Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Obama told Tim Russert at Feb. 27 debate he would "sit down with John McCain" to discuss public financing. Obama never did before opting out of system.


WASHINGTON-The legacy of the sharp questioning of Tim Russert, who died Friday, is clear in this exchange he had in a Feb. 27 Democratic primary debate where as moderator, Russert challenged now presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) about the pledge he made to opt for public financing. On Thursday, Obama announced he will not take public financing. "You may break your word," Russert asked. Obama replied, , "What I've said is, at the point where I'm the nominee, at the point where it's appropriate, I will sit down with John McCain and make sure that we have a system that works for everybody."

The entire exchange:

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?

OBAMA: Tim, I am not yet the nominee. And what I have said is, when I am the nominee, if I am the nominee -- because we've still got a bunch of contests left, and Senator Clinton is 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 of 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 was a multi-million- 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 that works.

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

OBAMA: What I've said is, at the point where I'm the nominee, at the point where it's appropriate, I will sit down with John McCain and make sure that we have a system that woks for everybody.



I do not think that McCain can be compared to Alan Keyes. but Obama sure has been lucky of late in the type of opponents he has had to run against.

Obama might be held accountable by his followers if he ever commits a capital offense.

Ms. Sweetie,

Check your sources. The BHO campaign did meet with the McCain camp:
Per Jack Tapper:
"The Obama campaign disputes this. Obama campaign counsel Bob Bauer met with McCain campaign counsel Trevor Potter and, according to Obama spox Bill Burton, Potter "immediately made it clear there was no basis for further discussion," that they weren't interested in any sort of agreement. "McCain and the RNC had spent months raising and spending money for the general election, and their basic attitude was 'You'll catch up,'" Burton says, suggesting that the Republicans were also turning a blind eye to the activities of 527s."

Bauer made that comment above in response to a question I asked at a reporter breakfast this morning attended by about 54 journalists. Asked by another reporter if Obama talked to McCain before deciding, we were told no.

Obama and McCain did meet face to face and have a conversation just this week and prior to this announcement at Russert's funeral. You make an assumption that they did not talk about this, but you have no information to support you contention that they did not nor have not.

Why is it OK for McCain to FLIP FLOP anytime he wants, I mean real FLIP FLOPS and you people in the Press give him a Pass.

The same old American Way, the Person of Color has to be 200% better.

Obama rightly so, know that the Republicans with the help from CNN, their FOX NETWORK, HANNITY, RILEY, DICK MORRIS, NEWT, KARL ROVE AND THE BUSH MACHINE

will use any money, lies, smears and anything to destroy this Man, because they do not want a Person of Color as President.

Pure and Simple and Obama was smart to keep his money to fight the SMEARS the Republicans are going to throw at him and his Wife.


Obama lies once his own words........
"In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election. My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election….Senator John McCain..has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.”

He is the first Presidential candidate since Watergate reforms to break the rules. It proves what kind of change Obama is for......Here is what Public Citizen said about him.


Obama’s Broken Promise on Public Funding of Elections Is Disappointment; Candidate Must
Champion Fixing Public Funding System

Public Citizen is deeply disappointed by presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama’s decision this morning to opt out of the presidential public financing system for the general election. This decision would make Sen. Obama the first presidential candidate since the Watergate reforms to refuse public financing in the general election and fund his presidential bid instead with private money, which often comes with expectations of special access or favors. Sen. Obama has made this choice even though the presumptive Republican candidate, Sen. John McCain, said he would participate in the public funding system if his opponent did.

The benefits of reducing the role of special interests in selecting our lawmakers can be huge. Public financing of federal campaigns is at a critical crossroads this year. Important legislation to strengthen the presidential public financing system and to establish full public financing of congressional elections is now pending in Congress. Lawmakers are waiting to assess the fall-out of the November elections before acting.

Obama has been a champion of ethics reforms and campaign finance reform, including public funding of elections. If he is elected president, the nation will need his continuing leadership on these issues. To advance these efforts, his own campaign should be a model.

Now that he has decided to opt out of public funding, it will be more difficult for him to show that he has not abandoned the concept and will champion clean elections and ensure that Congress passes much-needed reforms immediately.

The presidential public financing system falls woefully short in providing sufficient funds in the primary election, which is why the fix-it legislation is need. But the system provides a hefty $84.1 million grant to each of the general election nominees for the two-month-long general election campaign * plenty of money to run successfully, as three decades’ worth of elections have shown.

This presidential election is going to set all-time records for spending. Public Citizen can only hope that, despite Sen. Obama’s decision, he will remain disgusted with private interests buying our White House and that after the campaign, he will lead the charge for a system that removes special interest money from politics.

Why expect change in the future when he doesn't keep his promises

See what Mcain said in I believe in '04.. He was for it then.. what changed. Or I forgot he is going to be outspent. Give me a break.

""I think it's wonderful that Howard Dean was able to use the Internet, $50, $75, $100 contributions. That's what we want it to be all about. We want average citizens to contribute small amounts of money, and that's a commitment to a campaign. So I'm for that. I think it's a great thing. I think the Internet is going to change American politics for the better." - Senator John McCain

Ahhhh, yes, the same old American way. Perhaps Patricia can make a list for me of ALL the other countries, which are majority white, who have elected a "Person of Color" to lead their country.

Or how about a country whose majority has a darker skin tone that has voted for a white person to lead them?

It's not the American Way, it is the human way. Remnants of our tribal past which we have yet to fully evolve from.

Maybe you should be proud that we are very near to doing exactly that, instead of worrying what the world thinks of us.

Besides, I know how the world thinks of us, because I believe actions over words, and we have more immigration yearly than every country in the world combined.
I am eagerly awaiting that list.

Lynn - Thanks for being one of the few objective reporters to cover the primary campaign between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

So much of the press and broadcast media were clearly biased against Hillary Clinton. I have never seen a candidate treated so poorly. The coverage in the Chicago Sun Times was appaling.

But, as always, she rose to the occasion and cracked the highest glass ceiling. Hillary Clinton got 18 million votes so she either slightly beat (if FL/ MI are included) or fell very slightly behind Obama.

She worked harder and knew more than any candidate of either party.

And it's a much less exciting race without her!

While the press corps and Clinton-haters were railing against Senator Clinton's trustworthiness and motivations, no one was fact-checking the veracity of Senator Obama's ability to transcend the current political culture in Washington.

Jim Johnson was named to head up the VP search committee in early May, Senator Obama pointed out Senator Clinton's status as a member of Wal Mart's board in the mid-80s, and yet now one of his major economic advisors is believes that Wal Mart is merely a scapegoat for America's protectionist tendencies.

And where did that Rezko and friends donation money to the Obama campaign go? ...David Axlerod's wife's charity...

I'll vote for Obama this November because of the Supreme Court but not because I buy into the rainbows and sunshine campaign message.

It's not about his color--it's about his POLITICS. They did the same dang thing to clinton, gore, kerry and all the other dem politicians before him.

Standby to receive Slick Willy part two. One thing Obama has demonstrated throughout his campaigns is that he is able to talk around any issue. I like him but I'm frustrated that even when he does make mistakes, he is not held accountable for them. It feels unfair and dangerous to me. Some criticism is good it keeps people of great power honest. I feel more comfortable voting for McCain even though I don't really like either candidate.

Obama supporters consistently put on blinders to the fact that he is a hypocrite just like all other politicians.


in regards to "no one wants a man of color" sorry but not all people are "guilty" or hypocrites because we won't vote Obama...he is the greatest of two evils with his playing the race
card from day one "you don't know how hard it is for a black man
to flag a taxi" ...I still get my hair-cut on south-side of Chicago"..I still play b-ball in the "hood"...Why Barrack being a "black" man can get shot at the gas station" now trying to say Republicans will try to scare you "he's got a funny name and did I mention he's black?' Obama is the one that has been race-baiting all along.and with some-one calling Ms.Michelle "Obama's baby mama"how is it she can call Barrack "my baby's daddy" when introducing him when he first became Senator.somehere here in a paper a ms.joan walsh had said it was a clueless and racist remark so does that mean Ms.Obama is clueless but "chic" in talking "ghetto?" get real and over the hypocrsy!!! the georgr sorro's know they can control Obama more w/o public $$$ and don't
forget Zbrenski with his Trilaterial commission...(new word order?????)

Mrs. Lynn Sweet:

I have a couple questions if you don't mind:

In Baur's no response, was he speaking in terms of each camp was he referring to McCain and Obama speaking personally on the matter?

Second question is, was this before or after Baur spoke on how he'd negotiated with the McCain camp?

I find it hard to believe anyone is making a big stink about this? After reading this statement from McCain,

"I think it's wonderful that Howard Dean was able to use the Internet, $50, $75, $100 contributions. That's what we want it to be all about. We want average citizens to contribute small amounts of money, and that's a commitment to a campaign. So I'm for that. I think it's a great thing. I think the Internet is going to change American politics for the better." - Senator John McCain

...I go on to think that everyone ignores this basic principal. You want people to decide to give money to someone in the amount they want within a certain criteria. I donated $20 to Barack Obama sometime in February and another $15 a few days ago to help fight the smears that are blatantly lies being circulated through southwest pennsylvania and southern Ohio, my native "area".

I find nothing wrong with Obama's decision, if anything, I think McCain can just eat his words. A government of the people, by the people, for the people, thats what its about!

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on June 19, 2008 8:45 AM.

Obama will not take public campaign financing for general election; once said wanted to negotiate a deal with GOP nominee. Gibbs: It was "an option." was the previous entry in this blog.

McCain campaign says Obama opting out of public financng shows he is "just another typical politician." is the next entry in this blog.

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