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GOP Pounces On Obama’s Public Financing Decision

Predictably, the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee swiftly denounced Sen. Barack Obama’s decision to be the first presidential candidate to opt out of the general election public financing system since the program began in 1976. In a video on his campaign Website, the presumptive Democratic nominee announced that he would forgo the $80 million in taxpayer funds — and the spending limits that come with it — that he would have been eligible for after the Democratic National Convention in August. Sen. John McCain will accept public financing during the general election. The McCain campaign was quick to pounce. Communications Director Jill Hazelbaker issued this statement, labeling Obama "just another typical politician":

"Today, Barack Obama has revealed himself to be just another typical politician who will do and say whatever is most expedient for Barack Obama.

"The true test of a candidate for President is whether he will stand on principle and keep his word to the American people. Barack Obama has failed that test today, and his reversal of his promise to participate in the public finance system undermines his call for a new type of politics.

"Barack Obama is now the first presidential candidate since Watergate to run a campaign entirely on private funds. This decision will have far-reaching and extraordinary consequences that will weaken and undermine the public financing system."

RNC Chairman Mike Duncan released this statement:

According to The Washington Post, the Obama campaign did not officially agree to accept public funding, but he did propose a plan to the Federal Elections Commission for both nominees to accept public money. In a response to a 2007 questionnaire from the Midwest Democracy Network, Obama wrote:

If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.

The New York Times reported in March that the McCain and Obama campaigns had reached an agreement to accept taxpayer funds.

In the video announcement, Obama pointed to a "broken system" as the reason for his decision:

The decision makes a lot of sense, considering Obama is the most prolific campaign fund-raiser in American history. According to OpenSecrets.org, Obama has raised more than $265 million, dwarfing McCain’s $96 million. By opting out of the public financing system, Obama will be able to greatly outspend McCain. But it’s kind of hard to argue, at least at this point, that Obama will overwhelmingly be the victim of smears from 527s, the tax-exempt political groups that can spend money outside of FEC regulations. The most active 527 thus far has clearly been MoveOn.org, which has already launched an aggressive anti-McCain advertising campaign. No comparable 527 group from the right has yet to emerge during this election cycle. However, now that Obama has freed himself from spending limits, we can expect that to change quickly.

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