I agree with Barack Obama’s rejection of public financing in his presidential race because he is right that the ecosystem of campaign finance remains warped and that one side running tied by the rules of public finance and the other side essentially not would produce a disputed, potentially unfair outcome.
But I also like John McCain’s efforts in the past to restore and reform the public responsibilities of broadcasters. The spectrum allocations that they were granted include a public interest responsibility — and in my view, a managed and fair provision of free or low cost political ad space should be part of the social contract between broadcasters and the public they should be serving.
Cutting out the huge costs — or a significant portion of them — for on-air advertising decreases the need for huge sums of ad-directed money and could decrease the corruption so evident in the campaign finance system.
I realize myself that there is probably a lot of naivety in my take on all of this. Campaign finance interests me — but it’s something I haven’t drilled into deeply. We aren’t going to get broadcasters to reform their political ad rates without some kind of compulsory legislation — which will be fought over for years, but I think it’s useful some time to acknowledge that things as they are today don’t need to always be.
But bottom line — Obama made the right choice.
— Steve Clemons