Barack Obama has decided to opt out of public financing despite his pledge, via a questionnaire saying, "If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election."
It was reported a little under two weeks ago that Barack Obama might opt out of public financing and the reports are in today saying he has done so, despite a pledge he made to "aggressively pursue" an agreement with the Republican nominee so that both would use a publicly financed campaign for the general election.
The questiion and Obama's answer in full on the questionnaire: (Page 5 of the PDF)
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 the presidential public financing system?
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 (DWI) 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.
In the video above, Obama says, "It's not an easy decision, and especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections."
This marks the first time a presidential nominee turned his back on the system of public financing since it was put into place in 1976.
Under that public financing system, each candidate would have been entitled to approximately $84 million in public funds to run their general election campaigns.
It bears noting that in February of 2007 via the New York Times, it was Barack Obama that asked for a ruling from the Federal Election Commission (FEC), making the argument that "the public financing system had insulated candidates from a corrupting dependence on big donors. He asserted that the system could be preserved for the general election through bipartisan agreement if party nominees returned early contributions."
The ruling that Obama was asking the FEC to make, was he wanted to be able to collect as much as possible for the primary campaign, but then wanted to be able to return the excess monies if he won the Democratic nomination, so he could match John McCain and use public financing for the general election.
Jill Hazelbaker, who is the McCain campaign communications director, emailed the statement from the John McCain campaign, in regards to Obama's announcement this morning, saying,"Today, Barack Obama has revealed himself to be just another typical politician who will do and say whatever is most expedient for Barack Obama. 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. Barack Obama is now the first presidential candidate since Watergate to run a campaign entirely on private funds. This decision will have far-reaching and extraordinary consequences that will weaken and undermine the public financing system.”