Edwards takes courageous step by choosing public funds

Growing number of candidates support changing the way America finances campaigns

Presidential candidate John Edwards announced his intention to accept public funding and spending limits for his campaign in the primary race, and pledged to take public funds in the general election if his opponent does the same, making him the first top-tier candidate to swear off the fundraising arms race for the presidential primary.

“This is a courageous move,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “Edwards has indicated that he knows Presidential campaigns should not be all about the money. Even though the presidential public financing system in its current form is outdated and needs to be upgraded to reflect the timing and cost of competitive campaigns, an increasing number of candidates are embracing public financing.” Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama have pledged to take public financing in the general election if their opponent agrees to do the same.

Common Cause is supporting legislation in both the House and Senate to fix the presidential public financing system for the 2012 elections.

“With campaign costs skyrocketing, wealthy campaign contributors and special interest groups wielding undue power in Washington, and regular voters continuing to feel alienated from our election process, we need to change the way we finance our campaigns across this country,” Edgar added.

Public financing of campaigns has gained traction in recent years. Six states-Maine, Arizona, Connecticut, New Mexico, North Carolina, and New Jersey-have enacted “Clean Elections”-style public financing systems, in which qualified candidates who agree to spending limits and to stop accepting further private contributions receive ample public funding to run their campaigns. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) used these systems as a model for the recently introduced Fair Elections Now Act in the U.S. Senate. Meanwhile, a 2006 poll showed that voters support such public financing systems by a three-to-one margin.

In August, Common Cause launched an effort starting in Iowa-along with former Congressmen Jim Leach (R-IA) and Berkley Bedell (D-IA)-to pressure candidates to make public funding of congressional campaigns one of their priorities if elected President.

Edwards, Obama, Joe Biden, Christopher Dodd, Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel and Bill Richardson have said that they’ll support public financing of congressional campaigns if elected President.