10.01.2008 0

Change over Change

  • On: 10/14/2008 12:06:51
  • In: First Amendment

  • Barack Obama revealed another dimension of his plan to bring “change” to the political system—change in more ways than one. Contrary to a promise he made early on in his campaign, Obama has changed his stance on accepting public general election funds—which would limit his ability to use private donations.

    Senator Obama first made the promise when his campaign was in the early stages of development, but now that he has experienced record-breaking fundraising, he is planning to rely solely on private funding—which will inevitably result in a greater flow of change to his campaign. No wonder Obama thinks that change is good. For his campaign’s fat wallet, it certainly is.

    Obama isn’t alone in opting out of public funding, however. Though less anticipated due to his comparatively lower fundraising, Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, also decided against using public money back in February. While he had accepted it during the primary, he rejected it once he locked up the Republican nomination, as more cash began pouring into his campaign.

    Of course, he has apparently changed his mind yet again, opting for public financing in the general election and criticizing his opponent for not accepting the public financing system. But to be fair, he is back to his original position in support of the system.

    We get it: It didn’t work for him during the primaries, but he likes the system for the general election. However, Mr. Obama’s change on this issue, and his ability not to be subject to Federal spending limits, may give Mr. McCain’s strategists pause as they consider if public financing is even as viable.

    A humorous and yet disturbing element of this whole situation is that Obama’s allies at the DNC have filed a lawsuit against Senator John McCain for his decision to opt out of public financing for the primary. The charge? McCain violated a portion of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Bill when he used the promise of public funds as “collateral” for a loan during his (at one point) shoestring primary budget. McCain counters that the use of public money is voluntary, allowing recipients to withdraw.

    McCain is not alone in defending his actions, however. The Obama campaign has received its fair share of criticism from Senator McCain for its changed campaign financing strategy. Calling Obama out on his earlier commitment to “aggressively” seek agreement on public financing with his Republican counterpart, McCain asserts that Obama’s move shows he has “completely reversed himself and gone back, not on his word to me, but the commitment he made to the American people.”

    Obama’s reasoning to opt out of public financing isn’t entirely based on the facts, either. While he claims that private financing is partly necessary so he can defend himself against Republican “shadow” attack groups, that just isn’t the case. No major Republican “527” groups have emerged at this point with a message threatening Obama. Rather, the Illinois senator’s decision is more about change—the extra $200 million or so he is expected to rake in by choosing private funds.

    While Obama’s changed stance reveals some hypocrisy on his part, those watching cannot help but feel a twinge of irony at what is transpiring. The whole issue of public funds is a classic example of why Big Government just doesn’t work: If a candidate accepts public funds, he or she also must accept limits in how much private money can be raised. One can see the similarity to government-provided “services,” such as socialized healthcare, which promise coverage for everyone—coverage which then turns out to be severely lacking, when compared to the private industry that it replaced.

    Senators Obama and McCain clearly realize—and rightly so—that they can trust American citizens to outperform the federal government—and do so without the government’s burdensome regulation. It is refreshing to see politicians have faith in the American people, for a change.

    ALG Perspective: While both Senators Obama and McCain are to be praised for accepting private donations and spurning public funds, both of them—but especially Obama—should open their eyes to the fundamental lesson illustrated here: Government influence always comes with restrictive strings attached and is less efficient than the private individual.

    The private sector can far out produce the public sector, if government will just leave it alone. And this is true not just when it comes to financing political campaigns, but also when solving some of our nation’s biggest problems—health care, social security, gas prices, and so forth.

    Mr. Obama is to be praised for opting out of a broken system and instead relying upon private donors. If he sees how well that works in campaign finance, he may be able to see how similar principles may be applied to sectors like health care or energy.

    Innovative private solutions trump regulative government policies. Let’s hope that the candidates apply that principle to more than just their campaign’s incoming change.


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