Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Did McCain break the law?

You know, last night at the Question-And-Answer Session (let's face it, these things aren't "debates" in any real sense of the word), Charlie Brown Russert "challenged" Obama on taking public financing, and demonstrated that he didn't listen to the answer when asking a followup question:

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Obama, let me ask you about motivating, inspiring, keeping your word. Nothing more important. Last year you said if you were the nominee you would opt for public financing in the general election of the campaign; try to get some of the money out. You checked "Yes" on a questionnaire. And now Senator McCain has said, calling your bluff, let's do it. You seem to be waffling, saying, well, if we can work on an arrangement here.

Why won't you keep your word in writing that you made to abide by public financing of the fall election?

SEN. OBAMA: Tim, I am not yet the nominee. Now, what I've said is, is that when I am the nominee, if I am the nominee -- because we've still got a bunch of contests left and Senator Clinton's a pretty tough opponent. If I am the nominee, then I will sit down with John McCain and make sure that we have a system that is fair for both sides, because Tim, as you know, there are all sorts of ways of getting around these loopholes.

Senator McCain is trying to explain some of the things that he has done so far where he accepted public financing money, but people aren't exactly clear whether all the T's were crossed and the I's were dotted.

Now what I want to point out, though, more broadly is how we have approached this campaign. I said very early on I would not take PAC money. I would not take money from federal-registered lobbyists. That -- that was a multimillion-dollar decision but it was the right thing to do and the reason we were able to do that was because I had confidence that the American people, if they were motivated, would in fact finance the campaign.

We have now raised 90 percent of our donations from small donors, $25, $50. We average -- our average donation is $109 so we have built the kind of organization that is funded by the American people that is exactly the goal and the aim of everybody who's interested in good government and politics supports.

MR. RUSSERT: So you may opt out of public financing. You may break your word.

Don't let the facts get in your way, Tim.

But what I find astonishing is that there was no mention in this exchange of St. McCain being under FEC investigation for screwing around with campaign financing, and Russert seems totally oblivious of that fact. And Obama didn't take the opportunity to dump all over the "reformer" who is possibly in big ethical trouble.

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