Tuesday, November 4, 2008
What Will The Future Hold for Campaign Financing?
by Brantley Hargrove
on Tue, Nov 4, 2008 at 12:29 PM
This campaign has been unprecedented for many reasons. Vast sums of money--topping $1 billion--were raised by presidential candidates. And Obama became the first major party candidate to opt out of public financing for the general election since '76.
Much has been made out of his decision after he'd initially indicated that he would take the government check for $84 million. The fallout, however, was brief and limited--most Americans seemed not to fret much over such wonkery. But the decision may have won the day for the Illinois senator. The Obama campaign raised a staggering $600 million.
And while McCain was indignant at the perceived "flip-flop," I have not been convinced that his motives for favoring public financing were as pure as he might protest. The truth is, in order to obtain a $4 million loan from a Bethesda, Md. bank in the early days of the campaign, McCain had to essentially put public financing up as collateral, should his campaign falter. In fact, in February he wrote to the Federal Election Commission seeking to exit the public finance system once donations started to pick up. It was March when Obama announced he would not seek public financing.
Frankly, I think the way Obama's campaign has been run is truly indicative of a new order. While the $3 we all pay in taxes toward public financing is about as egalitarian as it gets, the grassroots deluge of small donations over the Internet was democracy at work. If McCain gets into the White House, that could change. If Obama wins, I don't see Dems willing to cede an advantage that is clearly theirs.