Thursday, June 19, 2008

Obama Opts Out of Public Financing

For the first time since 1976, a major party US Presidential candidate is opting out of Public Financing for the general election. Using John McCain's candidacy as the example of how the current public financing system is broken, Obama said
If we don’t stand together, the broken system we have now, a system where special interests drown out the voices of the American people will continue to erode our politics and prevent the possibility of real change.
McCain's campaign is beholden to Washington Lobbyists like his economic advisor, Phil Gramm, and special interest PACs.

Obama's decision is nothing short of refreshing, especially since the last 7 1/2 years have been driven by special interests and greed.

Greed and oil lust have driven the current administration. I am convinced that Bush's cronies have been deliberately manipulating the price of oil, raising the cost at the pump, just so he can railroad through the ban on offshore drilling. Bush faces opposition in Congress, but he really hopes to leverage the soaring pump prices to get Congress to cave in before election day. And when they start drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge, I wonder who will get the no-bid contract?

But Barack Obama is not afraid of the big bad guys on the other side. He presents genuinely alternative points of view and ways of doing things, and he does not back down from a fight. Funding will come from people like you and me rather than the likes of UBS. Yes, we can.

28 comments:

DrDon said...

Diva - I'm skeptical, as always. I don't think Obama is making this decision due to any morally or ethically superior philosphy. I think he's doing it because his war chest far exceeds that of McCain and he doesn't need the money. I'd be interested to see if he'd turn down the money if the situation were reversed. Maybe he would but we'll never know. Now, because he has so much more money than McCain, he can make this decision and look like a real hero to the average American.

Again, I always have to be careful when I say things like this because many Obama supporters are very touchy and they see any unflattering interpretation of his behavior as fightin' words. Maybe he really is this savior everyone is portraying him as but I don't think that he's really been tested through this primary process. While Hillary was the odds on favorite, since the actual primaries began, Obama has been out front and never really had to look back. It's easy to be magnanimous when you're in the lead. He was never playing catch-up so he didn't have to really get his hands dirty.

He's always had far more money than McCain so it's easy to turn away from public financing and look like a reformer. I'd like to see him really scrambling and then see what his personality and behavior would be like but we've haven't had to see that. He's pretty much been a golden child through this whole process so it's been easy for him to be generous and accomodating.

Again, Obama may turn out to be a fantastic president. I'll be voting for him so I hope so. But he's not going to be able to duck the special interest money once he gets to the White House. Not if he actually wants to accomplish anything. I wonder what people will say about him once he starts making deals with big oil, big insurance, big banks, and all the other interests that actually run the country.

DivaJood said...

drdon, first you have to remember that no matter what, Obama is a politician. Anyone who actually WANTS to run for President is suspect. And if anyone wants to get all touchy about that, I will go all Diva on 'em.

The questions you raise are valid questions. Absolutely valid. Obama does have a huge treasure chest with which to run his campaign, and yes, it is easy to be magnanimous when ahead. Obama is not perfect: his association with Rezko, while minor, is suspect.

But warts and all, Obama is, in my opinion, a very ethical guy. He is a hell of a lot smarter, and more practical, than John McCain. He's grounded, and he's taken a path that, while easy given his current level of funding, speaks volumes on a symbolic level.

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

you know mccain is strapped for loot. so he will have to as well, so much for political finance reform

DivaJood said...

Torrance, McCain can always tap Cindy for a few bucks from her beer distributorship. I mean, really.

Robert Rouse said...

Diva, at his age I think that's the only thing Cindy allows him to tap anymore. But seriously, whether politically motivated or not, it was still the right move.

DivaJood said...

Robert, you are just so cynical. I mean, don't you think McCain has those little pills?

D.K. Raed said...

doesn't matter WHY he did it. many political decisions are backed into or fallen into. It's a another good distinction between him & McCain, and it MIGHT just open the door to closing the door on big lobby interests & pac money.

BTW, whatever happened to the financial wierdness involving McC's campaign loan that was secured by his eventual presumptiveness, which if it hadn't happened, would've absolved him of the loan obligation?

hahahah, "TAP", you are a riot, Diva! But I don't think Cindy is in the habit of loaning to losing causes, she is an investor who would want to see some possibility of a return. Note when McC was hurting for funds & thinking of dropping out, she smiled her glassy-eyed smile & bobbleheaded her way to her private plane. She is the Ice (cold one) Princess.

DivaJood said...

DK, I agree, however Obama came to his decision, it really does open the way to reform of Public Financing, which is long overdue.

So, does Cindy turn blue? Like that "Code Blue" beer from Coors? I have a feeling Cindy has a portrait locked away in a secret closet (done by the same artist as the one of Nancy Pelosi) that just ages away.

an average patriot said...

McCain of course jumped right on the bandwagon with Bush who he is trying to distance himself from. Yeah right! They want to lift the ban on offshore drilling and drilling in ANWR amongst other things.
I happen to agree with you on the price manipulation but nothing will drop prices and the industry will ensure it!
I wrote on this today too because instead of giving Bush what he wants Congress wants control of refineries thus oil costs. Man that scares me too because Congress nor the government can control anything and ar corrupt as hell. There is no winning here. AAARRRGGGHHH!

an average patriot said...

oh anyway McCain was jumping all over Obama a minute ago saying he can not be trusted with anything he says hell and McCain can!

Randal Graves said...

Oh diva, I can't take such cynicism mixed with hope, it's too convoluted. I was so getting used to a black or white, either/or world these past eight years.

My biggest concern from a political standpoint is, when the dirtiest punches come, will he, like every other goddamn Democrat, be a Shrinky Dink, or punch back with fists of fury.

DivaJood said...

Jim, like McCain can be trusted? WTF? I dunno, anybody who smiles as creepily as McCain just bugs me.

Randal, first, the neo-cons insist that Obama is really just a girly-man, and soft on terrorism. And as you can see from my sidebar terror alert level, we have much to be afraid of. Second, it is difficult to be both hopeful and cynical, but I am a professional. Don't try this at home.

Utah Savage said...

Diva, what a crowd. It's a veritable party over here. Sorry Randal, didn't mean to bust you on your blogosaday. Pleas don't stop by my place, nevermind.

Diva, since South Carolina I've been sending him $10, or $20 whenever I can. They are putting together a Bake Off for Barack, soon. Let them eat cookies. This is Utah--we're big on cookies here-- cookies and jello. Combine the two and you have won the votes of even the staunchest Mormons.

DivaJood said...

Utah, is the jello and cookie thing something Oreos should consider? A cookie sandwich with jello in the center? Yum.

an average patriot said...

I agree 100% Diva you know that. McCain is a total liar and makes Bush proud. That smirk of his is very alarming , disingenuous, and scary as hell. We are screwed in the worst way if they steal him in!

DrDon said...

Well, once again, hate to be the main cynic in the crowd but I think it absolutely matters why Obama made this decision. The reason it matters is because many of his supporters are using this decision to infer something about his personality or convictions. If you just accepted that he has a different opinion about it than McCain, then I'd agree the motive doesn't necessarily matter. However, once you use this decision to infer that he's serious about campaign finance reform or any other such nonsense, then his motives become important because you're basing your opinion of the man, at least to some extent, on what you think his motives are.

As Diva says, he's a politician. I don't care if he talks a good game, seems smart, dresses nice, etc. He wants the most money he can get to try to win this election. Since most of the people writing here support his campaign, everyone thinks that's just dandy. The fact is that he is a very saavy guy who realizes that by not accepting public funds he is now not limited to the spending limits they impose. Smart move. He already has $225 million to McCain's $77 million. And everyone know Obama stands to raise millions more via the internet and his strong grass roots efforts.

So some people would say, well at least it's money from small donors instead of PACs and big business. But my feeling it that the source of campaign funding is only half the story. The other part of reform is restricting how much these guys can spend. Considering all the economic problems facing people in this country, I don't want people spending $100-$200 million to get elected. That's a symptom of everything that's wrong with campaigns, regardless of where the money comes from.

Ghost Dansing said...

Obama is correct in his assessment, i.e. that the public system is broken and can be/is gamed.

I think if you crack into how the system works, you will see that it gives corporate interests and corporate-based special interest groups significant work-around advantages, and undercuts the type of non-organized, or organized-by-environmentalists (as an example) groups that are traditional Democratic Party supporters.

The Republicans are in fact masters at gaming this.... locking Democrats into a position of weakness by accepting the public funds and the rules, while working a sophisticated matrix designed to circumvent the rules.....

Check out Dubya's "Pioneer" system, and examples where corporate employers "encourage" specific employee donations to circumvent donation caps.

Note from 2003:

A pattern of increasing Pioneer influence flows across the nation with the Pioneers of 2000 gaining positions of power. The tycoon Mercer Reynolds III raised $605,000 as a Pioneer in 2000 and is now the finance chairman for the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign. Three of Bush's Cabinet posts have gone to Pioneers from the victorious Bush election campaign; they include the Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, and the Secretary of Labour, Elaine Chao. Also appointed from the Pioneers were a federal judge and at least four members of the Energy Department's transition team, including former Enron boss Ken Lay.

None of this was meant to happen, and new laws try to keep money out of American politics. Just 18 months ago a stringent campaign finance law was passed that strictly limited the amount individuals could contribute to candidates - $2,000 a head. The growing influence of cash - blamed for America's low turnout figures - was meant to be booted out of politics.

But Bush's fund-raising network circumvents the rules. Although the Pioneers and Rangers are hugely wealthy, they do not contribute vast amounts from their own pockets. Instead they 'bundle' hundreds of friends and employees - each just pays the maximum, $2,000 dollars.

This bundling occurs at parties, fĂȘtes, dinners and barbecues. Often the big draw is Bush or Cheney. Both men have spent much of the summer making guest appearances at such events, and it's been lucrative. So far, Bush has raised at least $35m, about three times the amount gathered by the leading Democrat candidates.

Ironically, Bush's runaway success could force the Democrats to scupper the finance reform laws they fought so hard to pass.

I think Obama should continue to elucidate how Republican have gamed the system, and how everybody is actually forced into gaming the system to play.....

The Public system would require a radical look and reform to actually work the way it was intended.

DivaJood said...

Drdon, you raise an excellent point: by not accepting public funds he is now not limited to the spending limits they impose. However, by not using public funds, and by only accepting small donations from individuals, Obama is actually broadening the base of support. He's energizing people who have heretofore not contributed to a campaing, and making them aware and letting them rejoin the process. Yes, it is "gaming," as Ghost dansing describes it. And Torrance Stephens has a post where he coins the term Obamafication, where one is so blinded by the man that they forget about the issues. Obama is not perfect. By definition, no politician is perfect. Yet he has proven over and over that he has a high level of integrity and the more I see him in action, the more I like him. And, when he ran for Senate in Illinois, he carried every district, even traditionally Republican districts. That was unheard of, and is based on his ability to build coalitions.

Ghost dansing, the Republican ability to take the $77M and turn it into a bundle of dirty tricks is what scares me. McCain operates under the Neo-Conservative style of "let's scare the people to death." And frankly, Bush's Pioneers and Rangers scare me. Yes, they circumvent the system just as much as Obama may be doing - but the end results are not the same. Bush stole two elections - and I am convinced those same efforts to steal votes will occur again.

By refusing Public Funding, Obama does shine the spotlight onto how the system is broken. Regardless of his initial motives, the end result is the same - it calls attention to a system that is in dire need of an overhaul. And it is getting people to pay attention.

robin andrea said...

Interesting discussion here, divajood. I was initially disappointed that Obama turned down public financing, but I do see the wisdom of the move. I want to see him win this election. Money is, disappointingly, the companion to electoral success.

DivaJood said...

Robin, as drdon points out, Obama has a huge treasure chest, so his decision is really symbolic. But it is successful in that he's got people paying attention to a system in trouble.

DrDon said...

Well, I don't want 4 more years of Republican rule either and, as I said, I'll be voting for Obama. However, I still think large amounts of money, no matter what the source, is corrupting. So Barack broadens the base of support? Okay, we can all agree that this is good. But where does the over $300 million that he is sure to raise go after that? He's not going to spend it all on the election. He won't have to. Some people are going to be making themselves very wealthy with "consulting fees" thanks to all the small donors and that still smells like politics as usual to me. In the end, I guess what I care most about is what happens after the election. I think it's going to be a lot harder for him to change anything than people think. And I fear that people may be quite disappointed by the results. That's why I'm setting my expectations very modestly. Trust me, we'll find out all about Obama's double-talking and corrupt side after the election.

DivaJood said...

Ah, drdon - here is where I don't agree. Obama has held office in the State of Illinois and as US Senator without becoming corrupt or using double-speak. His association with Tony Rezko was ill-advised, but the Obamas gave the money they made from sale of property through that association to charity, keeping none of it. In many respects, Obama is a third-party candidate without being third party. He's the true Maverick, not McCain.

DrDon said...

Illinois is not the U.S. presidency, he has not held public office that long, and frankly, I don't believe you know if he did anything untoward while in office. The fact is, you don't know the man, you don't know anything about his character and you're basing your opinion on the only thing you can; what you've seen, read, and been told. But he simply does not have a long enough resume for any of us to feel like we really know him. I'm sticking to that. :-)

DivaJood said...

Oh, drdon - I am from Illinois, have been following Obama for years, and have friends on his campaign staff. And while I've not met him personally, nor have I had dinner with the Obamas, I feel that my years in Chicago and in Chicago organizational politics makes me feel I do know how Obama will likely be as President. His local resume is pretty damn good. And I'm sticking to that! :)

Rain said...

I agree with your blog and felt encouraged about Obama's decision to opt out and even more when MoveOn.Org said they will not do a 527 because of his request. Maybe his decision will make a genuine difference to help the country get back to issues, not silly stuff like flag pins. Even if it was done for practical political reasons, that doesn't make it wrong.

David Brooks had a good column where he called Obama Slick Eddie or something like that and said he has two sides. Well good for Obama. We need someone tough with idealism. I think that's Obama.

DivaJood said...

Rain, I think the real issues is that Obama does not back down from a fight. He is tough, and yes, he also has idealism. I do believe that Obama's decision re: public financing is largely symbolic because he really doesn't need those funds, and, as drdon has pointed out, he's not bound by spending restrictions by not accepting the funds. But in his symbolic act, he does shine the light on a broken system. Ghost dansing's comment really does describe how the Republicans are able to circumvent the system quite well. Maybe we'll be able to fix it. At the very least, we're talking about it.

Robert Rouse said...

Diva, I learned early on in this campaign that people who are distrustful of Obama are also of the sort who want to rub their wariness off on others. I have met the man, and unlike most people on the campaign trail, I was able to spend more than a few minutes talking with the man.

I started checking into his past - and following his political life - immediately after his keynote address in 2004. He is the real thing. He may slip up and make mistakes, but he is human. We ALL are human and prone to mistakes. But if we never elected anyone who made mistakes, we would never elect anyone.

DivaJood said...

Robert, he is the real deal, and part of his appeal is his human-ness and willingness to admit his mistakes.