Obama opts out of campaign finance system

ByABC News
June 19, 2008, 4:37 PM

WASHINGTON -- Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama will opt out of the presidential public financing system in the general election, he announced Thursday, setting aside an earlier promise to take public money if his Republican rival did the same.

Obama, who has shattered fundraising records in his White House bid, is walking away from $84.1 million in public money. He is the first presidential nominee to opt out of the public financing system since it was established in 1976.

"It was not an easy decision, especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections," the Illinois senator said in a video statement released on his campaign's website. "But the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who have become masters at gaming this broken system."

Obama lawyer Robert Bauer said he had sought to work out an agreement with the campaign of Arizona Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, on public financing for the fall race, but said the two camps could not strike a deal. "It wasn't clear what there was to discuss," he said.

"Opting into the system is simply not viable," Bauer said.

McCain's campaign and supporters wasted no time in criticizing Obama's 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 spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said in a statement.

"The true test of a candidate for president is whether he will stand on principle and keep his word to the American people. Barack Obama has failed that test today, and his reversal of his promise to participate in the public finance system undermines his call for a new type of politics," she said.

The public finance system is paid for with the $3 contributions that taxpayers can make to the presidential fund on their tax returns.

Obama has more than doubled McCain's fundraising in this campaign season, raising more than $265 million as of April 30 while McCain had raised nearly $115 million by May 31, according to the Associated Press.