelson | 2:49 PM | 6-25-2008

It's interesting to me that Obama supporters are willing to excuse or rationalize absolutely anything he does as a necessary response to the big, bad, scary Republicans. That's ridiculous. Think of all the things the current administration has justified in the last eight years as a necessary response to an exigent circumstance. Standing for a principle means standing for it even when it's hard. I'd have much more respect for Obama if he'd had the courage of his supposed convictions and said that integrity was more important than having a huge pot of money to run a campaign.

For weeks during the primary campaign I was bombarded with a TV ad in which Senator Obama shook his finger in the air and decried lobbyists, promising that they wouldn't have any influence in his White House (and implying that they would had Senator Clinton been the nominee.) Isn't it interesting that now he's meeting with her "bundlers", and meeting with them in two groups depending on how much money they've raised? Are we honestly supposed to believe that those people will have no influence? If his grassroots funding is so strong, why does he need anyone to bundle those contributions? Isn't my $50 as Joe Citizen enough?

Sent by Bob Ierien | 2:51 PM | 6-25-2008

Obama's opting out of Public financing is fine with me. McCain and the GOP have made it clear that while they may run "clean" campaigns, they are not standing in the way of the 527's and all of the swift-boating that will go after Obama and his wife. He needs to have the resources to defend himself and his family.

Sent by Amy | 2:56 PM | 6-25-2008

The funny thing is I never heard Obama saying he would commit to public financing. I heard him say he would consider it and saw him raise his hand when asked if he supported it. Hmmmmm. Neither of those is a commitment in my mind. In fact, the only people I heard saying he committed to taking it are the media and they never point to a specific quote or event. They seem to believe if they say it enough, it is true. On the other hand, since when is public financing used in a Primary. Seems McCain thought it was his right to use it as collateral even though he wasn't the nominee yet. Why don't you discuss that.

Sent by Jeff | 2:57 PM | 6-25-2008

I a non-committed independent voter, and this action is a check mark for McCain. I am greatly troubled by a leader of our country making statements of conviction and later doing an about face when the situation proves advantages.

Sent by dave B | 3:15 PM | 6-25-2008

VERY UNBALANCED DISCUSSION! Any griping about previous campaigns is that BIG money corrupts campaigns. When LITTLE money (small contributions from individuals) is bundling into big bucks for Obama, it is DISHONEST to equate that with big CORPORATE dollars voters are angry about.

Sent by Kevin Holmes | 3:28 PM | 6-25-2008

I keep hearing talk from critics about "broken promises", as though this is something new in politics. How about a bit of counterspin, noting how Obama is "saving the taxpayers 84 million dollars?"

Seems like a noteworthy contribution to our troubled economy. Perhaps they could spend that 84 million on schools or something...

Sent by Patrick Salsbury | 3:38 PM | 6-25-2008

The media is totally ignoring McCain's part in this.

Obama said he would pursue an agreement with the GOP candidate to use public funds AND diminish the influence of outside groups like 527s. He NEVER promised to take public funding unconditionally.

Not only has John McCain refused to diminish the influence of such groups--which he and the RNC could legally do, counter to claims about the legality of campaigns working with those groups--but John McCain may himself NOT BE ELIGIBLE for public funds in the general election. See, he's the defendant in a lawsuit filed by the DNC with the FEC that alleges he misused his public funds during the primary.

So, Obama's goof is not making this a part of his decision. But it is a very real part. Obama's and McCain's lawyers met on June 6 and were not able to come to an agreement.

McCain bears at least as much responsibility for this situation, because Obama's "pledge" back in 2007 was contingent on McCain's actions.

Sent by Joe | 4:08 PM | 6-25-2008

The core of Sen. Obama's campaign is CHANGE. Now he has demonstrated that he is just another politician, ready to do the expedient thing. I, for one was a Hilliary supporter and am on the fence now. Obama is lite on experience and heavey on rhetoric. For me, the debates in the fall and who the vice presidential candidates are will be deciding factors. Shelby

Sent by S. Adler | 4:22 PM | 6-25-2008

Obama's decision to not take public financing would not sway my support. I agree that this decision is the most intelligent choice. I do think that full disclosure of all contributors over $500 from individuals, companies, 527 groups or any other group should be a requirement. I believe if the contributor base was transparent to the public it could temper large amounts of money given by special interest groups.

Sent by Kathy Heil | 4:40 PM | 6-25-2008

Obama didn't promise anything as far as I know. Quit repeating this McCain talking point until you have a sound clip or physical evidence that he did. Even if he had it was before he knew McCain would do nothing against smears and more importantly before he knew he could be competitive with small donations.

Sent by Nicholas Ivan Ladendorf | 8:25 PM | 6-25-2008

Here we go: the Obama campaign is now on record accusing McCain of misusing public funds:

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/6/25/172039/948/172/541907

McCain could face a $25,000 fine AND 5 years in prison. That's not change we can believe in...

Sent by Joe | 9:21 PM | 6-25-2008

Personally I think there are enough things to argue about besides how much of everyones money is gonna get spent on what. Politics is a war of words, but war none the less, and rarely ever fair. If you want the elites to be fair, get them to take on a working class running mate.

Sent by Matthew Webb | 9:26 PM | 6-25-2008

What part of an if-then statement is so hard to understand? Since the "if" part didn't happen why is Obama obligated to the "then" part? The man's not stupid.

Also, if I choose to send money directly to a candidate how is that not 'public financing'? If Obama had taken the 'government financing' would I still be allowed to donate money to his campaign?

Sent by Mae | 10:15 PM | 6-25-2008

I would like to know exactly what Senator Obama's promise was, as I was not aware of it. Was it in anyway conditional? And, as I know nothing of the public finance system, I would also like a better understanding of how the system is supposedly broken. If Obama did make a promise and has now broken it, as it seems he's done, it does bother me. However, it will not affect my decision in November, although it might affect further contributions to his campaign.

Sent by Misty Sampson | 10:32 PM | 6-25-2008

Hear Hear, Marylou. And shame on Neil and Scott for buying into the spin.

To be a promise, one would think the words "I promise..." would need to be said at some point!

And Obama skipping the public funding is fine by me. The entire *point* of the public funding is to give candidates a more even chance when they're struggling with funding. Since Obama is so obviously clobbering McCain on that score, I certainly don't mind that he's not going to take the public money.

Sent by Kasreyn | 8:12 AM | 6-26-2008

No, no, no. Given the virulent, petty, dirty tricks attack campaign mounting against Obama, I am pleased he is able to put his campaign in a better position to communicate effectively AND keep special interests out of his support base. That is the kind of problem solving I want in a president.

Sent by kae | 9:10 AM | 6-26-2008

I'd like to point out that the genius of Obama and his campaign has been to transform public financing from a process of where you check off a box on your tax return (and who ever remembers doing that--or is even inspired in the process of doing it, com'on) to one where small donors are empowered to own a piece of the election. I believe that this is true public financing--- and a really powerful way to have very large numbers of people participate and take ownership of the political process--and their government.

In 2006, I gave $20 each to five candidates whose races were critical to swinging the democratic majority in Congress. Making these donations from the perspective that I could make a difference in that national outcome--and the shape of our government on a federal level-- was a breath of fresh air and has furthered my participation in the political process ever since.

Sent by Carolyn Speranza | 9:47 AM | 6-26-2008

If Obama opted for public financing and lost the election, everyone would say he had been an idiot for giving up his cash advantage. Why not just give him credit now for having done the only sensible thing?

Sent by John Petesch | 11:05 AM | 6-26-2008

This was a remarkably unbalanced segment. You framed the issue from the McCain perspective; you had one neutral-to-negative guest from a public finance reform group and a GOP pollster/operative. It's rather sad that it took a caller only minutes before the segment ended to argue the Obama position to which you cut him off quickly and had the Republican pollster dismiss his position. Well done Conan.

Sent by Michael in NYC | 12:05 PM | 6-26-2008

Cindy McCain has millions of dollars, why can't she back her husband's campaign? Didn't SCOTUS just say that the poor millionaires needed representation, too.

Sent by Jay Chandler | 4:41 PM | 6-27-2008

I've already emailed you about this shameful slam of a program against Obama, but now I'll add my comments to the blog. Your accusation that Obama "broke his word" to take public financing has been neatly and thoroughly refuted by the previous bloggers, the democratic nature of Obama's campaign financing has been brought to light by others, and your transparently biased treatment of the entire subject, including the free ride you gave to John McCain for his actual campaign law violations has also been exposed, but only in the blog. You are obliged to run an apology and air the actual facts brought out in this blog. That program isn't what I'd pay for in a supposed nonpartisan public radio company. Perhaps you get your financing from McCain.

Sent by Carol Long | 11:06 AM | 6-28-2008

[[Wednesday I was a caller on TOTN and made comments critical of Obama's decision regarding public financing. I found that when you're on live radio and only have about 30 seconds to speak, it is easy to become discombobulated, so immediately afterward, I decided to write down what I was thinking. Practically all of my friends are Obama supporters and they just don't feel as strongly about this issue as I do. I decided to post my thoughts here before I hear from any more upset friends. ]]

I was won over by the Obama campaign after I watched him give his stirring New Hampshire concession speech. Over time though, some of the things that appeal to me as an Independent ( such as a commitment to bipartisanship and a rejection of ideological orthodoxy ) seemed less in evidence with Obama than with McCain, but Obama had banked a lot of good will with me.

Two weeks ago I would have said that I was about 7 or 8 times more likely to vote for Obama than for McCain, but forgoing public financing may be the last straw for me. This decision made me have less confidence in his commitment to reform efforts, his political leadership, and even his integrity. Now I am leaning toward voting for McCain.
Perhaps I am naive, but I honestly believe that if the positions had been reversed, McCain would have honored his commitment. There have been a number of times (e.g., McCain-Feingold, McCain - Kennedy, stem cell research, and The Gang of Fourteen ) when McCain has acted on principle despite the fact that it has been detrimental to him politically. This is something I admire because I believe that it displays courage and political leadership. I've been hard pressed to find examples of Obama doing likewise. Previously one could have argued that because Obama's political history is so much shorter, he just hasn't yet been faced with such a test. Today such an argument is no longer tenable.

I reject Obama's argument that he had to decide as he did because the present system is so manifestly flawed. If he believed this, then he shouldn't have committed himself in the first place - after all, the public financing system hasn't altered over the course of the primary season. I wouldn't have said that the system was broken before, but I fear that his actions have left it irreparably damaged. He says that he believes in public financing and that he will work to fix the system after he is elected, but if a self-styled reform candidate can benefit by reversing himself after calculating that he will raise more money by opting out of the system, then he will have proven that voters won't punish such behavior. Once this precedent has been set, it is hard to envision a future where any candidate, who would obtain an advantage by opting out of the system, could reasonably be expected not to do so.

I also don't accept the argument that Obama's campaign is so strongly funded by small donors that the old rules don't apply. This argument is made by those who are only concerned with the danger posed by large donors who could exert influence over representatives after they are elected. (Incidentally, this is the danger which McCain fought against in authoring "McCain-Feingold" - a bill which has reduced his own ability to raise money.) It is not the case that Obama has avoided this threat because he is getting all of his money from small donors. By his own account, 55% of his money (although the last confirmed number I found was closer to 64%) has come from large donors. He isn't making a principled sacrifice and disadvantaging himself by reducing the contributions from big donors. He has merely increased the amount of money he gets from small donations.

More to the point, the influence of large donors over elected officials is not my principal concern. (If that were one's only concern, then hypothetically, if one could be truly anonymous so that you could not claim credit for it, then we should impose no limit at all on the size of one's contribution.) The potential influence of money after the elections are over, concerns me less than the actual influence money has on the result of the election itself. The influence of large donors is worrisome, but to me it is no less worrisome that the influence of money in general. In democratic institutions, each citizen is supposed to affect the election with the power of his ballot, not his bank account. The greatest benefit of using the public financing system would have been that both candidates would have competed on an even playing field. Obama's actions demonstrate that he doesn't care about the loss of this benefit to the democratic process if it gives him a competitive advantage

Very few people seem to be as exercised over this as I am. Perhaps the NPR reporter last week was right and this truly doesn't qualify as one of the "real issues" in the eyes of most voters. Maybe I was the only one appalled when I kept hearing the media talk about the "money primary". If the fact that how you cast your ballot has less influence on the outcome of a race than the money you can give to a candidate's campaign, doesn't trouble us as a nation, then perhaps we should alter our system to reflect that reality. Girl Scouts have long held contests where the winner is whoever can raise the most money from selling cookies. If we really aren't bothered by the expanding extent to which money determines which candidate can win, perhaps we should discard the democratic veneer in our current system and emulate the Girl Scouts: the candidate who raises the most money becomes president.

Sent by David Stout | 7:16 PM | 6-29-2008

dear fellow americans, please don't be taken again. president wants to do the right thing and let us, that is 'we the people fund our campiagn!' "who is against welfare?" now is our time to veto the government's handout and let the 85 smack-a-roos be used elsewhere!
john is taking the money because people that is, the republician don't want to support him..
Go Obama!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
bev... Obama in 08!

Sent by beverly | 9:43 PM | 6-29-2008

David: the trouble with your analysis is that the public funding system was designed to give candidates who don't have massive corporate backing a chance. But Obama's huge funding success, as has been widely reported in the media, is due more to small donations from individual private citizens. So what does it matter whether his campaign is funded by checks mailed to his campaign HQ, or by a bunch of people checking the checkbox on the 1040 form? It's still power to the people.

The only reason anyone's raising a fuss is that Obama is challenging the corporate elites who are used to having both presidential candidates being their picked men (so either way they can't lose). Bad enough that McCain is (from the corporate viewpoint) such an untrustworthy investment - but Obama is actively campaigning for (gasp) individuals rather than the corporate agenda!

No wonder they're doing everything they can to attack him. I have no problem with Obama taking the money - it comes from "we, the people", and you can bet he's going to need every dollar to survive the attacks he's going to come under.

Sent by Kasreyn | 10:14 AM | 7-1-2008

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