February 15th, 2008
07:30 PM ET
12 years ago

McCain challenges Obama to keep his word on public financing

Sen. McCain challenged his Senate colleague to take public financing.

Sen. McCain challenged his Senate colleague to take public financing.

OSHKOSH, Wisconsin (CNN) – Nearly a year after Barack Obama called on all of his potential general election foes to sign on to a public financing pact, likely GOP nominee John McCain accused the Illinois senator of having a change of heart sparked by his massive fundraising haul.

“It was very clear to me that Sen. Obama had agreed to having public financing of the general election campaign if I did the same thing,” said McCain at a Wisconsin campaign stop Friday. “I made the commitment to the American people that if I were the nominee of my party I would go the route of public financing, I expect Sen. Obama to keep his word to the American people as well.”

Under the agreement, both men would have to forgo private donations entirely in favor of a publicly-funded campaign.

At this point, McCain stands to gain the most from a public financing pledge – Obama has raised nearly three times as much in general election funds. Under the guidelines, both men would be required to return any money they had raised for that contest.

On Friday, Obama seemed to avoid committing to the agreement. "It would be presumptuous of me to start saying now that I'm locking myself into something when I don't even know if the other side is going to agree to it."

Last year, both Obama and his campaign promised to “aggressively pursue” such an agreement with their Republican counterpart. No major party candidate has opted out of the public financing system for the general election since it was created more than three decades ago.

McCain had decided to accept public financing of his primary season campaign last summer – but eventually opted out of the system before accepting funds because it would have limited the amount he would be allowed to spend to $54 million until the Republican Party’s nominating convention this summer.

That scenario promised to seriously handicap his effort if he were to become his party’s nominee and face a well-funded opponent with no spending limits.

–CNN’s Tasha Diakides, Chris Welch and Rebecca Sinderbrand

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (204 Responses)
  1. Sue

    Since it is quite evident that Obama is trying to BUY the Presidency, I don't think he will be willing to stick by his pledge to accept public funds for the fall campaign.

    Most of my family are lifelong Democrats, but we are all planning to vote for John McCain if Obama is the nominee. We can't afford to have another inexperienced person in the White House. He's all talk and no substance and his nasty, mean spirited supporters scare me.

    GO HILLARY 2008

    February 15, 2008 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    If you look at Obama's record this is not suprising at all. The same thing happened with his watered down nuclear bill and who knows what else when people start actually looking at Obama's record. What is very interesting is that McCain has been able to do what Hillary has not: critique Obama and his entire message. McCain is calling out for Obama to be the so-called progressive that he claims to be. Isn't anyone shocked that McCain, a self-proclaimed(closet moderate) conservative, is the one demanding Obama be honest about his "earmark" spending(doesn't this go against his whole "holier than though" aura regarding not taking lobbyist money) and to stick to his word regarding public financing. For those of you who want to spin this and say that it would favor McCain and that's why Obama has not committed. Uhm read the article, didn't Obama spearhead the public financing measure, thus it comes down to an issue of who keeps their word. Overall if this is a preview of a McCain-Obama presidential battle; it doesn't look good for Obama.

    February 15, 2008 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  3. AK

    Yes Janet, many many people (not just Clinton supporters) prefer McCain over Barack Obama. We want someone with details, knowledge, and experience representing us. McCain called Obama out – now he needs to actually act on one of his inspirations – we'll see what happens.

    February 15, 2008 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  4. david

    Now Obama is front runner and their attack machine is geared up. this is not new. it will happen and Obama takes it easy. these are the same old washington games. nothing new to us .

    February 15, 2008 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  5. Grandma from MO.

    My name is little Johnny McCain.
    I wasn't going to say anything about a agreement, BUT I will because...
    I only gots 4 nickels, and none of my friends will give me more!!!!
    I gots to get more money, cuz nobody likes me enough to give more.

    I know!!! I'll call out Obama...
    because he gots LOTS OF MILLIONS of friends...
    and LOTS OF MILLIONS of nickels, too...
    and MORE pouring in every day.
    This is the ONLY way I have a chance against him.
    Many people won't see that I am pushing the panic button here!
    They will just whine and cry if Obama doesn't agree. Waaaah!

    February 15, 2008 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  6. Change is only a word

    figures he would back out.....and I thought he was about change.....

    guess not.

    February 15, 2008 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  7. kathleen, illinois

    Whatever, I hope Obama goes with whatever he can
    honestly raise and not fall into limits on his fundraising.
    I don't know a lot about public financing but I do know
    that Obama did very well with individual fundraising. What
    Obama said 1 year ago, well that was then and this
    is now. Is McCain now upset because Obama has
    raised millions from his supporters. Obama was
    probably surprised himself at the amount of money
    that came in. Does McCain think he is going to stop it now?
    On the idea of signing a public financing pact a year ago, maybe
    Obama thought that was a good idea at the time, but no one,
    including McCain jumped on the bandwagon then.
    Having a CHANGE OF HEART is not a sin., nor is it a lie.

    February 15, 2008 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  8. Rodney

    Oh my, it looks like Dinosaur McCain is running scared...

    February 15, 2008 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  9. Datt Myar

    ye ha obama

    February 15, 2008 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  10. Ted

    Barak Obama is no different than any other politician. He just has not accumulated as much baggage. Given time, he will.

    Since we really do not know what we would be getting, I just do not want to have "B. O." in the White House.

    Just say No to B. O.

    February 15, 2008 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  11. Art H

    Obama made a pledge he made when he started out and is now back-sliding since he finds it more convenient to dip into the larger coffers of private contributions.

    None of the Obama backers seem to be weighing in on this issue. Hmmm.

    February 15, 2008 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  12. Southerner

    McCain decided against public funds for the PRIMARY election. He had not agreed to anything. Nobody in the Republican field asked for an agreement to all take public funding. Obama DID say he would take public funding if his opponent would, in the general election.

    This is McCain's first chance to agree to that. He wasn't running against Obama before.

    The question is, will Obama honor his pledge?

    It doesn't give an advantage to McCain, it levels the playing field (some), but Obama will still have the advantage in special interest funded ads.

    February 15, 2008 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  13. Corinna from Arizona

    McCain, never, I'm an Independent from Arizona, I can't remember the last thing he did for us here in the last ten years. Please this is just the beginning of the good ol' boy spin they are going to throw at any Democrat. After the competition between Obama and Clinton, go Obama, if Senator McCain wants the funds to be fair I am sure there will be millions of Obama supporters more than willing and able to paint their own signs, create their own shirts, I have even seen a car spray painted Obama here, and especially go door to door for Senator Obama.

    See we are in a situation that more war will not solve, especially the war we are having against ourselves. There are no proven solutions, there can't be its illogical since we have never been at this stage in human history. We have alot of challenges we need to meet, America is filled with people of great mind and spirit, I think Senator Obama is willing to tap into it and demand from people there best and no not just taxes. All politicians in reality use taxes to tap into American wallets. We all know this, what do we actually get for our buck is the question.

    February 15, 2008 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  14. Ryan

    Barack Obama has already broken his promise to his constituents. He told them while running for Senate that he would finish his term.... by running for President he is already jeopardizing that promise. I do agree with the fact that McCain cannot really hold Obama to this promise though when he did not stick to public funds himself during the primary. McCain is just looking for a way to weaken Obama during the General election. McCain knows that Obama would be able to beat him easily with the campaign dollars that he has already brought in and is attempting to weaken him by holding him to this so-called promise.

    February 15, 2008 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  15. earl illingsworth

    Obama can't be intimidated,John!

    February 15, 2008 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  16. Tammy

    Janet you need to go back and read the article again. Barack Obama is the one changing his mind not John McCain.

    February 15, 2008 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  17. Jesse from Kansas

    Obama is backing away from a pledge he so strongly advocated just a year ago? Sounds like the same old and tired Washington politics-as-usual to me. He's no different than the rest of them; he just has a more hypnotic stump speech.

    February 15, 2008 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  18. Datt Myar

    Calling On True Americans. Boycott CNN and it's advertisers! CNN is fixing the elections

    February 15, 2008 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  19. Datt Myar

    This cost me nothing and cost you guys how much ha?

    February 15, 2008 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  20. Zappy D

    Obama would be crazy to do public financing. I have a modest job and life, but I contribute 25 dollars a month to Obama's campaign. Public financing would prevent me and several of my friends from doing this.

    February 15, 2008 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  21. fred

    I wonder if McCain would be bringing this up if he could raise anywhere near as much money as Obama does.

    February 15, 2008 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  22. Brennan, Seattle WA

    Who cares?

    Obama will beat McCain either way.

    February 15, 2008 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  23. Mary- Lawrence KS

    Is anyone else having difficulties getting your thoughts posted on CNN?

    I'll try this again:

    What is presumptuous is to act as if Hillary Clinton is not still running a viable race for the Democratic ticket..... Wow..... amazing.

    I am in favor of a non-Republican in office for 4 more years.... but this race on the Democratic side is FAR from over.... let's concentrate on that instead of prophecy.

    February 15, 2008 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  24. Judy

    McCain is too honest to deal with this Obama. Obama will not keep his word, because he only keeps the word that will be good to him, and he never kept any of his words that would be bad to him. He's extremely smart, and he's good at arguing. Whatever he does, even if he kills someone on purpose, he can find a good arguement to defend himself, and the person who accuses him will become a so called "liar"

    February 15, 2008 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  25. lindacisme

    This is the first of many times that Obama will go back on his wispy promises. He's a poser.

    February 15, 2008 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
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