It’s no secret that I’m an Obama supporter, but yesterday’s move by Obama to forego public election funding is not something I’m wild about.
I will throw down the gauntlet right now and say that I believe public funding of elections is absolutely necessary to fixing this country’s ills. The problem is … we sorta do have a system where elections are publicly funded, but Obama’s message was correct: people have become experts at gaming the current system to render it meaningless.
Enter from stage right: 527 groups , (example: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ). These groups garner unlimited donations (from whomever) and can say what they want as long as they do not “directly advocate the election or defeat of any candidate for federal elective office.” This actually becomes a free speech issue, but the “gaming” Obama refers to is that free speech can sometimes mean “lying,” only to have time and obfuscation allow the liars to walk free. In the meantime, their mission was accomplished.
To McCain’s credit, he gave the Swift Boat Veterans the smackdown, and said they were being dishonest. McCain is a better ma n than Bush, but so are most primates.
The point is, figuring out how to publicly fund elections is a sticky wicket. Everyone knows this is a huge problem. Everyone knows it won’t be easy.
Enter from stage left: Barak Obama’s grass roots donation methodology. Actually, Obama didn’t think of it; Howard Dean started it, and Ron Paul mastered it. But by getting $5, $10, and $20 donations, by the gazillions, Obama feels confident that he can earn much more than the $84 million in public funds. No one doubts him.
That’s way too fucking much money that us taxpayers should have to give to ANY party to spin their facts and elect their man. But all of this is proving what we already know; Elections are all about money. Whoever has the most, typically wins. Aside from this public money, there is also a ton of money in the “Republican/Democratic National Committee” which is an ambiguous pile of lucre that can also be applied to their presidential candidate. The Republican committee finished May with nearly $54 million in the bank, compared with just $4 million for the Democratic National Committee. Interesting disparity, and also made the option of public funding a little less appetizing for the Obama camp. In doing so, they would start out behind.
But here’s the rub: Obama is refusing to take the ONLY money offered to him that does not have any strings attached. And McCain’s only response has been, “Hey! Obama performed some sort of Jedi mind trick on us!” It’s true, these are not the democrats they were looking for. Mr. Hope is not the innocent, play-nice boy that Ms. Clinton made him out to be. So McCain is relying on that old faithful criticism, calling Obama a “flip-flopper.” Yawn. (Earth to McCain: After Bush, we really won’t mind someone who changes his mind now and then. )
The bigger issue is that Obama is abandoning one flawed system to create another, but McCain knows that most people will never understand this. Obama’s use of all these tiny contributions will not erase the huge problem of 527s. Obama is shutting down these groups, but the 2012 candidate may not have such scruples. By circumventing this problem, it appears to some as if he may be abandoning his policy to reform it.
This is all pretty complicated. This move may also force McCain to accept assistance from 527s, which he has been sneering at, or lose the election. He probably would have lost anyway, but Obama might be forcing McCain to flip-flop. It’s kinda funny to see Democrats making the Republicans squirm during an election.
But this move does nothing to fix the problem of campaign contributions; it only complicates it further.