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In a Strategic Shift, Obama Opts to Forgo Public Financing

Sen. Barack Obama said Thursday he will opt out of public financing during the general election. A legal expert and a political reporter examine how the move will impact the race and Sen. John McCain's funding options.

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    In the video message e-mailed to his supporters this morning, Barack Obama said he would opt out of the federally funded presidential campaign finance system for the fall general election, becoming the first major party candidate to do so since Congress passed post-Watergate reforms in the 1970s.

    Obama will forgo the $84 million that the system would have given him after the August convention, choosing instead to raise his own funds, with no limits on the amount he can spend on the campaign.


    This is not an easy decision, and especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections. But the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who've become masters at gaming this broken system.


    Referring specifically to John McCain's campaign, he said…


    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 has raised $265 million to date, from more than 1.5 million donors, mostly through an unprecedented Internet fundraising apparatus. Of that money, just $10 million is earmarked for the general election.

    In the past, Obama has suggested he would stay within the system and its spending limits so long as his opponent agreed to do the same. In a February 20th USA Today op-ed, he vowed to, quote, "aggressively pursue such an agreement," in which the candidates would "commit to discouraging cheating by their supporters, to refusing fundraising help to outside groups, and to limiting their own parties to legal forms of involvement."

    Days later, John McCain seemed in agreement.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: Well, we committed to taking public financing in the general, if Senator Obama does. That was the deal.