We Made Him Do It!

Barack Obama has announced that he will go back on his pledge to accept public financing for the general election, and instead spend whatever he is able to raise. Obama thus becomes the first major-party candidate to opt out of the Nixon-era public financing system.

Obviously, Obama understands that he has unlocked the greatest honey-pot in American political history. He can raise far more money than John McCain, and far more than the $85 million to which he would have been limited if he had accepted public money.

I don’t have any problem with this, in principle; if it were up to me, all public campaign financing would be repealed. What I find offensive is Obama’s dishonest rationalization of his broken pledge:

“It’s not an easy decision, and especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections,” Obama told supporters in a video message Thursday. “But the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system.”

Like so much that Obama says, this is absurd. Obama knows that he is raising far more money than the Republicans, so how are the Republicans “gaming the system”? Here, apparently, is the explanation:

Obama said McCain and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and political action committees.

“And we’ve already seen that he’s not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations,” Obama said.

This was too much even for the Associated Press, which commented:

Despite that claim, few Republican-leaning groups have weighed into the presidential contest so far. In fact, Obama allies such as MoveOn.org are the ones that have been spending money on advertising against McCain.

In past elections, spending by Democratic-allied 527s like MoveOn and ACT has dwarfed spending by Republican-allied groups. Thus, Obama is just making it up, trying to deceive his own followers, most of whom, as he knows, are not well-informed. So, while I have no problem with Obama spending all the money he can raise, if the question is whether Obama is a man of his word, the answer is No. And if the question is whether Obama is an honest politician, the answer is also No.

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