Commentary

Obama the Crook

The downfall of public financing is a true tragedy. Many would suggest that public financing is a ridiculous concept — why should taxpayers finance campaigns they don’t support? Such reservations come from a lack of understanding about the public financing system. First of all, public financing has been present in every general election since 1976. 1976…hmm…ring any bells? Obviously, it was the year that the voters had to choose between a football player and a peanut farmer, but more obviously, it was the first post-Nixon, post-CREEP election. Public financing meant that big corporations and individual donors weren’t able to help candidates after the primaries – taxpayers would be in charge of funding all of the major spending during the general election cycle. Additionally, the public financing system isn’t compulsory — it’s a simple matter of checking a box on tax returns, which just re-routes a few tax dollars the way of the campaigns. So flash forward to 2008. One of the candidates recently railed on about corruption in Washington, and how his opponent is in the pockets of big corporations, 527 groups and special interests. This candidate promised to accept public financing, because it ensures fair elections. But that candidate flip-flopped, later deciding to forgo public financing so he could out-advertise his opponent and engage in questionable fundraising practices throughout the election (such as accepting unlimited payments from prepaid credit cards, which are virtually untraceable), all the while claiming a massive “grassroots” operation. Don’t believe it could be No Drama Obama? Think again. According to a New York Times blog posting, “Donor Patrol: Obama’s Site Accepts More Fakes, October 23” (they would never publish such a damning story to their man in the print newspaper), a woman attempted to donate to the McCain and Obama campaigns using a fake name, nonexistent place of residence and a fake employer. McCain’s site rejected her contribution; on Obama’s, it went through in fewer than three seconds. Although the FEC only requires candidates to report donors giving more than $200, McCain reported everyone who gave to his campaign. Obama doesn’t. Donors have successfully given to the Obama site under the names Bill Ayers, Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, according to the same blog post. Obama said he rejected public financing because the system was broken. But with lax standards, he has built a brand of over $600 million, bigger than Geico, almost the size of Coca-Cola. And he will certainly outspend McCain over the final weekend — Obama can even afford to place ads in Republican bastions like Georgia, North Dakota and Arizona, McCain’s home state. In the future, how can a candidate ever accept public financing? If private financing allows Obama to outspend McCain by more than 7 to 1 (McCain received only $84 million from the public system), how can only the least popular candidate reconcile accepting public funding? Moreover, why would big corporations, special interests, pass up the opportunity for a handshake agreement and donations under fake names? It’s all too easy. So we’re back to Nixon — the selling of the President — but, thankfully, it’s not the Republicans’ fault. This one’s on Obama. Jack Dickey is a four-year Senior and News Director from Guilford, Conn. sdickey@andover.edu