New Op-ed in the Wall Street Journal: Campaign-Finance Breakdown
Is 2008 the last hurrah for public-that is, taxpayer-financing of presidential campaigns? Since 1976, taxpayers have shelled out about $3 billion in current dollars to pay for presidential campaigns, including campaigns by John Hagelin, Lyndon LaRouche, Lenora Fulani, Ralph Nader, Sen. Alan Cranston, Milton Schaap, Ruben Askew, and other also rans. Funds have also paid for balloon drops at the party's conventions, negative TV ads, robocalls and more.
But this year, most leading presidential contenders refused to take the public subsidy-and accompanying spending limits-during the primaries. One exception has been Sen. John McCain. But faced with certain campaign realities, he too is now looking for a way out and is arguing that he has a constitutional right to withdraw from the public funding system for the primaries and, instead, rely on private money. Sen. Barack Obama said last year that he would accept taxpayer financing in the general election if the Republican nominee did too, but he has backed away from that promise.
All this is happening despite the fact that Republicans are nominating their champion of campaign finance reform, Mr. McCain, and a year ago Mr. Obama was lauded in the headlines and media coverage for his dedication to saving public financing of presidential campaigns. . . .