Posted by: andrew1906 | June 23, 2008

Why No One Cares about Obama Flip Flop Over Campaign Finance

Let’s everyone calm down.

Did Obama “flip-flop” on this campaign finance? Yes. Should anyone care? No. Does anyone care? No.

First, the announcement:

Now, the issue. Obama declared in 2007 that should he become the nominee, he would sit down with the Republican nominee and “aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.” In fact, you can see the entire questionairre here.

Now – if you read his answer, the underlying intent behind this move was to keep lobbyists, PACs (Political Action Committees), and special interest groups from being able to influence a candidate’s positions on issues. In 2007, before anyone (including him), knew he’d be a fundraising machine, this appeared to be the only way to achieve this.

Fast forward to 2008, where he’s raised more money that any candidate in American history, even when cost-adjusted for inflation, and he’s done it from small money donors like us who can’t influence him to take our phone calls much less hold a position. Would it then be reasonable for him to opt out of public financing in order to have the resources to run a 50 state strategy to change the electoral map and help down-ticket Congressional Democrats?

Let me ask it another way – if conditions changed on the ground, would it reasonable to hold the same strategy regardless of the new data (eh hem, Mr. Bush?) – i.e., stay the course? Experience tells us no. Decently reasonable people change strategies when facts change.

Quite frankly, had he opted into public financing, I’d have questioned his judgement.

People will groan and say that people who’s positions change when it’s advantageous to them can’t be trusted. To those people, I’d like to draw the distinction between a campaign strategy and a position. Deciding to opt into the public financing system is a strategy. Believing that PACs and lobbyists should not influence Washington is a position. We’re gonna spend $2m in Florida next month to force McCain to campaign there – that’s a strategy.. I believe offshore drilling is bad for America – well now, that’s a position.

Obama changed strategies, which any decent leader should do when facts change. You don’t keep running the ball up the middle when your half back’s got a bum knee and has lost 10 yards over the past 3 plays. But his position, that PACs and lobbyists should not influence the system, has in fact not changed – as the change in his strategy does not signify a change in his position because he’s created his own personal public financing system! The net result of his action is that his campaign is funded by a million and a half ordinary American’s who cannot individually sway his positions on anything! Isn’t that the whole point?

So, the next time someone tells you about how Obama flip flopped, ask about why no one says McCain flip flopped about:

  • Being “offended” by the Bush tax cuts and now supporting making them permanent
  • First believing that the government should not “bail out irresponsible borrowers” and now believes in “helping homeowners who are struggling.” (that particular flop only took four weeks – a speech in March when no one was looking)
  • Not wanting Roe v. Wade overturned in 2000 and now not only wanting it overturned, but wanting a constitutional amendment
  • Opposing torture, and now believing Bush is on the right path
  • Supporting immigration reform, and now joining the fence ’em out crown

I submit that the John McCain of 2000 wouldn’t even vote for the John McCain of 2008.



  1. I think we need to look at the ultimate point of the situation. Previously campaigns that didn’t use public financing got funds from PACs and lobbyists and other organizations through large contributions. The point of public financing is put the funding under the control of the people and to take large donors out of the picture. Barack Obama has accomplished the same goal without the limits of public financing. His funding has all come from the people, in the form of small donations and he hasn’t accepted donations from lobbying organizations and PACs. In effect this IS public financing. The donations are just sent directly to him instead of to the IRS who would redistribute the funds amongst each candidate. Calling his funding raising system different than public financing is basically just semantics.

  2. In the long run, I actually think it is bad strategy for Barack Obama to opt out of the public financing system. Everyone keeps ranting about how Obama can raise $200-$300 million in two months instead of only receiving the $84 million in public funds after te convention.

    Well, would it not make more sense to keep your promise to the American public, maintain your “new politician” image, take the $84 million in public funds, and have your donors give instead to the Democratic party? Supposedly, Obama’s organization is taking over the party anyway so he could use the DNC as a vehicle to raise an unlimited amount of money on his behalf.

    Furthermore, it is not the change in policy (or strategy) relating specifically to campaign finance that bothers me the most. It is Obama’s justification for the decision. Don’t tell me you are opting out to better fight the attacks from 527s when to this point those organizations have been used to help Obama moreso than McCain. Simply be straight forward and honest.

    Finally, I just don’t believe that Obama’s $21.8 million donation number for May was an anomaly. McCain raised $21.7 million. Sure Obama will raise more money since Hillary is out of the race. One Obama confidant mentioned to be that the campaign could actually raise $100 million for the month of June. But $125-$150 million a month in September and October as the economy continues to suffer? I just don’t believe it. Hopefully, people will be smarter to spend the money on food, clothes, and other necessitates which could actually stimulate the economy as opposed to making a campaign contribution.

    Unfortunately, I am starting to believe that Barack Obama is just another typical politician. It does not mean that I will not vote for him. I probably will because it would mean so much for the perception of African-Americans in the media. However, the allure associated with his candidacy has worn off a tad based on these types of politically-motivated decisions. I hope he returns back to the big tent, “yes we can” mantra instead of the politically-motivated, partisan-driven policies (and strategies) I am starting to see.

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