WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Barack Obama told supporters Thursday that he has decided not to accept public financing for his general election campaign.
Obama repeatedly broke campaign fundraising records during the Democratic primary season.
In exchange for taking public funds, candidates usually agree to a cap on the amount of money they can spend on their campaigns.
"It's not an easy decision, and especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections," Obama wrote. "But the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who've become masters at gaming this broken system."
Obama repeatedly broke campaign fundraising records during the Democratic primary season. Since January 2007, he has raised more than $272 million.
Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, raised less than half that amount, roughly $100 million, over the same period.
Obama's advisers argue that the Illinois Democrat has set up a "parallel" public fundraising system by soliciting small donations over the Internet.
Two months ago, McCain criticized Obama for appearing to backtrack from a previous commitment to accept public financing for his presidential campaign.
Steve Schmidt, a senior McCain adviser, called Obama's decision to opt out of public financing "a broken promise of staggering dimensions.""Obama's candidacy is based on words, and it seems like every day that passes, those words look emptier and emptier when judged against his actions," Schmidt said.
So -- what do you make of this?
I think it's amazing, the amount of money raised by all the candidates, but especially Obama. Really, $272 million is just an astounding amount of funds. Add in McCain's $100 million, and you've got enough dough to do something really amazing. It's unfortunate that nothing really beneficial is going to come of it.
In defense of what seems like a paltry sum for McCain, I wonder how much of Obama's funds came from people who donated with Hillary Clinton in mind as the rival, rather than McCain.
Now, onto the public financing aspect ...
It is slightly unnerving that Obama decided not to go the public financing route after having said he would; usually politicians wait until after they are elected to do the opposite of what they said they would do.
What's also alarming is Obama's reasoning:
"The public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who've become masters at gaming this broken system."It's typical political sidestepping -- 'Well, I believe it should be a certain way for other people, but I'm not going to do it that way, because (insert phrase here that explains how it's someone else's shortcomings that are forcing him to make this choice)."
If I understand Obama's point, it's that he's for "change," but he's not willing to take the risks that come with change -- at least not when it has the potential to affect him.
The worst part is that Obama's statement is absolutely meaningless -- even if Republicans have somehow "mastered" cheating at public financing, so what? What does fundraising have to do with his message?
If Obama went to public financing and the GOP cheated and bilked the system for twice as much as Obama, what difference would it make? If the whole point of the election is that Obama has a better "message" than McCain, then it shouldn't matter how many more commercials or T-shirts or buttons McCain can get -- if Obama's got the better message, and if he's going to get as much news coverage as McCain to spread that message to voters, then does it matter how much cash he has to spend?
It boils down to the hypocrisy one expects from a liberal -- "We want change, as long as it doesn't negatively affect us."