Bob Hall on Obama opt out

Democracy NC sent this out on Sen. Obama's opt out of public financing:
Statement from Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina, regarding Barack Obama’s decision to forego participation in presidential public financing program.

Senator Obama’s decision is predictable, given the shortcomings of the presidential public financing program and his capacity to raise money from private sources. The current program lacks the carrots and sticks – the incentives and penalties – to attract and sustain participation by major party candidates. For example, the program does not provide sufficient funds for a candidate to mount a truly competitive campaign across the nation, without relying on unregulated spending by outside groups. Nor does it compensate for the candidate who opts out of the program by providing additional, matching money to the opponent who stays in the program. Barack Obama’s decision may have been different if the program provided twice the money it now does (that would still be less than $1 per voting-age citizen) and/or awarded matching money to John McCain for every dollar Obama raised above a fixed limit.

North Carolina has two public financing programs now underway that aim to provide qualified candidates with the minimum needed to campaign, plus a matching fund provision. Qualifying is not easy, and the programs need constant attention to keep up with new challenges – something that has not happened with the presidential program. In North Carolina, 92% of the candidates covered by the judicial program and 67% of the candidates in the executive branch program are participating – Republicans and Democrats, men and women, blacks and whites, challengers and incumbents.

One important effort to reform the presidential public financing program is being led by North Carolina’s own Rep. David Price. Please note the release about that effort and the organizations involved in it:

We don’t expect politicians to heavily handicap themselves by ignoring the realities of the current arms race in fundraising. What we most want to see is aggressive leadership to provide effective alternatives to a worsening money chase that corrupts government and shuts out ordinary people. We need leaders who champion concrete reforms that, step by step, move us closer to “voter-owned elections.”

Bob Hall
Democracy North Carolina



That's a whole lot more clear than the N&O pieces from yesterday.
- BJ

- BJ

Here's a question:

How many of you support making public financing available to 3rd Party candidates? I'm pretty sure not many of you, if any of you, do. David Price clearly doesn't, as that proposal does nothing to open up public financing for 3rd Party candidates.

So let's be clear about something: when the issue of public financing comes up, what we're really talking about is state sponsorship the Republican and Democratic Parties with government funds and strangling any potential competition for them in the future. Is this healthy for Democracy? I roundly disagree. As someone who has lived in the UK and studied British politics, I would argue that the state of their democracy is much, much stronger precisely because there is health competition among the political parties at all levels.

And what's worse about this is that if there are some virtuous Libertarian, Green, Constitution, or other 3rd Party supporters out there who would like to give more than an arbitrary limit to help candidates of these parties compete against the behemoths of the Republicans and Democrats, they're not allowed to. The entire campaign finance apparatus in this country, contrary to the initial goal of reforms to limit the influence of special interest groups and strengthen our democracy, has done exactly the opposite through two effects:

1) Protecting incumbents, and
2) Protecting the state-sponsored Parties.

I challenge all of you to think about this issue and consider it. It's one that needs to be dealt with if we're going to appreciably strength democracy in this country.

It is available to 3rd party candidates, isn't it?

IIRC Anderson in '80 and Perot in '92 both qualified and got federal matching money. I have no idea if this applies to state, or congressional candidates as well.
You are correct in your assertion that the deck is stacked in favor of the big two.

Person County Democrats

I actively oppose gerrymandering. Do you?

They did, but....

The process for getting it is cumbersome.

But it's not just the candidates: it's the two major parties themselves getting money that's the problem. For 3rd Parties to get federal money, they have to score 5% of the vote in the previous Presidential election. This has happened once: the Reform Party in 2000, after Perot got 8% of the vote.

The federal money isn't just the problem. It's the whole damned campaign finance system. The regulations, as far as I can tell, do nothing to but protect Democrats and Republicans. If the Democrats and Republicans write them, you can bet that this usually is the consequence. I certainly don't see how influence from special interests is reduced.

Paige, I'm pretty sure

if they (3rd party candidates) meet the minimum fundraising requirements, they are eligible for a public match. Now, you might say that this:

And what's worse about this is that if there are some virtuous Libertarian, Green, Constitution, or other 3rd Party supporters out there who would like to give more than an arbitrary limit to help candidates of these parties compete against the behemoths of the Republicans and Democrats, they're not allowed to.

would keep them from raising enough funds to qualify, but it's sort of relative, isn't it?

I mean, unless you're suggesting that Dems and Reps continue to have the donor maximum requirement while smaller party candidates' donors can give as much as they want, getting rid of the max might make 3rd party candidates even less competitive.

And if it made them more competitive, what does that say about which party the rich think they can (more easily) manipulate?


Firstly, let's distinguish between the "rich" and the "special interests." Not all rich people are evil connivers looking for a handout from government or to pass some law that will squeeze their competition in industry. Many are, but many aren't. Surely, I think you would hesitate to use this rhetoric when recognizing that both Gore and Kerry, Democrats, beat Bush overwhelmingly among the top income bracket, at least according to data I have seen.

But furthermore, do you honestly think that special interests aren't able to manipulate our political process now? In fact, I could argue that the donor limits being where they are, or even the mere presence of them, allow special interests to manipulated it more. Given that people can only donate a certain amount, who are campaigns going to target most often for money? Lots and lots of people who can contribute up to that amount. So they spend more time organizing them and interacting with people who could be large donors, which gives these interests much more access to them. Furthermore, once candidates get into office, they have a long list of special interests with whom they've develop contacts, which includes more special interest friends who can donate $2300 dollars and give them a big fundraising advantage over their challengers in the next election.

Furthermore, what good does it do to have these limits, cumbersome campaign finance laws, and a public finance system if the people responsible for preventing special interest- us- are complacent and cede our vigilance, or if the system protects incumbents and restricts competition from 3rd Parties? If you want a system where special interests don't manipulate the process, then you have a system with more choices on the ballot and in which those choices have the ability to compete for attention and votes, as this will generate more interest and reduce disenfranchisement.

On the question of whether or not third parties can raise money to compete with special interest-funded donor maxes, I submit to you the Barack Obama and Ron Paul campaigns of this year. Most of their donations came or have come from individual donors donating well below the max. These are people who aren't necessarily wealth or have some type of interest, but who are simply fired up about their candidate and their message. These are citizens who exercised their duty to be involved at the grassroots level.

Much, if not most, of the work to be done in reducing the influence of special interests lies with us, not with the mechanism that special interests (seek to) manipulate, i.e. government.

The marketing campaign

Does it bother anyone that our presidential campaign is focused on ad buys and marketing rather than issues and debate. Yes - it was smart for Obama to opt out of the limited funding. He wants to win and he will raise much more money himself. He's already launched a huge media buy in red states.

But do you really believe that he did this cause the system was broken? He's continuing to distract us from the real issues. I'm waiting anxiously to hear substantive economic and environomental plans. And this kind of nonsense makes me suspicious.

Oh - and how does funding from and George Soros count?