Barack Obama's decision to eschew public financing for his presidential campaign caused an effete panic among Times' editorialists, who sound the alarm in Friday's lead editorial, "Public Funding on the Ropes." While relayinga seeminglymandatory "on the other hand" defense of Obama's action, the Times managed to mislead mightily about McCain's position on outside interest groups.
Mr. Obama's power to excite average donations of less than $100 also is admirable, and his concerns about his opponent are understandable. The Republican Party is raising a great deal of money, and shadow groups known as 527s have tens of millions to spend. Mr. McCain knows the power of these groups since they slimed him out of the 2000 Republican primaries. Now that he's the presumptive nominee, however, he is inviting them into the fray on his behalf.
Ed Morrissey at HotAir pointed out that, for good or bad, McCain remains against 527s (the tax-exempt outside organizations nicknamed for the section of the tax code devoted to them, e.g. the Swift Boat Vets). In fact, the editorial's lazy claim aboutMcCain and 527 groups isattacked in the paper's own lead story, "Reversing Stand, Obama Declines Public Financing" by Michael Luo and Jeff Zeleny.
But it is not at all clear at this point in the evolving campaign season that Republicans will have the advantage when it comes to support from independent groups. In fact, the Democrats appear much better poised to benefit from such efforts.
Republican activists have been fretting about the absence so far of any major independent effort, comparable to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which helped undermine Senator John Kerry's campaign in 2004, to boost Senator John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee, who has badly trailed Mr. Obama in raising money.
"As of today, he's looking for ghosts that don't exist," Chris LaCivita, a Republican strategist who helped direct the Swift Boat effort, said of Mr. Obama's rationale for rejecting the financing.
So far, the biggest contribution from a 527 has been on the left, with MoveOn.org teaming up with the union AFSCME to produce a misleading anti-McCain ad.
Meanwhile, Leslie Wayne's story, "Biggest Threat Yet to Already-Troubled Public Campaign Financing System," actually defended Obama's internet fundraising as a boost to the spirit if not the letter of campaign finance reform.
These days the outlet is the Internet, the tool that enabled Mr. Obama to break his promise that he would accept public funds.
But the use of the Internet to raise campaign money at least plays into the spirit of campaign finance reform, some analysts said, and possibly does more to rein in the influence of big donors and special interests than 30 years of restrictions imposed by federal law.
While collecting contributions through the click of a button has contributed to the record-breaking sums of money raised this election - for the Democratic primaries alone, Mr. Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton raised around $500 million - it has also made it easier for average Americans to participate in the financial end of politics.
Reformers have long said the current system forces candidates to spend a disproportionate amount of time raising money and courting the wealthy and others with special interests who can easily raise it.
But by showing that he could raise large sums from small donors - 47 percent of the $263 million Mr. Obama received has come in amounts of $200 or less - Mr. Obama has made the argument that he has achieved online what the public finance system has been unable to do. And he has been freed from the necessity of spending countless hours fund-raising.