The Obama administration issued a statement strongly opposing a House bill that would eliminate the public financing system for presidential primaries and campaigns, arguing the system must be “fixed rather than dismantled.”
Created in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, the system is intended “to free the nation’s elections from the influence of corporations and other wealthy special interests,” the statement says. “It has done so at minimal cost to taxpayers, who fund it by voluntarily choosing to direct $3 of their federal taxes to this beneficial system.”
In the 2008 campaign, however, President Barack Obama opted out of the public financing system during the general election, becoming the first major-party candidate to do so. Instead, his campaign raised more than $1 billion in donations, a record-breaking haul that funded a successful 50-state strategy to win the White House.
At the time, Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, accused Obama of reneging on his promise to publicly fund his campaign. But Obama’s campaign said it raised its money from millions of individual donors who contributed small amounts of cash.
Some Republican senators want to eliminate the fund to help balance the federal budget, saving $617 million over 10 years. The White House’s statement argues that the public system should be modernized and repaired, not dissolved.
If the House bill passed, “its effect would be to expand the power of corporations and special interests in the nation’s elections; to force many candidates into an endless cycle of fundraising at the expense of engagement with voters on the issues; and to place a premium on access to large-donor or special-interest support, narrowing the field of otherwise worthy candidates,” according to the statement.
The House is expected to vote on the measure Wednesday.