McCain Criticizes Obama on Financing
By Glenn Kessler
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sen. John McCain accused Sen. Barack Obama this morning of engaging in "Washington doublespeak" and challenged him to abide by what he called a signed commitment to accept public financing in the general election.
"Facts are facts," McCain said, noting that news accounts suggested that Obama was considering rejecting public financing because his extraordinary fundraising prowess. He said that Obama a year ago "signed a piece of paper" pledging to accept public financing if he won the nomination, while Sen. Hillary Clinton -- who at the time was the Democratic front-runner -- did not.
"That's Washington doublespeak," McCain told reporters. "I committed to public financing. He committed to public financing. It is not any more complicated than that. I hope he will keep his commitment to the American people."
Candidates who accept public financing receive $85 million but cannot accept additional contributions; Obama raised $35 million just last month, suggesting he could raise much more than McCain in the general election.
Last February, lawyers for Obama asked the Federal Election Commission if the campaign could raise funds for the general election but retain the option of returning to the public finance system. When the FEC gave its permission, an Obama spokesman said the candidate would "aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election."
Answering a questionnaire in September 2007 by the Midwest Democracy Network, Obama said he would forgo private funding in the general election, adding he had "proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election."
In recent weeks, however, Obama has suggested he has not made up his mind on whether to opt out of the public financing system. In an op-ed in USA Today, Obama wrote today that if he is the Democratic nominee he "will aggressively pursue" a policy with his opponent for a "publicly funded general election in 2008 with real spending limits," but made clear that he thinks a new agreement is needed.
At the news conference here, McCain could not specifically point to the document he said Obama signed, saying it was with a "public-interest group," presumably the Midwest Democracy Network.
McCain said that Obama's apparent efforts to wiggle out of his answer to the group is why "the American people are so cynical about us in Washington. They are cynical about people who put their name on a piece of paper and don't keep it."
McCain jabbed, "I think the American people would expect him to hold that commitment -- especially if you want to bring about change."
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