Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is "Obama"
By Pejman Yousefzadeh Posted in 2008 | Barack Obama | Hypocrisy | Public Financing Of Election Campaigns — Comments (4) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
As expected, Barack Obama has chosen to opt out of the public financing system for the general election. What was perhaps less expected was the lame reason he put out for his decision:
Obama, who set records raising money in the primary election, will forgo more than $84 million that would have been available to him in the general election. He would be the first candidate to do so since Congress passed 1970s post-Watergate campaign finance laws. Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee in waiting, has taken steps to accept the public funds in the general election.
Obama officials said they decided to take that route because McCain is already spending privately raised funds toward the general election campaign. Obama has vastly outraised McCain, however, and would likely retain that advantage if McCain accepts the public money.
The public finance system is paid for with the $3 contributions that taxpayers can make to the presidential fund in their tax returns.
"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."
Specifically, Obama argues that "John McCain's campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. 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."
First of all, Obama is just as free to take 527 support as McCain--who has decided to remain in the public financing system--is. Indeed, there is quite a powerful network of 527s that will doubtless be of assistance to Obama irrespective of whether or not he chose to remain in the public financing system. Obama should cut out his cynical attempt to convince others that he is a poor little lamb vulnerable to slaughter at the hands of Republican 527 groups. Given the fact that Democratic 527s regularly outraise Republican ones, McCain has a greater right to issue that complaint than does Obama.
Secondly, the notion that Obama has not benefited from PAC money even at this stage in the game is fatuous nonsense.
Read on . . .
Using campaign appearances, e-mails to supporters, and Iowa TV ads, Illinois Senator Barack Obama has repeatedly reminded voters that his presidential campaign does not accept contributions from lobbyists or political action committees, casting his decision as a noble departure from the ways of Washington.
He hit the theme hard again in Tuesday's Democratic debate in Chicago as he sought to capitalize on rival Hillary Clinton's remark last weekend that taking lobbyists' cash is acceptable because they "represent real Americans."
"The people in this stadium need to know who we're going to fight for," Obama said at Soldier Field. "The reason that I'm running for president is because of you, not because of folks who are writing big checks, and that's a clear message that has to be sent, I think, by every candidate."
But behind Obama's campaign rhetoric about taking on special interests lies a more complicated truth. A Globe review of Obama's campaign finance records shows that he collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from lobbyists and PACs as a state legislator in Illinois, a US senator, and a presidential aspirant.
In Obama's eight years in the Illinois Senate, from 1996 to 2004, almost two-thirds of the money he raised for his campaigns -- $296,000 of $461,000 -- came from PACs, corporate contributions, or unions, according to Illinois Board of Elections records. He tapped financial services firms, real estate developers, healthcare providers, oil companies, and many other corporate interests, the records show.
This story is from nearly one year ago. Doubtless, Obama's contributions from PACs have continued since then. Consider this story as well:
Back in 2005 and 2006, Obama raised $123,283 from other political action committees and put them into a political action committee of his own. He called it Hopefund.
Hopefund is what is known as a "leadership PAC," a frequent target of campaign watchdogs because it can raise money in much larger bundles than individual candidates. The Candidate of Hope from Illinois followed the example set by Senate and House members who establish such accounts to raise money and then spread it around to other politicians in the hopes of gaining new best friends. Legally, such PACs are supposed to operate independently and cannot coordinate with any campaigns of their owner.
Now that Obama is running for president, he's handing out the bulk of Hopefund money to politicians and groups who happen to be in early presidential voting states, as the Washington Post's John Solomon noted the other day. The pace of giving has increased in recent months and this has led to some remarkable coincidences.
New Hampshire state Sen. Jacalyn Cilley, for instance, received $1,000 from Obama's PAC last summer. Six days later she happened to endorse the same Obama for president. "I endorsed him because I believe in him and his policies," she said.
Likewise, Obama's PAC recently felt moved to donate $9,000 to Rep. Paul Hodes, who happens to have been the first member of Congress from New Hampshire to endorse Obama early this year.
With a straight face Obama spokesmen deny there's any connection between his presidential campaign and the PAC donations. "Sen. Obama has long been doing whatever he can to help elect fellow Democrats all across the country," said Joshua Earnest.
Hopefund, by the way, is alive and well. And the link on the front page leads directly to the Obama for President site.
It would be nice if the Obama campaign decided to just come out, tell the truth and admit that the reason it opted out of public financing--despite the traditional Democratic position that public financing of elections is A Very Good Thing--was that it would raise more money with which to attack John McCain. But apparently, in addition to working to fatten its coffers, the Obama campaign seems hellbent on insulting our intelligence.