Edwards’ public funding gambit

Yesterday, John Edwards announced that he would accept matching public campaign funds, which basically means that the U.S. government will match up to $250.  In return, Edwards must submit to a $50 million spending cap nationally during the primary season (before the official nomination) as well as state-level caps.

Edwards is trying to frame this as a principled stand as accepting public funds means that a good chunk of your campaign’s money is coming from taxpayers, not special interests.

From the New York Times article on the subject:

At a campaign stop on Thursday in Conway, N.H., Mr. Edwards said it was the huge amounts being raised by the campaigns that had changed his mind. “Washington is awash with money, and the system is corrupt,” he said. “I don’t think anybody anticipated the amount of money that would be raised,” he added, saying it had persuaded him to “step up” on the issue.

This is nice sentiment, but I have a harder time believing it because of the previous paragraph of the article:

At a campaign stop on Thursday in Conway, N.H., Mr. Edwards said it was the huge amounts being raised by the campaigns that had changed his mind. “Washington is awash with money, and the system is corrupt,” he said. “I don’t think anybody anticipated the amount of money that would be raised,” he added, saying it had persuaded him to “step up” on the issue.

Taking a principled stand to change a corrupt system does not really jibe with exploiting loopholes in the program you are taking part in “on principle”.

Another, more suspicious part of Edward’s acceptance of public funds is its timing: very shortly before the third quarter fundraising results are due.  This draws attention to his fundraising figures, which as of last quarter are not great compared to those of Clinton and Obama (as of the end of the second quarter, Edwards had $12,139,800 cash on hand compared to Clinton’s $32,691,100 and Obama’s $34,529,200).  You can view these all on the New York Times’ Election ’08 Finance page.

Also worth noting is that Edwards raised a bit more than twice as much in the first quarter than he did in the second ($12,211,586 in the first quarter to $6,055,087 in the second quarter).  If he continues to pace at second quarter levels or below, public funds may be the only way for him to compete come January.  It’s pretty easy to “stand on principle” when standing on principle actually benefits you financially.

Finally, while Edwards spun this very strongly as a principled stand, his campaign website only makes mention of it in a news article link but not in his main page graphic or in any campaign blog posts.  He doesn’t seem to be calling any extra attention to it, which I would have expected if he were standing on principle.  Instead, the first graphic that you see is promoting a “raise $1 million in 10 days” promotional (He was at $813,550 as of 11AM ET today).

This move further tarnished Edwards in my eyes.  I would understand it if he were leading in the funds or had the widest support base and wanted to show that he’s not just running on his campaign’s war chest, but given the fact that he has less than half the cash on hand of each of the other two frontrunners and that Obama out-raised him threefold in the $200 or less donation category, this looks more like a move to stay in the game and followed by a weak ploy to make it look principled.

Now, if Edwards ends up surprising us with a magnificent  fundraising quarter, I may rethink my position, though judging by the fact that he is aiming to raise $1 million in 10 days during fundraising crunch time, when donations tend to peak, I’m guessing he got significantly less than $9 million, which is what he would have earned if he kept pace with the current fundraising program’s goal.

Update: Edwards’ website does now have a graphic relating to his taking of public funds which just says “Twice as nice”, which is refering to the fact that up to $250 of any donation made will be matched by the U.S. government.  The graphic links to a donation page  So scratch the part about his campaign keeping it relatively silent on his homepage.

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About Meng Bomin

Real name Benjamin Main, I am a graduate of Grinnell College with a degree in Biological Chemistry.
This entry was posted in Current events, Opinions, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Edwards’ public funding gambit

  1. Pingback: U.S. Common Sense » Blog Archive » Meng Bomin: “Edwards’ public funding gambit”

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