Obama 'strongly opposes' bill to cut federal funds for presidential campaigns
The White House "strongly opposes" a Republican-backed bill to stop federal funding of presidential campaigns and political conventions -- a public offering President Obama declined during his 2008 campaign. Despite that, the White House believes the public financing system should "be fixed rather than dismantled," it said Tuesday.
In a sharply-worded assessment of proposed legislation, the Office of Management and Budget said the GOP bill would kill public financing of presidential elections and expand the influence of private corporations and special-interest groups.
The administration's opinions come a day before House Republicans plan to hold a vote on the legislation, which would save about $520 million over the next decade and would require presidential candidates to rely on private donations instead of taxpayer money, according to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
The bill is an outgrowth of a Cantor-backed program that invites GOP supporters to vote on proposed government spending cuts that should be considered by the full House. Even if the bill passes the Republican-led House, however, it's unlikely to be considered by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Presidential candidates qualify for federal matching funds during the primary season if they meet certain private fundraising thresholds and abide by certain restrictions. Once formally nominated, major party presidential candidates may also opt to use public funding if they agree not to take contributions from private donors.
In 2008, Obama opted out of the public funding system and raised about $750 million for his campaign. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) opted to use public financing, creating a significant cash disadvantage for the Republican candidate. Close observers expect Democrats and Republicans to spend more than $1 billion on the 2012 presidential campaign.
The White House statement noted that "candidates began to opt out" of public financing during the 2000 presidential campaign. "Since that time, promising proposals for the strengthening of the system have been made," the statement said.
In a surprisingly blunt assessment -- when compared to the normally staid format of OMB statements on legislation -- the White House said the Republican bill "would kill the system, not strengthen it," and added:
"After a year in which the Citizens United decision rolled back a century of law to allow corporate interests to spend vast sums in the Nation's elections and to do so without disclosing the true interests behind them, this is not the time to further empower the special interests or to obstruct the work of reform," the statement said.
In an editorial published Tuesday, The Washington Post editorial board agreed with the White House, writing that "the need for rehabbing the presidential funding system is even greater than during the 2008 campaign. Fix the system - don't junk it." (The views expressed on the editorial pages of The Post are the views of the editorial board and do not necessarily reflect the views of Post reporters.)
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| January 25, 2011; 10:48 AM ET
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