Last week Senator Barack Obama announced that he will not take government money to support his presidential campaign. As he put it, the current system of financing drown[s] out the voices of the American people. Obama's choice will allow him to raise and spend as much as he can, letting his supporters be heard loud and clear this fall.
Senator John McCain's campaign, by contrast, likely will remain tethered to the federal campaign finance system. It will be hobbled by the spending limits that are tied to federal money. As McCain's campaign heats up, his supporters will be silenced directly (when the official campaign reaches its spending cap) or indirectly (because independent groups cannot coordinate their spending with the official campaign). The net result will be less robust political debate.
How did we ever come up with the idea that the federal government should be in the business of collecting and distributing money for the purpose of political campaigns, much less coercing candidates into accepting arbitrary limits on their own spending?
Obama's motivations aside, his suggestion that the tens of thousands of people who are voluntarily contributing to his campaign are demonstrating a better model is absolutely correct. People should contribute voluntarily to the candidates they believe in, and those candidates should be free to raise and spend as much money as the market will bear. That is a much superior model to the status quo, wherein the government collects, distributes, and ultimately limits the means of free speech in what is arguably among the most important elections in the world.
Goldwater Institute: Amicus Brief in Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission