What a coincidence! After Barack Obama became the first major-party candidate since Watergate to opt out of the presidential matching-fund system and its spending limits and raised hundreds of millions of dollars in two election cycles, wealthy liberal activists want Congress to impose a public-finance system for federal-government elections. In fact, it’s some of the same people that Obama’s broken promise to remain within that now-defunct system enabled:
Some big Democratic donors have a message for Congress: Don’t rely so much on the rich to fill your campaign war chests.
A group of 60 wealthy donors and activists have signed onto a new letter urging Congress to create a system of public financing that would curtail their own influence in elections, according to a copy of the letter being sent to the Hill on Friday.
Signatories to the letter include major Democratic bundler Naomi Aberly, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen, tech mogul David DesJardins, businessman Arnold Hiatt and Jonathan Soros, among others.
Aberly raised more than $500,000 for President Barack Obama in 2012, while DesJardins gave nearly $1 million to Democratic candidates and organizations in 2012. Soros, the son of billionaire liberal donor George Soros, runs the super PAC Friends of Democracy — a big money group that aims, ironically, to curb the influence of big money.
Let’s revisit the timeline of events here. Barack Obama promised to stay within an existing system of public financing in the 2008 election cycle, only to ditch that promise almost immediately after securing the nomination when he discovered just how much cash he could rake into his coffers. At the time, Obama explained that the presidential election fund system was “broken,” and pledged to make it one of his top priorities after winning the election. Two years later, without ever having lifted a finger to resolve his issues with the system except to wag it at Congress once, Obama started fundraising for the 2012 general-election campaign 22 months before it was to take place.
I’m sure that the liberal activists will cite Citizens United as the reason they need to push for public financing. However, the Citizens United decision came four years ago last month, a year before big Democratic donors started flooding Team Obama’s coffers with cash for the 2012 election. Obama and his big donors didn’t seem to mind that court decision when it benefited them.
The real reason? Republicans are much more motivated in this cycle than Democrats. They want to put the brakes on the backlash for five-plus years of Democrat policies. It’s a transparent dodge by the people who enabled Obama to jettison the one public-financing system that was voluntary to now demonize big money coming into campaigns, when they are most vulnerable to its impact. Good luck selling that idea after the Obama Precedent.