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David Donnelly Headshot

$400 million for McCain: Who Broke Public Financing?

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While some have argued, quite convincingly, that this should have been the week to end John McCain's campaign, a little-noticed press briefing Thursday by lobbyist and campaign head Rick Davis is the one silver-lining for the candidate. Davis announced the campaign would have $400 million at its disposal.

To steal a quote from advisor and lobbyist -- and "whiner" -- Phil Gramm, McCain's campaign apparently believes it has "the most reliable friend you can have in American politics, and that's ready money."

Davis's $400 million figure is not far-fetched. Combined with the RNC and state parties, they have $95 million on hand at the beginning of June. The McCain campaign and its joint fundraising committee with the Republican Party have been raising roughly $50 or 60 million per month. Add the $84 million in public funds McCain will receive in September when he accepts the nomination, and they're just about there.

That means McCain's $84 million in public funds is just 21 percent of what his campaign projects it will spend.

If the national media, commentators, editorial writers, and political observers are so concerned about defending a broken public financing system, it's not Barack Obama who ought to be singled out for breaking it. McCain's campaign, in announcing a $400 million campaign, has exposed the absurdity of claims that the current public financing system replaces private money and that candidates who take public money would be removed from the money chase so that they can focus on voters and important issues.

The McCain campaign, despite its intent to take public financing in a few months for the general election, is conducting a high-dollar fundraising event every day of the week, according to Davis. McCain is courting donors who are writing $70,000+ checks to a joint fundraising account. If you can write a $70,000 check in this economy, you're not whining.

The presidential public financing system is broken. It's not Obama's fault. Nor is it McCain's fault. The blame rests at the doorstep of the Congress and the current President for not fixing it before this election cycle. Let's not let the next Congress and the next President make the same mistake.

If there's one thing that's important to evaluate Obama and McCain on regarding public financing, it's whether they will pledge to pass an overhaul of the current system and whether they'd work to establish public financing for congressional races. Obama has said he would, and has cosponsored bipartisan legislation to do so.

McCain has refused.