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Cashed In? Should Candidates Accept Public Financing?


Barack Obama and John McCain are trading pointed queries over who's spending cash from whom, and it all swirls around the question of accepting public financing.

McCain is urging Obama, the fund-raising powerhouse, to follow through on his promise and accept public campaign matching funds this fall. The funds effectively cap the amount of money a candidate can spend. McCain had already bought into the plan (receiving a $4 million bailout on his faltering campaign last year) and now might be in hot water for exceeding spending limits while still technically in the primary portion of the budgeting.

Public finance reforms aim to give voters more control over government, make politicians accountable to constituents rather than campaign contributors, and provide a level playing field. By combining both an equal amount of dough for candidates, and assuring that a certain amount of donations they do raise are small contributions from a varied audience of voters, the system hopes to give everyone a fair shot at getting elected.

Should Obama keep his promise and accept matching funds, or be the first candidate since 1976 to go private? Do the limits enhance the debate by granting greater accessibility, or limit speech by tying the hands of voters who might want to give more?

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