The Corner

Re: Two Cheers for Obama

Ramesh, I fear that Obama’s decision to forgo public financing is hardly the death-knell for the system that some have made it out to be; nor will his decision redound to the benefit of taxpayers. The $84 million or so he would have spent will remain in the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, assuming neither Obama nor McCain would shut it down. Yesterday, an Obama spokesman said the senator is committed to fixing the “broken” public-financing system in time for the 2012 election. On the homepage today, I took a shot at explaining what “fixing the system” means to Obama and, unfortunately, to McCain:

Independent advocacy groups are still free to spend their own money to attack or defend a candidate, and that’s why “the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken,” Obama says. An Obama spokesman told reporters Thursday that, as president, Obama would push to fix the system by 2012. The system won’t be fixed, you see, until paid political speech is restricted to the candidates themselves and financed by your tax dollars.

I predict that no matter who wins, we’ll hear the new president call for a public-financing system that is “stronger and better than ever,” and elections that are untainted by those pesky outside groups with their freedom of speech.

In other words, Obama is as bad as ever on the issue of public financing. He still believes in the importance of public financing as a way of preventing politicians from falling under the influence of moneyed interests. But Obama, he tells us, is immune to the influence of moneyed interests, so the rules that he favors for everyone else shouldn’t apply to him. At least not this time. At least that’s what he says.

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