Monday, April 28, 2008

A light at the end of the tunnel?

It seems that there may be a light, however faint, at the end of the tunnel for those of us who abhor the current system of financing political campaigns in the United States.

On Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, Barack Obama -- who is "on pace to raise more than $300 million in the primaries" -- expressed an interest in remaining in the public finance system for the general election against GOP nominee-to-be John McCain if he is the Democratic nominee:

WALLACE: The Wall Street Journal says that you are prepared to run the first privately-financed campaign - presidential campaign since Watergate. True?

OBAMA: Look, we’ve done a wonderful job raising money from the grassroots. I’m very proud of the fact that in March, in February for example, 90 percent of our donations came over the Internet. Our average donation is $96. And we’ve done an amazing job, I think, of mobilizing people, to finance our campaigns in small increments. I have promised that I will sit down with John McCain and talk about, can we preserve a public system, as long as we are taking into account third party, independent expenditures, because what I don’t intend to –

WALLACE: If you could get that agreement you would go for a publicly financed campaign?

OBAMA: What I don’t intend to do is to allow huge amounts of money to be spent by the RNC, the Republican National Committee or by organizations like the Swift Boat organization and just stand there without –

WALLACE: If you get that agreement?

OBAMA: I would be very interested in pursuing public financing because I think not every candidate is going to be able to do what I’ve done in this campaign and I think it’s important to think about future campaigns.

It will be interesting to watch how Mr. Campaign Finance Reform responds to this. Many people believe that McCain-Feingold was a step in the right direction, but its weakness -- uneven enforcement -- was also an asset, because it exposed other avenues (READ: 527s) ripe for exploitation and abuse.

Full transcript here.

Will McCain step up and agree to plug the holes that keep McCain-Feingold from making the kind of difference it otherwise could? Or will he hide from the opportunity to create real -- dare I say it? -- change, even on one of his signature issues?

His answer will determine whether that light at the end of the tunnel is long-awaited, long-overdue relief for the weary American voter, or a freight train set to flatten them once again.