Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama announced Thursday that he will opt out of public financing for his general election run against GOP Sen. John McCain — a move expected to give the Illinois senator more leeway to raise funds privately.
Obama will become the first general election candidate to opt out of the public financing since the system was established some 30 years ago.
During the Democratic primary, Obama smashed records for fundraising, which largely hinged on the success he achieved in raising money over the Internet. The candidate has taken in an estimated $265 million so far.
“We’ve made the decision not to participate in the public financing system for the general election,” Obama said in a video statement e-mailed to reporters.
“It’s not an easy decision especially because I support a robust system of public financing of presidential elections,” Obama said in the video. “But the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken.”
The move means Obama will forgo more than $84 million that would have been available to him in the general election. His camp said they made the decision to take the private financing route because McCain is already spending privately raised funds toward the general election campaign.
In his statement, Obama also claimed McCain is relying on special interest funds to finance his bid.
“John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs,” the Illinois senator said.
Both McCain — a long time proponent of campaign finance reform — and Obama are vying to carry the message that their campaigns won’t be run and bankrolled by special interest groups and lobbyists.
“We’ve already seen that he’s not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations,” Obama said.
Obama campaign lawyer Robert Bauer said he had met with McCain lawyers to discuss terms for how the campaigns might operate in the public financing system, but he said they could not agree on how to limit spending by the campaigns and outside groups heading into party conventions, the Associated Press reported.
McCain, who has said he will take public funds if his opponent does, released a statement lashing back at Obama for the decision.
“Today, Barack Obama has revealed himself to be just another typical politician who will do and say whatever is most expedient for Barack Obama,” McCain said in his statement, adding Obama’s “reversal of his promise to participate in the public finance system undermines his call for a new type of politics.”
The Arizona Senator’s statement refers to Obama’s 2007 promise that he would consider accepting public funding if his opponent did the same. “He argued that if both the Republican and Democratic nominee would opt to receive public funding, the system could be preserved,” CBS News reported.