Saturday, February 16, 2008

Obama Waffling on Campaign Finance Promise?

Last November, when Obama was trying to burnish his credentials as a new kind of politician, (and when he looked like a long-shot for the nomination), he promised to adhere to the federal campaign finance limits by taking public funding for the general election, so long as his republican opponent would do the same.

In a response to a questionare from the Midwest Democracy Institute, Obama repeated a pledge his campaign first made in March of 2007, at which time McCain pledged as well, to use public financing for the general election. I found the text of the questionare at the Democratic Underground web site:

On November 27, 2007, the Midwest Democracy Network, an alliance of 20 civic and public interest groups based in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, released the results of a questionnaire that they sent to all of the presidential candidates.The following question was on the questionnaire: 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 presidential public financing system?

You answered this question as follows:

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 (D-WI) 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.

It is clear that Obama made a pledge, a promise, to use public funding if the republican agreed. McCain of course has agreed. But now, there are some indications that the Obama campaign no longer intends to keep their promise. But worse, they are now lying about what Obama said previously.

From the Washington Post, "Mr. Obama's Waffle":

Speaking to the Associated Press, Mr. Obama's spokesman, Bill Burton, downgraded the Obama plan to "something that we pursued with the FEC and it was an option that we wanted on the table and is on the table." Asked about the campaign's earlier position, Mr. Burton said, "No, there is no pledge."

Obama specifically used the word "pledge" in November, but now his spokesman says there is no pledge.

Obama should either be a man and directly state that he was withdrawing his pledge (since he has so much money now). It is clear that his previous pledge was based not on principle, but on the fact that he didn't think he could raise money. Now that he can raise millions, he wants out -- but instead of admitting the truth, he sent his campaign spokesperson out to lie about what he said before.

If on the other hand Burton is wrong, Obama needs to fire him to prove that Obama is still committed to the public financing plan that McCain has requested of him, and that Obama has promised to follow.


Cargosquid said...

Didn't McCain say that he was going to use public money too? I guess that when it looks like you might win, you need access to real money.

Charles said...

McCain has always said he would stick with the Public financing if his democratic opponent would agree.

In fact, that seemed to be the genesis of this agreement back last March, before McCain faded over the summer.

Anonymous said...

McInsane is lying, he already opted out, where is the straight talk express now McInsane

Charles said...

You are comparing apples to oranges. McCain opted out of the public financing for the primaries, because both democratic candidates, and his primary republican opponents, opted out of the primary financing.

But McCain has committed to public financing for the general election, if his democratic opponent does likewise. Obama agreed to this last spring. Now his campaign manager says that he didn't actually pledge, even though Obama said he DID pledge to do so.

John said...

"I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee"

so in his negotiations he could put in "no negative ads" as a condition to agreement or "no 527s" as a condition.

until he gets an "agreement" to his terms how can he say if he will use it.

Charles said...

Sure John, he could change the agreement, but last year he said exactly what the agreement was.

He was expecting to be against Giuliani, and his "agressive pursuit" was going to be attacking the republican for not using the public financing.

Anonymous said...

This is really being mischaracterized.

Obama statement said "If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election."

1) He must become the nominee
2) He must then come up with an agreement

This is being presented as him saying "Yeah, of course, no matter what." Problem is, he never said that.

Sure, he is positioning so there is less of a hit to him if he opts out, but that is because the media and McCain are portraying him as already having pledged.

chandra said...

Nicely written. I love succinct posts that actually impart usable information.
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