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Thread: Public funding on the ropes

  1. #1
    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Default Public funding on the ropes

    The excitement underpinning Senator Barack Obama’s campaign rests considerably on his evocative vows to depart from self-interested politics. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama has come up short of that standard with his decision to reject public spending limitations and opt instead for unlimited private financing in the general election.

    Mr. Obama is the first presidential candidate to rebuff the public system’s restrictions for the general election since they were enacted after the Watergate scandal. In doing so, he pronounced the public system “broken” and turned away from his earlier strong suggestion — greatly applauded at the time — that he would pursue an agreement with the Republican candidate to preserve the publicly subsidized restraints this fall.

    That, of course, was before Mr. Obama discovered his prodigious talent to stir private donors on the Internet and ended up raising hundreds of millions of dollars in small-bore contributions. The feat is unmatched thus far by Senator John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee, who got most of his money from big donors.

    Public financing, which Mr. McCain has indicated he would accept, limits spending to $84.1 million in the general election. Mr. Obama expects he can raise three or four times that. He insists he needs the larger flow to hold off unscrupulous Republican “masters at gaming this broken system” via separate party funds and Swift Boat-style smear campaigns.

    Mr. Obama’s power to excite average donations of less than $100 also is admirable, and his concerns about his opponent are understandable. The Republican Party is raising a great deal of money, and shadow groups known as 527s have tens of millions to spend. Mr. McCain knows the power of these groups since they slimed him out of the 2000 Republican primaries. Now that he’s the presumptive nominee, however, he is inviting them into the fray on his behalf.

    But Mr. Obama’s description of public financing as “broken” is only half true.

    Senator Russ Feingold, the ranking authority on campaign-finance reform, called Mr. Obama’s retreat “not a good decision.” He rightly points out that while the primary cycle’s public matching subsidies are “broken” and need updating for inflation, “the system for the general election is not.” We agree, while counting on Mr. Feingold’s vow to hold Mr. Obama to his promise to make public financing reform a high priority if he wins.

    The Obama campaign argues that it has come upon a better system of public financing, in effect. So far, however, the Web phenomenon remains unique to Mr. Obama, and is no reason to set the dangerous precedent of fully scrapping public financing. (Before he took off on the Internet, more than half of Mr. Obama’s campaign funding last year for crucial early contests came from contributions of $1,000 or more, according to the Campaign Finance Institute.)

    Commendably, the Obama campaign has cut off lobbyist donations to the Democratic National Committee and discouraged donors from helping the freewheeling, 527 shadow operations of liberal sympathizers. He has not, however, sworn off all possibility of large-scale, special-interest contributions.

    This election will be remembered for the first serious woman contender for a major party’s nomination — and soon for the first African-American nominee of a major party. Between Mr. Obama’s decision to rely on private money and Mr. McCain’s cynical invitation to 527 mayhem, it would be a shame if it also goes down in history as the year public financing died.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/20/op...ml?ref=opinion
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  2. #2
    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    More and more, it seems Chris Cillizza from "The Fix" at the Washington Post has been basically regurgitating the prevailing conventional wisdom of the day. And, by "conventional wisdom" I mean the "inside-the-beltway, smarty pants" conventional wisdom, which is usually wrong. So leave it to Cillizza to completely distort the implications for John McCain of Obama's decision to opt out of the public finance system. Cilizza sees "potential" for McCain:


    But there is real potential in this decision for McCain.

    One of the central fights of this election will be over who is the true reformer/change agent. It was a fight that, at least in the early going, McCain seemed to be losing, but Obama's decision to opt out of the financing system gives McCain some higher ground from which to speak from.



    That potential would only exist if in fact McCain were a "true reformer/change agent." Now, in the world of the pundits, like Cillizza, that's McCain through and through. But, it's wrong.

    But, here's a suggestion for Cillizza: Do do your own research in your own paper before you talk about McCain's "higher ground." Read the article titled, "FEC Warns McCain on Campaign Spending" from February 20, 2008:


    But McCain's attempts to build up his campaign coffers before a general election contest appeared to be threatened by the stern warning yesterday from Federal Election Commission Chairman David M. Mason, a Republican. Mason notified McCain that the commission had not granted his Feb. 6 request to withdraw from the presidential public financing system.

    The implications of that could be dramatic. Last year, when McCain's campaign was starved for cash, he applied to join the financing system to gain access to millions of dollars in federal matching money. He was also permitted to use his FEC certification to bypass the time-consuming process of gathering signatures to get his name on the ballot in several states, including Ohio.

    By signing up for matching money, McCain agreed to adhere to strict state-by-state spending limits and an overall limit on spending of $54 million for the primary season, which lasts until the party's nominating convention in September. The general election has a separate public financing arrangement.

    But after McCain won a series of early contests and the campaign found its financial footing, his lawyer wrote to the FEC requesting to back out of the program -- which is permitted for candidates who have not yet received any federal money and who have not used the promise of federal funding as collateral for borrowing money.

    Mason's letter raises two issues as the basis for his position. One is that the six-member commission lacks a quorum, with four vacancies because of a Senate deadlock over President Bush's nominees for the seats. Mason said the FEC would need to vote on McCain's request to leave the system, which is not possible without a quorum. Until that can happen, the candidate will have to remain within the system, he said.

    The second issue is more complicated. It involves a $1 million loan McCain obtained from a Bethesda bank in January. The bank was worried about his ability to repay the loan if he exited the federal financing program and started to lose in the primary race. McCain promised the bank that, if that happened, he would reapply for matching money and offer those as collateral for the loan. While McCain's aides have argued that the campaign was careful to make sure that they technically complied with the rules, Mason indicated that the question needs further FEC review.

    If the FEC refuses McCain's request to leave the system, his campaign could be bound by a potentially debilitating spending limit until he formally accepts his party's nomination. His campaign has already spent $49 million, federal reports show. Knowingly violating the spending limit is a criminal offense that could put McCain at risk of stiff fines and up to five years in prison.



    Now, granted, this is a bit complicated. But, it's important -- or it should be important for political pundits who write about John McCain. Yet, for some reason (probably because it counters the conventional wisdom), most of the punditry ignores this -- like Cillizza did today.

    The last line in that passage above should have turned some heads. I'll repeat it: Knowingly violating the spending limit is a criminal offense that could put McCain at risk of stiff fines and up to five years in prison.

    If doing research in the Washington Post all the way back to February is too much work, there was an Associated Press article THIS WEEK that also addressed the McCain campaign finance scandal.

    In the real world, John McCain is potentially a campaign finance criminal. Not a mention of that from Chris Cilizza today. No, in Chris Cilizza's world, he's potentially a "true reformer/change agent."

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  3. #3
    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    he didn't violate the spending limit...that's not what the current lawsuit is about....

    It's about a loan he took....
    The second issue is more complicated. It involves a $1 million loan McCain obtained from a Bethesda bank in January. The bank was worried about his ability to repay the loan if he exited the federal financing program and started to lose in the primary race. McCain promised the bank that, if that happened, he would reapply for matching money and offer those as collateral for the loan. While McCain's aides have argued that the campaign was careful to make sure that they technically complied with the rules, Mason indicated that the question needs further FEC review

    This is the DNC current lawsuit, because the other one was tossed

    The dems are trying to make a bigger deal out of it, and they hope that as usual Americans won't bother to read up on it, they'll just form an opinion based on the soundbite like they always do......
    It's no longer a dog whistle, it's a fucking trombone


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