Revenue for the Reformer

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As Senators Barack Obama and John McCain head out on the fundraising trail as their parties presumptive nominees for President, the Washington Post wonders how the two, who have each exerted considerable effort to frame themselves as reformers out to change the way campaigns are financed, go about navigating the big money game in their race for the White House.

One way to shore up the change-agent image would be to endorse full public financing of elections for all federal campaigns -- something Obama has done, but McCain has not. What else are they doing?

For McCain (R-Ariz.), that meant opening his fundraising events to reporters and television cameras for the first time, ending what had been a strict closed-door policy when the candidate mingled with donors.

For Obama (D-Ill.), it meant passing up the chance to sock away funds for the general election and continue to collect only half the amount he is legally allowed as he dashes to fundraisers in New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Jacksonville, Fla., in the next two weeks. Aides to Obama said that for now he will continue to forgo the chance to raise $2,300 per donor for the general election on top of the money he is raising for his primary-season account.



Despite all the work to carefully distinguish reformer image from fundraiser reality, neither McCain nor Obama can escape one big loophole: the corporate cash that fuels the massive -- and mostly symbolic -- party nominating conventions this summer. Bloomberg has more:

Convention organizers in Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul, hosting this year's quadrennial gatherings, are seeking donations of as much as $5 million each, part of an effort to raise $100 million between them from private sources.

The corporate cash, from companies such as AT&T Inc. and Visa Inc., may undermine a central focus of the McCain and Obama campaigns.

``The conventions are a place where money and influence can flow,'' said Bob Edgar, a former Democratic U.S. representative from Pennsylvania who now is president of Common Cause, a Washington-based group pushing for tougher ethics rules. Obama and McCain ``have decided out of expediency that they'll be silent on some of these issues until they get elected.''

Conventions, which pack political hacks and party faithful together for a weekend of cocktail-fueled hobnobbing in ballrooms and private suites, are always a good way for private money to reassert its influence in a campaign contribution-limited environment.

McCain continues to take a beating for the many lobbyists that staff, support, and fundraise for his campaign. The remark below appears to be an effort make light of reports on this subject, like the revelation that lobbyists that work or have worked for his campaign have also lobbied on behalf of the leaders of oppressive regimes througout Africa, as well as Myanmar.


McCain was certainly on the job bringing in cash. One event included tickets to a “victory dinner” and two receptions for a contribution — raised or donated — of $50,000. Whew.

And even those lobbyists out there got a thank-you.

“I’m going to thank some corrupt unscrupulous lobbyists that are destroying America as we speak, everything we stand for and believe in,” McCain joked at one fundraiser.

"Joked," eh? I think McCain might want to look up the definition of "irony" - and in the meantime, leave campaign finance jokes to the professionals.