Level the Presidential Playing Field (
I’ve never liked the campaign finance system (see here, here, here and here) and the more candidates that opt out of the system, the better.

Full disclosure of donors and identification of ad sponsors is all that’s needed.

Within the next few weeks, two of the Democratic White House hopefuls will decide whether to join President Bush in rejecting public financing of their pre-convention campaigns, using private funds to pay for the primaries. By declining the taxpayer-supplied matching funds their less affluent rivals plan to accept, former Vermont governor Howard Dean, who has set the Democratic pace in contributions, and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who has family wealth available to him, can sidestep the spending limits the other seven will have to observe.

Dean and Kerry will calculate whatever gives them the best chance at the nomination. It is unfair to ask them to consider the larger implications of their action for the campaign finance system, especially when Bush is, for the second time, breaking all records for tapping the wallets of his supporters.

Already the system of partial public financing of the presidential race is in shaky condition. In 1996, Steve Forbes used his private wealth to become the first major-party contender to step outside the system. And in 2000, when Forbes did the same thing, Bush trumped him, becoming the first privately financed candidate to win a major party nomination. If leading Democrats now follow suit, it will clearly signal that the nearly 30-year-old experiment in partial public financing is on its last legs.

A report released late last month by the private Campaign Finance Institute, a Washington nonprofit, offers strong evidence that — whatever Dean and Kerry decide to do — time has caught up to the system that was created in 1974 and used for the first time in 1976.

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