In 2008, candidate Barack Obama didn’t just ask for donations. His website asked donors to “declare their independence from a broken system by supporting the first presidential election truly funded by the people.” At the time, no one expected that by “the people” he meant a bunch of millionaires, but this is the conclusion we draw from Obama’s latest campaign initiative.
Politico reported last week that Obama, having raised three-quarters of a billion dollars in his 2008 race, is now seeking out 400 elite campaign cash bundlers to raise $700,000 apiece for his 2012 re-election. If the plan succeeds, it will raise $280 million in seed money for his campaign, which will be plowed into raising more money on the Internet from old campaign lists. This guarantees that Obama will reject public funding in election 2012, just as he did in 2008.
Obama once declared he was “a big believer in public financing of campaigns,” and even challenged his potential Republican opponents to pledge they would accept federal matching funds and the spending limits that come with them. He also promised to “aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.” But once he realized he could raise nearly $1 billion on his own, those promises all went out the window.
Obama’s explanation at the time was that the system was “broken.” It was “broken,” at least, in the sense that Obama saw that it was to his advantage to break it further. When he rejected public financing, Obama stated, “I am firmly committed to reforming the system as president, so that it’s viable in today’s campaign climate.” Since taking office, he has done absolutely nothing, firm or otherwise, to honor this commitment.
Why should Obama maintain, defend, or fix a system that he only intends to break again and has not lifted a finger to fix? In the context of his high-dollar bundling plan, and the likelihood that he will raise and spend $1 billion or more next year, we call on Obama to show some consistency and end this game of pretend.
Fix, once and for all, the system that pours taxpayers’ money into politicians’ pockets and into funding the parties’ conventions — by abolishing it. The House passed a bill doing just that in January. Obama should set aside hypocrisy and call on the Senate to follow the House in scrapping the Presidential Campaign Fund.