Vantage point

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Irony of the Public Financing Controversy

After months of widespread understanding that he will do so, Barack Obama finally announced that he would be foregoing the public financing of his campaign. Which means that he has opted out of using taxpayer money to fund his campaign. McCain, on the other hand has announced that he will be taking public money. This means there is a cap on the money McCain can raise and spend whereas there is no such limit on Obama.

Now of course, McCain and other Republicans and conservatives are attacking Obama, because he had first promised he would opt for public financing. And now he has gone back on its word. The Obama camp is offering a variety of reasons for doing so, with the main one being that independent groups spend a lot of money during campaigns anyway, so the caps are meaningless. But the Obama camp is at fault here, and is rightly playing defense, hoping that the story will blow over in a few days.

The irony of the situation tickles me. McCain is a conservative. Conservatives are supposed to stand for reduced spending, and leaving taxpayer money alone as far as possible. Although McCain has always supported the public campaign financing system, other conservative politicians and pundits have spoken against it. They dislike what they see as a waste of taxpayer money, and in case of restrictions on private donations, they think of it as a violation of first amendment rights.

But, a conservative is opting for a taxpayer-funded campaign, and the other conservatives are supporting him.

Obama is a liberal. Liberals are all in favour of spending taxpayer money for reasons they see right. In the case of campaign financing, they view private donations as playing in a role in big bad corporations and special interests dictating the Washington agenda. So public campaign financing is in line with their ideology.

But a liberal is opting out of a taxpayer-funded campaign, choosing to run his campaign on privately raised money, and the other liberals are supporting him.

What next? Conservatives arguing for curbing gun owner rights, and liberals arguing for expanding them?