April 11th, 2008
02:31 PM ET
14 years ago

Obama calls campaign finance system 'creaky'

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (CNN) - Democrat Barack Obama described America's public campaign financing system as "creaky" Friday, and said it needs to be reformed in light of the rise of fundraising over the internet.

"I think that it is creaky," Obama said of the current system that is financed by $3 dollar checkoffs in tax returns. "The amount of money raised through the public financing system may be substantially lower than the amount of money that can be raised over the Internet, which presents candidates then with some pretty tough decisions in terms of how they want to move forward if they want to compete in as many states as possible."

Obama has raised over $230 million from about 1.3 million donors on the internet this year.

Earlier this week, Obama told an audience at a fundraiser that his campaign already has something similar to a publicly funded system.

"We have created a parallel public financing system where the American people decide if they want to support a campaign they can get on the Internet and finance it," Obama said, according to a pooled report.

Asked whether he felt the current system of funding campaigns through public money was antiquated, Obama admitted, "It is creaky, and needs to be reformed if it's going to work."

But the White House hopeful was also asked Friday why he personally did not check off the box on his tax returns that would have indicated he'd contribute three dollars to the public fund.

"You know, I have always checked off $3 in the past so I'm going to have to talk to my accountant," Obama said. "That may have been an oversight or a mistake. In all my previous years I have, so I should find out what's going on there."

Obama had indicated last year - before his record-breaking internet fundraising success - that he would opt into public financing if he is the Democratic presidential nominee. But the Illinois senator has since backtracked, telling reporters Friday he would work with Sen. McCain "about how to move forward in a way that doesn't allow third parties to overwhelm the system."

Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for John McCain, said he expects Obama to keep his word in accepting public financing.

"We will always welcome an open discussion with Barack Obama, but he has clearly committed to public financing in the general election should he win his Party’s nomination, and we expect him to keep his word," Bounds said. "Any hedging or clever language from Senator Obama seems more like something you would read in a predatory home-loan, not the 'Audacity of Hope.'"

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (92 Responses)
  1. Uncle Sam

    What audacity! Unbelievable.

    April 11, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  2. Mike H.

    Obama's remarks sound like a prelude to his being the first serious presidential candidate to ever reject the public financing system. This, despite the fact, that he earlier committed to taking public financing. Just another example of the "great reformer " playing fast and loose with the truth. Hopefully , the American people will wake up to this fraud before it's too late.

    April 11, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  3. suzy

    he's an inexperienced idiot......
    he's the biggest flip-flopper I've ever seen on EVERYTHING....

    foreign policy experience – "college visit to Pakistan"....

    VP choice – "someone who knows a bunch of stuff I don't know

    everything else he copies Hillary on....

    God help us.....

    what is the media scared of??????

    Hillary is the only candidate who is qualified to be president . period .

    April 11, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  4. mj

    OBAMA will say anything. Half of his money comes from lobbyists. He is the king of sleaze. His racist church was founded by Cone who is a black militant racist subscribing to killing all white people. The church bills itself as very black and only black. PURE RACISM.

    But if you want good cocaine then vote for Obama. He will have a deal with Peru for Peruvian pink flake cocaine and it will become legal.

    April 11, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  5. clmartin

    Also lets talk about Mccain using 4-5 million then wanting to return it so he can use the public refinance. This way he can pressure Obama on the subject.

    Please lets get to the topics and raise the issue that the American People want to know.

    April 11, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  6. ihatewhitey@obama.net

    Reading between the lines:
    Why use public financing when you can have Oil companies, nuclear energy companies, etc. buy the election for you? Tell them the system is bad and the sheep will eat it up!

    "The sheep tremble and here come the votes..."

    April 11, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  7. Spider

    Let's see......

    "If I am the Democratis nominee, I will use the public campaign finance system and I would expect the Republican nominee to do the same."

    My internet "collection system" captures a lot more dollars than the public financing system could ever provide me. OK.....

    "I think the public financing program has some flaws. I don't believe I'll be using it."

    Can we all say......Flip-Flop?

    Now, I see the change we are all hoping for. Just an "average politician".

    April 11, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  8. Missy M

    While I don't understand why he's using the word "creaky" I do agree with Obama on this point – campaign financing does need to be reformed. However, I think the system is in place to allow the less popular, less wealthy, yet equally worthy candidates a shot at office. I think the reforms should be in fundraising – there should be a limit on how much candidates should be allowed to raise and spend. People who want to support a candidate shouldn't do it through money, they should do it the old fashioned way and get out there and stump for their candidate!

    April 11, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  9. Ratgurl

    I don't check the $3 box. Ever. If I'm going to give my money to a politician to use, I'd like to have as much control as possible in determining how it is used, & whom it benefits. That's why I donated directly to Obama's campaign over the internet. I didn't want my money going to the Republican candidate, and I don't support Hillary. I support Barack.

    I don't know EXACTLY how my money is being used, but I CERTAINLY know WHO is using it!

    And I don't blame Obama's accountant for not checking the box... it'll be like paying himself.

    April 11, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  10. Lou

    If the little people who want him in office are willing to foot the bill to get him there, I say that's the way to go. It's better than having all these big corporations or lobbyists...who will expect something of him in return...forking over big money.

    April 11, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  11. cj-delhi ny

    I think the public funded idea is great for the next presidential election, but it is too late to do it for 2008.

    April 11, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |

    get real peeps the state of arkansas is flooded, hilbillys office in indiana burns down. Penn goes to Columbia at billy's request and now i feel that some more BS against Obama is next..Cant we all get along...LOL If you vote for the lyinest woman we have ever seen you are voting for 4 more yrs of Bush..or MAYBE A 100 YRS...???

    April 11, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  13. Tanya K

    OH, POSH!, POSH!

    Excuses Excuses BLAH, BLAH, BLAH


    April 11, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  14. Dan , TX

    there is no limit to financing. Even if the candidates take limited taxpayer financed campaign money, outsiders and still campaign without (wink wink) the permission of the candidates. It is unlimited.

    Even if Obama takes "public" funding. His supporters can and will give millions, 10's of millions, 100's of millions of dollars to support his candidacy and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

    I know, I am an Obama supporter and I've given money to his campaign many times. I will also give in the general election, and I also plan to give money to the re-election campaigns of any superdelegate who supported Obama and is going up for re-election this year.

    April 11, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |

    OBAMA 08!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 11, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  16. udamaga

    The public campaign financing system was not creaky. It's the candidates make the public campaign financing system creaky. Mr. Obara, pledges CHANGE to restrict candidates running campaigns only using funds generated from the public campaign financing system.

    April 11, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  17. KOR

    Obama trying to spin out of his public financing pledge now that the money is pouring in from his bundlers. This is the biggest Obama scam yet. He says he doesn't take money from PACs, and he doesn't because they are limited in what they can give. Instead he has bundlers, like the CEO of an oil company, get their employees and families to write checks to Obama and then bundle them together for a donation. Please don't just believe me. Check the video and article on factcheck.org or read about it in the Wash. Post today.

    The whole point of not taking money from special interest groups is to not be beholden to these groups. Using bundlers doesn't eliminate that–it just allows you to raise more. He is the ultimate con man. Hillary Clinton raises 1% of her money from PACs (opensecrets.org) and doesn't run ads that lie about where she gets her money from.

    April 11, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  18. Hillary 08

    Money can't and Will not buy VOTES! WE don't want him for President AnyWay!!!!!!

    April 11, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  19. Phong Nguyen

    S. Obama has raised a lot more money than any other candidate! As long as no laws are broken, enjoy it while it lasts!!!

    April 11, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  20. The only thing creaky

    Is Obama. He knows nothing, will do nothing and is in the back pocket of Lobbyists – he is a total fraud.

    Wake up America!!

    April 11, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  21. Karen

    Here's what Obama said about Penn while dining with his fat cats in San Francisco.....

    [You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them...And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

    And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.]

    Could CNN's candidate get any more arrogant and condescending? No. ugh.

    April 11, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  22. Dylan

    Hillary supporters scare me.

    April 11, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  23. James, SC

    Slow down with the persecution! Let him become the Democratic Party candidate first, and then hammer him if he changes his position.

    April 11, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  24. Steve

    Still a supporter of Obama? Live in a small town that has lost some of its luster? Here's a quote from Obama you probably won't see this internet site report- From San Fransisco on Sunday:

    "You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replacing them... And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has siad that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.
    And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

    Yeah, Obama, that ought to get the small town votes!

    April 11, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  25. Mark in Nashville

    Man, people are making some of the strangest presumptions trying to confuse the issue for everyone else. I mean, what is the "Bush/Clinton" combo legacy thing about? Bill's policies gave me 8 years of prosperity, Bush's policies gave me 8 years of destitution. I don't see the link. Now I'm hearing a vote for Hillary is a vote for the Republicans and now even a vote for Obama is a vote for the Republicans. Does that mean a vote for McCain is a vote for the Democrats? I don't think so. Sounds like Republicans win no matter what. Well, it's not gonna work this time liars and confusers. NO MORE LYING REPUBLICANS in the white house. That party just needs to dissolve itself in moral shame and let something decent form in its place.

    April 11, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
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