Monday, April 21, 2008

McCain to Accept Public Financing

In a significant development in the politics of presidential campaign finance, Senator John McCain, the co-author of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaing Finance Reform Act, has decided to accept public funding to finance his general election campaign in the fall.

The Politico has
the story:

John McCain is abandoning any hope of catching the Democrats in fundraising.

Based on new financial disclosure reports released Sunday, and interviews with his finance team, the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee will instead accept taxpayer money to finance his general election and share other costs with the Republican National Committee.

The strategy will allow McCain to stretch his campaign dollars by splitting the cost of television advertising and other campaign activity with the RNC.

But the decision also puts the Arizona senator at risk of being badly outspent – even with RNC help – by a Democratic nominee who will be allowed to spend as much as he or she can raise on the November race.
McCain's decision in some ways reflects more than Democratic Party fundraising advantages this year.

As the nation's chief advocate of publicly financed federal elections, McCain, by going fully private, would face a huge credibility gap that the Democrats could exploit throughout the fall. Also, McCain's personal campaign loans from last year, which enabled him to stay in the race, were backed by the collateral of expected public money from the presidential election fund.

Thus, opting out of the federal money system would have raised possible questions of ethics.

If it were me, though, given both McCain's history of integrity on these issues, he might have been better to admit his errors to use the moment to abandon the public system altogether.

Not only would this free the RNC to spread its resources around to help congressional candidates this year, it would put pressure on the GOP fundraising establishment to get behind their guy with big bucks for the fall. While McCain might have been in a shortfall over the next few months, in the later months of this year, as the presidential race hardens into the generic party match-ups in the summer, the conservative money machine would naturally step up to the plate donations, working to stave off a Democratic (democratic-socialist) victory in the fall.

I think McCain's played it too safe. He may be outspent over the long haul, but he'd likely be competitive by summer, and he could have finally put to rest his flawed public financing project once and for all.