June 19th, 2008
02:57 PM ET

Check please!

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/19/art.obamaflag.jpg]
Candy Crowley BIO
Senior Political Correspondent

You know on the income tax form, there’s that box you check if you want to put three dollars in a kitty to fund political campaigns? I’m not taking names here. I know you don’t pony up. Most people don’t.

Barack Obama doesn’t want your money anyway - at least not funneled through the US Treasury. He’s opting out.

Cutting to the bottom line, he raised more than $272 million in the primary season. (Notice how much smaller that sounds than what it really is? Over a quarter a BILLION dollars.) You can only spend 85 million if you take federal money in the general campaign. This must have been a nanosecond decision-making process.

Other bottom line: John McCain raised less than 99 million in the primary season. Calculator please.

WAIT WAIT WAIT. Do not surf away. I can make this interesting, or at least short.

There’s history here. Obama has raised so much money, he will be the first presidential nominee in a general campaign to refuse federal funding from a post-Watergate system designed to try to take the money out of politics.

Feel free to debate the success thereof.

There’s politics here: Before he became this walking, talking cash magnet, Obama gave strong signals he might accept federal funding after discussions with his opponent…(still trying to find out if those meetings ever really took place.)

McCainville –- channeling Hillary Clinton regularly now —- is already hitting Obama for being all about words, saying anything to be President.

Also expect to revisit the “who’s really for change” reformer argument.

Obama camp argues his bid IS campaign reform because he’s raising big money from a lot of people giving small money. Stick with me another graph.

Ergo, no access-buying. People don’t expect 200 dollars will get them a bill passed, a night in the White House, probably not even a thank you note.

So... I’m sitting here watching people in canoes paddling down former streets to see if anything remains of the life they left when the floods came, sobbing seniors who know what they’ve lost, farmers with fields under 2 feet of water and blissfully unaware pigs eating on a rooftop as it floats down river. The mighty Mississippi is beyond rage now, rolling through the Midwest, place of my heart.

I’m thinking if there was a box on the IRS form to put 3 dollars into a fund for people run over by life forces, people would check it.

Filed under: Barack Obama • Candy Crowley • John McCain • Raw Politics • Weather
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Marti Middleton

    Obama can help the democratic party by doing this. He can help Hillary's debt. I think that is admirable.

    June 20, 2008 at 2:32 am |
  2. Rich B - East Tennessee

    John McCain is whin-n-ning again – Actually it was sort of a trap that didn't work -

    Need to follow the flow here - Obama said he'd go with the government handout if the Republican candidate said he was going to go with the handout - Mr. McCain flopped back and forth on the issue (depending on how he was doing with contributions I suppose) and finally wound up saying I don't think so - Well, Obama, since McBush wasn't going to take the taxpayer handout (and the restrictions) didn't feel obligated – So he chose not to as well - and announces same - -
    Then John Boy hears he's not going to take the money sez – (AFTER Obama makes his announcement) - I've changed my mind again and Obama is a rotten flip-flopper because he's not. -

    - Go Figure -

    June 20, 2008 at 12:57 am |
  3. Teresa from Oklahoma

    Candi, I think your great! Love watching you and reading your articles.

    June 20, 2008 at 12:40 am |
  4. Kent Fitzsimmons,Illinois

    You people are so funny...................when I give Obama some money I know I am only gonna get one thing in return................the satisfaction that in a small way, I helped Obama succeed. When he is elected President in November ............I'll be so happy I may even go bowling....................

    June 19, 2008 at 11:56 pm |
  5. Paulette Terrell Fort Worth, Texas

    By all the comments I have read it is true that Americans really don't care about Obama changing his mind. It makes absolutely great since to me that he would turn dowm public finance, when he is raising double that amount. I think that McCain is making an issue because he just out matched when it comes to fund raising and he wants a level playing field.

    June 19, 2008 at 11:48 pm |
  6. Lilibeth

    He has enough money. Simple as that! Yet another attempt by the opposition to badmouth him...

    June 19, 2008 at 11:29 pm |
  7. Minta

    That is what you call being........O-bam-boozeled!

    June 19, 2008 at 10:55 pm |
  8. Ticin from San Diego, CA

    Point one: Yes, if Obama only wants money from supporters of his campaign, so be it. It's his choice. After all, he gets that money anyway. What's $3?

    Point two: If there was a box to donate $3 to a federal emergency fund, who wouldn't check it?

    June 19, 2008 at 10:35 pm |
  9. Jan from Wood Dale IL

    Obama's change of plans couldn't be too surprising since it was announced that he and Hillary are going to meet with her major campaign finance backers next week. My guess is that Obama's political war chest will be used to buy plenty of air-time to get his policy positions across, thus avoiding having to do many town halls or debates with McCain.

    Candy, when you see Obama, remind him that the Celtics spanked the Lakers in the last game of the NBA playoffs. Hopefully his judgement on other choices is better than his college and NBA picks.

    June 19, 2008 at 10:00 pm |
  10. Cynthia

    Hi Candy, hope the wedding plans are coming together for the family.

    Trust me, if Senator McCain had the capacity to raise the kind of money Senator Obama is raising – we all know that he would do the same thing.

    Some of the bloggers say some of the .................................................

    June 19, 2008 at 9:14 pm |
  11. Annie Kate


    That's a really great idea of the box for disaster relief. I'd be all for it as long as the government accounted for the money each year and didn't pay for other things including their salaries with it. I feel for the people in the floods – nature has not been kind this year to them.

    So Obama changed his mind again – with his ability to raise the kind of money he has already raised I'd do the same thing so I could spend more to get votes. The price of votes like everything else has obviously increased

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL.

    June 19, 2008 at 9:14 pm |
  12. Barb, Des Plaines

    Hey Candy, When are you running? I'm ready to pony up the big bucks for your campaign any day.

    Seriously, I do contribute to Obama, and I'm no gazillionaire with ties to anything suspicious. Just an average girl who's "glad as all get out" to contribute to someone intelligent, inspirational, and, apparently, one heck of a great money raiser. Sounds like someone we could all use.

    I am, however, suspicious of a candidate who admits to not being capable of mastering a simple PC. Whad up with that, McCain?

    June 19, 2008 at 8:39 pm |
  13. Klaus from Canada

    Cindy, I love your reports and insight on politics. I've watched you since 2000 when you were covering Bush in his rise to power.

    My only concern is the 527's or other groups which do not cover the actual candidates spending limits. There are factors on both sides, which are influenced heavily by special interest groups. I'm not suggesting that they be muzzled or set up with gag orders prior to an election, but there spending should also be curtailed, to allow the candidates a fair shake in the election process. This is done in Canada with overall success in the Provincial (like a State) and National level. There needs to be accountability to these special interest groups, just like the candidates. Then public funding will be much more attractive to both sides of the aisle.

    June 19, 2008 at 8:25 pm |
  14. Larry

    Does this mean that Obama cannot defeat McCain using the same amount of $$? Is that not the reason why the government funding was all about in the first place?

    As to McCain not having the fund-raising level as Obama then what I'm hearing is that unless you are RICH then the ordinary person cannot grow up to be president.

    I'd still like to see the open books on the contributor's lists; especially to see who can afford to give the maximum of $2300/ month
    and not expect something in return ( can we say 'special interests & lobbyists'? )

    June 19, 2008 at 8:00 pm |
  15. linda

    If all you can do is focus on the fact that a promise was broken, than you should not be in a position to comment on politics. Obama's decision on opting out is a smart one, based on the latest facts that are before him. Accepting money from Americans that donate money to see him get elected is far more honest than accepting the federal funding, plus Republican Party money donated by special interest groups. McCain's way is politics as usual. Obama's way is change you can believe in.

    June 19, 2008 at 7:58 pm |
  16. Sabrina in Los Angeles

    If McCain would bind himself to the 80 Million budget, then Obama would not have an issue with it. They would both have the same to spend to get elected.

    BUT, by having Obama agree to only 80 Million (when he can raise more) and knowing that Mc Cain will spend more than that to get elected – the board is not fair.

    Microsoft isn't better than Mac, it is just better, heavier marketed.
    VHS isn't better than Beta, it is just better, heavier marketed.
    McCain isn't the better the candidate but if Obama is bound to only 80 million, McCain will be the better marketed and the uneducated masses will choose him....that is why he is opting out of that.

    They both have to be bound to the 80 million or neither for it to be fair.

    June 19, 2008 at 7:35 pm |
  17. Lee in CA

    I'm with Kristen on the "box checking" idea – and the lack of trust. And also about the all-too-OBVIOUS decision made by Camp Obama today. Although many will cry "foul". In much harsher language. What they won't admit is that if McCain were anywhere near Obama's fund-raising level, he wouldn't be saying a single word ...

    June 19, 2008 at 7:19 pm |
  18. Robin in FL

    @Suzy – I totally agree with you, Washington is terrible about spending they money the take from you. I prefer to give my money directly to the causes I support, I don't need the government doing it for me.

    June 19, 2008 at 7:19 pm |
  19. Mari, Salt Lake City

    Hi Candy,

    Reading the comments I see that the 'negative-see-evil-everywhere' are alive and well.

    Since when has our FREEDOM to change our minds been taken away?!

    Yeah....... Sen. Obama would rather take $200 from us, than $3 from the government budget which is IN DEBT OVER $10 TRILLION DOLLARS!

    Good grief, I for one am glad that he changed his mind! He has had RECORD setting fundraising, from everyday-people, like my husband and I, and our friends and family. The AVERAGE donation to Sen. Obama is $20.......... hardly $200!

    But...... hey its the political season, all the ugliness we can muster will come out. Personally, I am delighted that Sen. Obama will not be using money that can be used to pay down our national debt (to China & Saudi Arabia) or better still, use that 80 million to help the veterans!

    June 19, 2008 at 6:57 pm |
  20. Larry


    Are the lists of campaign contibutors and how much they donated available to the public?

    June 19, 2008 at 6:43 pm |
  21. Chris - Hemet, Ca.

    Ms. Crowley – I always enjoy your articles, they leave me laughing every time. Can't believe Sen. McCain is trying to say he's the real agent of change! I have much respect for him, he's a true hero and patriot, but his stance on the economy and on Iraq is disturbing. Sometimes I think he's still trying to win the war in Vietnam or win this one to make up for that.Might be a silly question but how can we tell when we've won?

    June 19, 2008 at 6:21 pm |
  22. Jenn/Monrovia, CA

    I'd check that box...my family lives right in the heart of all of this mess in Missouri. And while they've been lucky, many people and places I knew growing up are not, and I would donate $3 for that in a hearbeat.

    Frankly, I can't decide if McCain's camps outrage at what they've suspected from Obama for months isn't a bit of sour grapes on their part. He's hinted for several months now this might be the case, so I wasn't terribly surprised. Frankly, I'm delighted that so many people have supported him. What I'd like to see by way of reform is perhaps statements of just who and where that money came from, (I gave a lowly $25), and make that standard practice for all candidates, so we can see who is taking money from special interests and who is not.

    Not an original idea, I know, but what can I say, it's 3PM on a work day in SoCal, it's hot, and I want to go home.

    June 19, 2008 at 6:10 pm |
  23. Deanna , Canada

    The amounts of money raised and spent in your political campaigns border on obscenity.
    America has truly lost it's moral compass when it comes to politics.

    June 19, 2008 at 5:50 pm |
  24. Tony

    Candy, At the end of the day McCain could still accept public financing of his campaign if he was as honorable as he says. His descision is not dependent on Obama's

    June 19, 2008 at 5:36 pm |
  25. Cecil Jones

    Hello Candy! Why do millionaires need a tin cup for our spare change? People vote with their dollars far more than the actual vote they cast that may or may not ever be counted. Obama is winning this election in a landslide. Wouldn't it be great if McCain decided to give up public funding too and this money was a stimulus check for the "Chronically Unemployed?" It could only be given to people who qualify for the funding because they were injured by the Bush administration or spied on domestically.

    June 19, 2008 at 4:44 pm |
  26. Al

    Maybe the twenty thousand Nation of Muslim members will help him out. A few months ago, Louis Farrakhan had a rally with his Nation of Muslim members in Chicago.

    June 19, 2008 at 4:41 pm |
  27. Al

    Senator Obama has Oprah in his pocket.
    Isn't that enough..

    June 19, 2008 at 4:39 pm |
  28. carmen

    Candy, I suspect McCain feels like he is being "run over by life forces." That nothwithstanding, there should be a box on every form for "whatever amount it takes" to help those truly in need.

    June 19, 2008 at 4:07 pm |
  29. Suzy

    I've never checked the box to contribute to a politician and never will. They get enough money, so I'd like to keep the little I have, thank you very much.

    I would check the box for disaster relief, but, like others, I wouldn't trust that it would actually go towards that. Seems like that kind of donation would be better off given to a private organization, the Red Cross, something like that, than anything gov't related.

    June 19, 2008 at 4:06 pm |
  30. Dee, New York

    That is one box that I would check. No wait, if the feds were going to be the ones to manage or should I say mismanage the money, then no, I would not check that box either. Case in point -the Katrina mess. Let's see, we have toxic trailers, money spent on prostitutes and jewelry, and diapers and other personal products given away to others rather than to those who still really need them. With all the graft, greed and mismanagement of money by the federal government, I will continue to give to private organizations which are responsible and account for how their donations are spent.

    June 19, 2008 at 3:58 pm |
  31. Sharon

    What a brilliant idea!! I would definitely check the box for disaster relief, but not once cent for Caesar and his governmental minions. He'd just waste it anyway and has on TV ads, campaign busses, and flag pins.

    Politicians since the beginning of time have found more and more creative ways to dupe people out of their money for the fulfillment of empty promises. Anyone with even minimal consciousness has to know that the acceptance of government money has more loopholes that my favorite aunt-knitted afghan. From the "loan" of an airplane (be careful here McCain) to the "loan" of copying machines, to the "loan" of a million different paid for expenses, every campaign knows how to milk the system while giving the apparance of propriety.

    Let's call it what it is...politics. A very, very obscene word fraught with many nuances and a myriad of very, very dirty tricks.

    If McCain could raise the kind of money Obama has, the "reform" shoe would have dropped from the "other" campaign. It's true, people contributing $200.00 don't buy access. Perhaps, this is the true grass roots-populist campaign so many of our hearts have been longing for. Or not.

    It is, after all, politics and it's best never, never to expect too much. Power does, after all, corrupt.

    June 19, 2008 at 3:24 pm |
  32. Cindy

    So Obama would rather take $200.00 from people rather than just $3.00 from people!? HMMM...yeah that makes a lot of sense to me!!

    I'm with McCain on this one. I think all elections should be government funded then no special interest groups or what ever can get their hands in the pot so to speak and get paybacks.

    And you can't tell me that out of all of the money that Obama has raised that there aren't people who have given who expect something in return!


    June 19, 2008 at 3:22 pm |
  33. Kristen- Philadelphia, PA

    Hey Candy 🙂

    Obama would have been a fool to accept "public financing" after all the money his campaign has raised. What kind of President would that have made him to completely ignore facts in front of him today because of what he said over a year ago based on facts then.
    McCain is only crying about it because he can't top Obama in fundraising. Hey it’s worth a shot for him I guess but I doubt people will care. I don't. For the first time I have contributed to a politician and it feels great.
    By the way Obama being funded by over 1million Americans is “public financing”.

    I would definitely check the three dollar box for people run over by life forces. Don’t know if I would trust the government to use it correctly though.

    June 19, 2008 at 3:18 pm |