Sunday, December 21st, 2014

Obama skips public financing

Barack Obama opted out of public financing for the 2008 general election, marking the first time a presidential nominee has decided to go it alone since the Watergate-era reforms creating public financing were enacted.

Though historic, the move does not come as a complete surprise. Obama raised unprecedented amounts of money during the primary campaign -- more than $250 million. It seems likely he could raise similar amounts for the general election. Compare that with the public financing system, which awards candidates just under $85 million.

Obama has touted his base of small donors as a better way, free of special interests, to fund a political campaign. In April 2008, he claimed his small donors constituted "a parallel public financing system," a claim we rated only Half-True . The public financing system encourages small donors, but it also includes spending limits from which Obama will now be exempt.

In making his announcement on June 19, 2008, Obama said he supported the concept of public financing. "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," Obama said.

John McCain's campaign hit back, issuing a statement that said, "The true test of a candidate for President is whether he will stand on principle and keep his word to the American people. Barack Obama has failed that test today, and his reversal of his promise to participate in the public finance system undermines his call for a new type of politics."

We looked at McCain's previous claim that Obama had promised to use public financing and found it to be Mostly True . An Obama spokesman said in March 2007 that Obama would "aggressively pursue" an agreement with the Republican candidate for both candidates to use public financing.

Obama's campaign made those statements before they realized Obama could use the Internet to raise gobs of cash. At least this year, that seems to be the game-changer when it comes to public financing.