Setting the Record Straight

June 19, 2008

Obama and Old, Old Politics

Not the Change His Voters Wanted

          Barack Obama’s decision to eschew public financing for the general election is disappointing at best, hypocritical at worst. We are fairly certain this is not the type of “change” his support- ers thought they were voting for during the primaries.
          The type of change they thought they were voting for was the type that followed the corrupt years of the Nixon administration and its Water-gate scandal that led in part to several campaign-funding reforms enacted into law beginning in 1974.
          We hope Obama’s decision is not some sort of old-politics manipulation to box John McCain into a corner, knowing his name is on the McCain-Feingold bill enacted into law six years ago to make several campaign reforms, i.e., plug loopholes found in those 1970s laws.
          McCain, of course, cannot risk the obvious hypocrisy of violating even the spirit of the campaign reforms since his name is on a key element of them, thus his immediate declaration he would accept public financing, Obama’s decision notwithstanding.
          Even in legitimate news media, there is likely to be a big brouhaha about Obama’s decision (let’s hope it is too complicated to deal with in the usual stupid and silly manner of tabloid cable—not). So here is why this it important, and hypocritical of Obama.
          In 1974, the same year Richard Nixon became the only president to give up the office and leave, or else be kicked out as he assuredly would have been, Congress enacted new election reforms to fix some of the glaring campaign funding abuses uncovered as part of the Watergate investigations.
          One law created the current Federal Election Commission and established a system for public funding for political parties during the general election, a sincere effort to end the rampant skullduggery inevitably attached to gathering campaign contributions. But the candidates could have that public funding only if they agreed to limit the amount they spend on the election and on the contributions they receive as matching funds.
          The restrictions were challenged and the Supreme Court ruled in 1976 against other spending restrictions in the law, but upheld the constitutionality of the ones applied to candidates acceptance of public funding. If they refuse to accept public funding, the court said, their spending cannot be restricted. A few months later, Congress adjusted the law to comply, and that is what that little $1 box on the annual 1040 income tax form is all about.
          Until Obama, all candidates in the general election, even Ronald Reagan, even George W. Bush, have accepted public financing, even if they had eschewed it during the primaries.
          By refusing to accept public financing and thus have no restrictions on the amount of campaign money he can spend, Obama not only is reverting to the old politics he complained about during the primaries, he is practicing the old, old politics of the infamous Nixon years, politics almost as old as Obama is.
          He added to the hypocrisy by making his decision to eschew federal matching funds less than a year after he vowed to work with his Republican counterpart to “preserve a publicly financed general election.” Discussions were held among lawyers for both camps recently to try to work out such an agreement, but they fell through.




1 Comment »

  1. I liked this piece. I especially liked how you avoided the “flip-flopper” bit. I also liked how you didn’t give Mr. Obama a pass on his funds being from the “grass roots” via the web.
    I don’t support either candidate btw.

    Comment by Alfie — June 20, 2008 @ 10:34 am | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: