Obama's reform message takes a hit

Today's New York Times takes up the obvious waffling that Obama is now doing on his campaign finance proposals from last year.

Just 12 months ago, Senator Barack Obama presented himself as an idealistic upstart taking on the Democratic fund-raising juggernaut behind Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

That was when Mr. Obama proposed a novel challenge aimed at limiting the corrupting influence of money on the race: If he won the nomination, he would limit himself to spending only the $85 million available in public financing between the convention and Election Day as long as his Republican opponent did the same.

Now his challenge to his rivals has boomeranged into a test of Mr. Obama’s own ability to balance principle and politics in a very different context. After taking in $100 million in donations, Mr. Obama is the one setting fund-raising records, presenting a powerful temptation to find a way out of his own proposal so that he might outspend his Republican opponent. And the all-but-certain Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, is short on cash and eager to take up the fund-raising truce. . . .

For balance it would have been nice if the NY Times had mentioned that the agreement was entered into by McCain when McCain was the lead Republican in the polls and doing very well raising money. As it is, Obama would still have a significant advantage over McCain if he took public financing because the Republican convention is so much earlier than the one for the Democrats and at that time you have to stop using privately raised money and start using the $85 million from public financing.

The Times also brings up Obama's argument against McCain:

They argue that Mr. McCain may have violated technicalities of the election laws by using his eligibility for public matching funds to help obtain a loan but then opting out of the matching funds at the last minute to avoid the spending restrictions they impose. “People aren’t exactly clear whether all the t’s were crossed and i’s were dotted,” Mr. Obama said in Tuesday’s debate. (The McCain campaign said it followed the law.) . . .

As McCain's side said, they have an argument that indeed they followed the law so I don't know where all this is going to end up. Personally, however, I would like to see Obama argue against the public financing of campaigns.

Mr. Obama has argued that his campaign was already meeting the spirit of public financing laws because it had relied overwhelmingly on small donors instead of corporate patrons. . . .

Ironically, Obama has been running into new claims regarding money that he has recently received see here.

Mr. Obama appeared to set some new conditions. He argued that any bipartisan agreement to accept the limits of public financing would be “meaningless” if there were no provisions to close the “loopholes” that allow unlimited spending during the long primary season or by independent outside groups. . . .

What I have been arguing for years is that there are always "loopholes" in these laws. The number of loopholes are countless and if Obama is going to argue this it is a sure fire way to ensure that no agreement will ever be reached.



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