Obama Rejects Public Financing, “Declares Independence”

Screenshot from Obama\'s site.

On Barack Obama’s website, his campaign asks potential contributors to

“declare their independence”–and to give him their money.

Barack Obama just did what we all thought he would, but in a much more clever way.

The Illinois senator’s campaign emailed a video to supporters today announcing his decision to turn down$84.1 million in taxpayer-provided financing for the general election this November. The move was expected since his incredible fundraising machine generated $95 million in February and March alone (see our post from February 27).  However, this is the first time since the system was created that a major candidate has ever rejected the public funds, and it is especially interesting in an election where both candidates claim to be champions of ethics and campaign finance reform. McCain is now expected to reject financing himself, in order to be able to keep up with Obama.

What was NOT expected today was the way he and his campaign broke the news: as a “declaration of independence” from a “broken system.” He stressed the loopholes afforded to candidates by unrestricted donations to political parties as well as advocacy groups, such as the famed Swiftboat Veterans for Truth of 2004, one of many so-called “527s”  (named for the section of campaing finance legislation that provides for their existence).

The public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system.  John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. And we’ve already seen that he’s not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations.

McCain has criticized Obama for going back on his word from when the campaign announced that he would “aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee” to mutually accept public financing. However, Obama has said in the past that if he did reject public funding, his cache of small donations (90% are of $100 or less) is still in the spirit of keeping the influence of the wealthy from overwhelming democracy.

We will see if the media and the public buy into Obama’s call for much-needed reform, or if they see the move as simply hypocritical.  Either way, we can be sure that our next president will make an effort to take the money out politics–at least in his second term.

Obama’s video message [BarackObama.com]

Obama Forgoes Public Funds in First for Major Candidate [New York Times]

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More Criticism for Clinton, McCain Gas Tax Program

A collection of over 200 economists have began circulating a letter rejecting proposals made by Hillary Clinton and John McCain to temporarily lift the federal gas tax for the summer months. Citing the poor implementation policies and drastic side-effects, including increasing the federal budget deficit, the group of Republican and Democratic voters are siding with Barack Obama and criticizing the plan.

While the plan exists to the benefit lower-income families over the summer months (lower gas prices = family vacations, according to Clinton and McCain), many assert that it serves as an enormous benefit to oil companies as well. Now, I’ll let you make your own conclusions about how this benefits oil companies (and potentially car manufactures), but as consumers who are so conditioned to the rise and fall of gas prices, would we actually be accomplishing anything by temporarily lifting the federal gas tax? Four years ago, America was paying averages of $1.80 for a gallon of gas; today, we’re delighted when we fill up at $3.39 a gallon. McCain has publicly asserted that the temporary lift might save consumers around $30 for the summer – does that give you enough incentive to take the car out for a two-week road trip?

Economists Criticize Clinton, McCain Gas-Tax Plans – [Bloomberg]

McCain’s Maturity Shines Through

McCain

John McCain is renouncing comments made at a recent rally held in Cincinnati, Ohio during an introduction speech given by Bill Cunningham – a conservative talk-show radio host from the area. During his introduction of McCain at the rally, Cunningham made several derogatory comments towards Senator Barack Obama, as well as references to Obama’s Muslim middle name – Hussein – three times during the course of his speech. At one point, Cunningham attacked the media for their biased coverage of McCain, and their comparative ‘easy’ coverage of Obama:

at one point, the media will quit taking sides in this thing and start covering Barack Hussein Obama.”

Shortly after Cunningham’s introduction, McCain spoke the Cincinnati crowd with no reference to Cunningham’s prior remarks. At a a press conference following the speech, however, McCain apologized for the remarks, stating that by the time he arrived Cunningham had exited the stage. He further commented:

“I have repeatedly stated my respect for Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, that I will treat them with respect. I will call them ‘Senator.’ We will have a respectful debate, as I have said on hundreds of occasions. I regret any comments that may have been made about these two individuals who are honorable Americans…. Whatever suggestion that was made that was any way disparaging to the integrity, character, honesty of either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton was wrong. I condemn it, and if I have any responsibility, I will take the responsibility, and I apologize for it.”

I truly have to commend John McCain on this issue, as he respectfully approached the topic and respectfully acknowledged Cunningham’s inappropriate remarks. It gives me incredible hope that if this November’s election comes down to McCain and Obama, we might actually see a political race that transcends the typical opponent-disparagement platform America has been so familiar with in the past. Keep your fingers crossed that the right-wing political-attack machines don’t come out in full force, and maybe we can see a real debate this fall between the candidates.

McCain Repudiates ‘Hussein Obama’ Remarks – [The Caucus – NYT]

Zero on Environmental Scorcard for McCain

The League of Conservation Voters recently released their 2007 Environmental Scorecard which rates Senate and House members’ environmental concerns based on their votes over 2007. John McCain scored an astounding zero by skipping all fifteen votes that the League of Conservation Voters tracked according to their pro/anti-environmental focus.

I think we can all agree that 2007 saw some incredible strides on environmental issues from our elected officials, but there is still an enormous amount of work to be done before we can begin to solve our energy crisis, global warming, and other issues regarding environmental pollutants. Can we really afford to elect a president who has made no effort to show an interest in these issues?

Here are LCV’s ratings for the remaining Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls:

John McCain – 0%
Barack Obama – 67%
Hillary Clinton – 73%

(Mike Huckabee was not included as he was neither a member of the House or Senate in 2007.)

2007 Environmental Scorecard – [League of Conservation Voters]

McCain’s Lobbyist Love Interest? He Says No Way.

A New York Times article Wednesday claimed that John McCain had an inappropriately close relationship with a female lobbyist during his 2000 presidential campaign. McCain vehemently denied this story in a press conference, saying that,

“I’m disappointed in The New York Times piece. It’s not true.”

The story explained that McCain’s aides confronted him and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, because they were worried about the relationship and the possibility of a romantic situation. They believed that their encounters were going against McCain’s claim to stop special interests and that Iseman’s comments were putting McCain in a bad light.

“Ms. Iseman’s involvement in the campaign, it was felt by us, could undermine that effort,” McCain’s former political adviser John Weaver said.

Weaver said Iseman was telling people she had special interaction with and influence over McCain.

The McCain camp questioned the story and the motivation of the New York Times. McCain adviser Charlie Black claimed the “liberal” newspaper was just saying “rumors and gossip” to hurt McCain’s campaign.

“He doesn’t do favors for anyone,” Black said of McCain.

For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk – [New York Times]
McCain denies inappropriate relationship with lobbyist – [CNN]

Nine in a row for Obama; McCain strengthens lead

                                          obama

CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews are all projecting Barack Obama and John McCain as the winner of tonight’s Democratic and Republican primaries in Wisconsin, respectively. Based on recent polls, both candidates were the expected victors in the Wisconsin primaries. And although Wisconsin marks the ninth state in a row for Obama, it has failed to make him the clear Democratic front runner, and certainly has not discouraged the Clinton campaign from finding any way to make a comeback.

Hawaii’s polls end in a few more hours – we’ll keep you updated as results come in.

Election Center 2008 – [CNN]
You Decide 2008 – [FoxNews]
Decision ’08 – [MSNBC]

Pawlenty for VP?

Here’s a story that might interest our Minnesotan readers.

There’s a lot of talk about the state’s Governor, Tim Pawlenty, being one of the favorites to become John McCain’s Vice Presidential pick. Even when McCain was bankrupt and sinking in 2007, Pawlenty, seen above saying, “It was this big,” stuck by his side.

If McCain picks T-Paw, he will come with a lot of upsides for the Arizona Senator. Pawlenty, who is in his second term as Governor of the great state of Minnesota, is only 47 years old; one year older than Barack Obama. This fits in well with McCain, who is 24 years his senior. Also, much of the flack McCain has taken from Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee is that McCain is a Washington insider. Pawlenty who has served in Minnesota’s State House of Representatives and now serves as Governor would not receive the same criticism. Many conservatives would consider him an acceptable choice, even though he shares McCain’s views on certain issues such as the environment.

Some also think Pawlenty would help McCain win Minnesota in the general election. This would be important because Minnesota has not voted Republican for President since Richard Nixon in 1972. I’d like to think that shows Minnesotans learn from our mistakes. However, I don’t McCain will win Minnesota with or without Pawlenty. Pawlenty’s support couldn’t swing Minnesota McCain’s way in the Republican caucus, and Pawlenty himself won only by a plurality (46.7-45.7%) and not a majority of votes in his latest Gubernatorial victory.

Picking Pawlenty would help McCain balance the ticket, however. It would also be very encouraging to see both tickets filled with pro-environment candidates, instead of just the Democratic side. This talk of McCain’s running mate will continue for a while as the Senator has stated he hasn’t given the subject any thought yet.