Politics & Government

2008 campaign proves the death knell for public financing

Finally, something Republicans, Democrats and independents can apparently agree on: It’s time to write the obituary for public financing of presidential campaigns.

"The current system is dead," said Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat.

"Dead, dead, dead," agreed Republican political consultant Patrick Ruffini, who wrote how the Internet was used to shovel dirt in its face.

What happened?

One candidate this year, Barack Obama, stayed out — and reaped an unprecedented $150 million last month.

One candidate, John McCain, signed up for public funding. That got him $84 million — for his entire campaign since the GOP convention.

Three weeks ago, he had $47 million left. Obama? $133 million.

McCain has criticized Obama’s reneging on an earlier agreement to use public financing: “History shows us where unlimited amounts of money are in political campaigns, it leads to scandal,” he said this week.

Democrats say that if the shoe were on the other foot, the Republicans would have no problems. Likewise, many say Democrats would be calling foul if they were in the public financing "trap" and McCain were still raising big bucks.

"The greatest irony of this election is both of these candidates have been leading campaign finance reformers," said Craig Holman of Public Citizen, a nonpartisan political watchdog group. "And both candidates are presiding over the death knell of the public financing system."

That system — paid for by a voluntary checkoff on income tax returns, now at $3 per taxpayer — has been used by every major general election candidate since 1976 (although some have opted out of the system for the primaries, which operate under different rules.)

Read the complete story at kansascity.com