In 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush declined public funding -- and its accompanying restrictions on raising and spending money -- for the primaries, as did Howard Dean and John Kerry in 2004. In 2004, candidates accepting taxpayer funding were restricted to spending $45 million before the conventions. Bush and Kerry raised $269.6 million and $234.6 million respectively before the conventions. Any candidate who accepts public funding in the 2008 primaries will be considered second-tier. And, almost certainly, neither party's nominee will accept public funding for the fall campaign.The problem with public funding of the primaries is that it perpetuates a 1970's era concept of campaigning, where primaries were spread all over the calendar and where spending was smaller and easier to contain in a given geography. Aside from my general dislike of government subsidizing political speech, the matching program tends to prolong the life of candidates with nothing to say and no mechanism for saying nothing.
Sen. Mitch McConnell rightly says taxpayer funding of politics has been the subject of the largest, most sustained and most accurate polling in American history. The polling occurs every year when 90 percent of taxpayers refuse to participate. Could it be that Americans recoil from funding political advocacy with which they disagree -- Republicans funding Democrats, Democrats funding Republicans, everyone funding fringe candidates such as the felon Lyndon LaRouche, who got infusions of taxpayers' money for a campaign he ran while in jail for fraud and conspiracy?Indeed.