Thursday, September 04, 2008

Giuliani and Public Campaign Financing: Conservative Duplicity

I haven't heard or read anyone else comment on this, but one of the things that struck me in Giuliani's speech was his criticism of Obama for backtracking on accepting public (i.e. taxpayer) financing for his Presidential campaign. He used Obama's decision to not dip into the federal treasury to finance his campaign as a sign of Obama's dishonesty because, apparently, Obama promised to force taxpayers to fund his campaign. Tell me if I'm wrong here, but didn't Obama, with this decision not to accept a hefty government handout for nothing more than running an electoral campaign, ultimately save the taxpayer a significant amount of cash? Isn't that kind of fiscal behavior something conservatives generally applaud? Reneging on a promise (and a debatable one at that) to suck money from the U.S. treasury for such things should be the kinds of "changes of heart" that conservatives embrace. Really, it is not unthinkable that conservatives would naturally seek, as a matter of course and if their fiscal principles are to be believed, to eliminate the fiscal abomination of taxpayers being forced to support the electoral campaigns of candidates with whom they might disagree. I am continually baffled by how recklessly and carelessly conservative "principles" get tossed out the window when it is politically convenient to do so.


Eric said...

While I see your point, (and I didn't see Giuliuanni's speech) I do think the hypocrisy cuts both ways. The reasoning (misguided though it is) for publicly funded campaigning is that it keeps special interest money, and therefor special interest influence, at bay. Obama supported this orthodoxy until he became popular enough to command huge campaign contributions from private individuals and organizations. Then he sold out, plain and simple. Not a good sign for his ethical constitution.

And yes, conservatives should respect the fact that he decided to campaign on his own dime, but that does not mean we can't question his motives.

Huck said...

Eric - The motivation to accept or not to accept public financing is politically motivated. That's to be expected. Given that, I think it is disingenuous to imply that somehow Obama's ethics are in question by refusing to accept public financing and McCain's ethics are solid by accepting public financing. McCain has the opportunity to do likewise. He accepted public financing because he needed the promise of that infusion of cash as collateral to be able to fund his campaign in the earlier stages when his fundraising was in dire straights. So, because McCain chose to tie his own hands in this way, he wanted to tie Obama's hands as well. In the end, Obama's decision surely was politically motivated. It benefits him not to be constrained by the conditions that come with accepting public financing. But in terms of whether the taxpayer should be financing campaigns, it is the right decision. The fact that it gives Obama an advantage in the campaign does nothing to diminish that point. And I am convinced that McCain would have likewise abandoned public financing had he been able to do so.