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Suspect #1: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) - He recently called for the abolishment of the presidential public funding system. His defense is that presidential candidates are choosing not to opt-in and that the public doesn't want to pay for it. McConnell says fewer people are checking a box on the federal tax forms to give $3 to program. Is it true that the public doesn't want to pay for this? A poll from last summer showed that 74% percent of the public supports publicly funded elections. They believe the cost of running for office is out of control and would rather it be paid for by the public than by special interests. Also, many states and municipalities have passed public funding or “Clean Elections.”
Suspect #2: The Presidential Candidates - Current candidates have all decided to fund their campaigns from private sources. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) is asking her biggest supporters to fork over $1,000,000. At this rate, the 2008 presidential candidates could be expected to raise more than $500,000,000. With these exorbitant entrance fees for the presidential elections, it is no wonder the public funding system can’t keep up. No one in 1974 ever expected this kind of largess.
On a side note - it is worth mentioning that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has pledged that if he makes it to the general election, he will give back all his privately raised money and use the public system, if (and this is a BIG "if") his opponent does the same. His attempt to rescue the system is honorable, but it may end up a day late and a dollar short.
Suspect #3: The 109th Congress - The presidential public financing system has been in trouble for some time with both Bush and Kerry opting out in their primaries in 2004. Congress should have passed the bills by Reps. Shays and Meehan and by Sen. Feingold and McCain when it had the chance to update the presidential public funding system to make it a viable option for the 2008 slate of candidates. Luckily, bill was re-introduced last month and the 110th Congress can correct a past mistake.
What's the verdict? It may be too late for 2008, but the system can and must be salvaged.