The Campaign Public Financing Noncontroversy
The John McCain campaign continues to bemoan the fact that his opponent, Senator Barack Obama has once again stated that he doe not intend to use public financing for his campaign, and instead is relying on the more than 69,056 mostly smaller donors, many of which have donated $100 or less to his campaign so far. It is sort of strange that John McCain's campaign makes such a big issue of this now considering the fact that Obama first made the announcement way back about February 17, that he would not use public financing and instead rely on a more grassroots efforts of mainly smaller contributions and mostly not take big donations from many corporate or other special interests by some rules that the campaign established. This week the Obama campaign only reaffirmed that this policy will continue, yet immediately the McCain political machine went on the attack and accused Obama of breaking his word from some very early statement from Obama that he accept public financing even before the 2008 presidential campaign really even started.
There are many issues here to look at. One being that the McCain campaign has done very poorly in regards to fundraising compared to the Obama campaign, although many of McCain's fundraising events have been closed door events, sometimes with President Bush at his side, where McCain sought minimum donations of $1,000 to $10,000 dollars at a pop, while the Obama campaign has raised a lot more money through mostly smaller donations and a more grassroots largely Internet based effort. Despite tapping into many larger GOP donors, McCain has only raised a total of just $96.6 million dollars so far this election cycle, and after spending $72.6 million on the primaries and general election so far, only has just $23.9 million dollars left with an additional nearly $1 million in unpaid campaign debts. McCain really needs the public financing money because his campaign is doing so poorly in fundraising efforts compared to Obama's far better organized campaign. Obama's campaign has raised about $265.4 million dollars so far this election cycle, and spent $218.8 in his primary season battle with Senator Clinton as well as some early advertising efforts for the general election. The Obama campaign has $46.5 million dollars left and a little over $2 in yet unpaid debts.
The real truth is that John McCain only became a more recent convert to campaign finance reform any time that he ran into political trouble. In the 1980's when McCain ran into political problems as being one of the leading figures in the Keating Five Scandal, McCain underwent the first political makeover and sought to create a new public image for himself as some sort of "reformer", from the previous reputation he sought as being a "Barry Goldwater Conservative". Then in 2000, after losing the GOP nomination for president to George Bush, heavily due to the influence of soft money paid for negative advertising that destroyed McCain's chances in the South Carolina primary, McCain responded with the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill to somewhat limit the influence of soft money. However, there is still little real limitations on the power of the independent 527 organizations who will certainly mount major TV attacks on both Obama and McCain during the 2008 main election event.
The Obama campaign fully understands that it will need a large war chest to counter some outrageous and false independent 527 ads by some shadowy organizations within the next few months. ExposeObama.com is such a shadowy 527 and is currently raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to air some TV ads meant to set up a false impression in the minds of voters that Obama was somehow once a Muslim as a grade school student while attending elementary school in Indonesia as a child. The fact of the matter was that there wasn't always a Christin or public school available in some parts of Indonesia, so sometimes only Muslim run schools were the only available schools in some areas. Obama's stepfather worked for an oil company and sent the young Obama to both Catholic and public schools when they were available, and young Obama made it known in his book, "DREAMS OF MY FATHER", that his teacher sent home a note that he made faces during the required Koranic studies when he had to attend a Muslim run school for two years, because he found the religious teachings contrary to his own Christian beliefs. Yet ExposeObama.com will spend a great deal of money along with other outrageous 527 groups to try to SWIFTBOAT Obama much like they did to John Kerry in 2004, where sailors who never even served with John Kerry made some outrageous statements and others contradicted themselves from previous public statements about the heroism of Kerry during the rescue of some soldiers under gunfire during the Vietnam War. Even John McCain will be victimized by some outrageous independent 527 ads. One currently airing shows a mother and her baby, and stretches McCain's statement about "one hundred years in Iraq" to absurd levels. First, McCain never meant that the U.S. would be at war in Iraq for 100 years, but that he could imagine peacekeeping efforts similar to that of American soldiers in Germany or South Korea lasting in Iraq for that amount of time. Secondly, there is an all-volunteer army at this point, so no child would be forced into military service unless congress should approve a draft.
The fact of the matter is the political system is still broken when shadowy 527 organizations often with only a handful of large donors can perform outrageous hit and run attacks on the reputations of the men running for president. During 2004, one 527 that attacked John Kerry was almost fully funded by just the WalMart heir, Alice Walton, and just two other large donors. The 527s can spend unlimited amounts of money running outrageous ads to smear and destroy the candidates, and Obama knows that he will need to spend millions of dollars to fight off these sort of attacks. It is only pragmatic to have the funds available to combat these 527s.
Despite the fact that so far John McCain has been unable to manage a campaign anywhere near the level of the Obama organization in either ability or management skills, McCain continues to make the case that he should somehow be the manager of the entire country as president. That's a big pill to swallow from someone who never even managed a business or anything any larger than just some political office in Washington. Obama is facing political reality that the current system of financing a run for public office is broken, while McCain is not. The public financing of campaigns is a broken system where the independent 527s still rule the airwaves. Obama has little choice but to oppose public financing and run his campaign under his own set of reforms until congress seriously repairs the political system.