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The complex and long-running debate on campaign financing in elections was rekindled once again last Monday as Barack Obama disclosed figures showing he had raised a phenomenal $150 million in September alone.

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The complex and long-running debate on campaign financing in elections was rekindled once again last Monday as Barack Obama disclosed figures showing he had raised a phenomenal $150 million in September alone.

Obama refused to undertake the public funding scheme, under which he would have received $84 million paid for by American taxpayers, but would not have been able to raise further funds through donations. As such he has been free so far to raise $605 million in the 2007/8 cycle. This decision has been criticized strongly by the Republicans, whose candidate, John McCain, has undertaken the scheme, and the limitations on fundraising that come with it. The Republicans claim Obama's decision is a U-turn on a pledge he made during the primaries to take the public funding money, as well as being a catalyst for an unequal election campaign.

The latter does indeed seem to be true, as Obama's treasury of wealth allowed him to spend $87.5 milllion last month, more than McCain is entitled to spend in both September and October. The Democratic candidate is sure to outdo this figure in the immediate run-up to the election, especially given his spending on TV advertising. Obama has outspent his opponent by four to one on TV advertising in October, including buying up crucial half-hour prime time slots in the week before Election Day.

While the McCain campaign may complain about the injustice of such an advantage, and its corrupting of the democratic nature of the system, the Obama team point to the sources of its contributions. Donations have been made by over three million Americans, with an average donation of just under $100. This seems to impress a widespread support among ordinary citizens, and an enthusiasm for political participation never before witnessed in the USA.

They also point out that the fundraising programme itself is a result of a nationwide grassroots operation by supporters of all incomes. Indeed while over 60% of Obama donations have been under $200, and as such affordable by the general public, this figure is only 40% for McCain. These factors seem to show that the Obama campaign is in fact the one encouraging active democracy.

However this is misleading. The Federal Election Commission, the body set up to govern the financing of elections in the United States, requires disclosure of the names of all donors of sums over $2000, and from this information can be seen a very different picture. Open Secrets, an independent political research body lists the highest donors to each campaign. Both candidates have received vast sums from big business sources, but the $350,000 that employees of Merrill Lynch, the investment banking firm, donated to McCain is dwarfed by a colossal $750,000 contributed by Goldman Sachs employees to Barack Obama.

Indeed one-third of Obama's contributions have been in sums of over $2000, frequently made at VIP receptions, with six hundred individual donations of over $25,000 in September alone. The Obama team admit that the scale of the contributions raised in September was the product of a huge drive for more cash, which included diverting some of their candidate's energy from debate preparation and other crucial activities to fundraising. This seems to justify McCain's accusation that his opponent is trying to "buy the presidency".

With polls favouring Obama, but still close enough to swing, television and radio advertising are sure to play a crucial role in persuading the final few undecided voters. The Democrat can also, as a result of his cash flow, rely on a far larger staff across the nation than his opponent to register voters and get people out on Election Day. With a record amount of money raised, Obama is able to compete in supposedly safe Republican states where previous Democratic candidates could never afford to invest limited finances.

It may not be the major deciding factor, but the injustice of a campaign financing system, which can give one candidate free rein to raise money at will while simultaneously restricting the other for undertaking an arguably more honest and democratic method of funding, will be much talked about in the weeks and months to come. It has already and will undoubtedly play a part in influencing the result of the Presidential Election come November 4th, and it seems likely John McCain will return to one of his eight homes ruing his public financing pledge.

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3 Comment

jessica Posted on Thursday 22 Oct 2020

i love yooh obama

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jessica chaze Posted on Thursday 22 Oct 2020

you rock mi sockz

Reply

Ari Posted on Thursday 22 Oct 2020

i luv obama i hope u become president

Reply

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