ActBlue just released the following statement in response to the Obama campaign’s decision to opt out of the public financing system.
Barack Obama announced this week that his presidential campaign would be opting out of the public financing system.
The decision has been met with considerable, and we think misguided, consternation in the press.
As delightful as it can be to note, and be noted for noting, apparent
contradictions in the actions of public figures, we fear that the media
are missing the broader point here: that in an era of extraordinarily
complex politics, this most recent decision of the Obama campaign
undergirds, rather than undercuts, the campaign’s unwavering commitment
to participatory democracy.
Public financing could work, in a closed system, and it may well be
that such a system would carry certain advantages. But the system, as
it exists, is not closed; funds from special interests often drown out
Recognizing this, the Obama campaign chose to opt out of public
financing. The grand irony, of course, is that it would have been
Obama’s other, and far more virtuous, choices-the decision not to
accept money from special interests and lobbyists, for instance-that
would have placed him at a disadvantage relative to the Republican
apparatus, which has not made similar commitments. Had Obama not opted
out, Democrats would have suffered from the apparently virtuous
constraints of the public financing system, gaining perhaps in public
perception but losing ground to a Republican machine that carried in
one hand the banner of campaign finance reform and in the other great
wads of checks from lobbyists.
To accept public financing, in Obama’s case, would have been to choose
a strategy because it looked virtuous. But there is nothing virtuous
about martyring a campaign for the passing glory of a good news cycle.
There is glory in victory, and there is virtue in playing fair. We hope
that the public sees this decision for what it is: a commitment to the
idea that the financing of elections should be the province of the
many, not of the few.