Opting In or Out - Black Enterprise

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Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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As the first candidate to achieve a majority of delegates in the Democratic primaries for president and raise unparalleled amounts of money, Sen. Barack Obama–if he secures the Democratic presidential nomination in August–may soon face the question of whether he’ll accept public financing.

Since 1976, Republican and Democratic presidential nominees have accepted public financing for the general election, which comes from the $3 voluntary check-off on federal income tax returns. The money is distributed to party nominees as a federal grant of $20 million plus a cost-of-living adjustment against 1976 costs. The nominees are limited to spending only that money, which this year is set to be about $84.1 million per candidate.

“Since the public funding system has been in place no candidate has rejected public funding for the general election,” says Michael Malbin, founder and the executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute.

In February 2007, soon after he first announced his candidacy, Obama asked the Federal Election Commission if a “presidential candidate may solicit and receive private contributions for the general election while retaining the option of refunding the contributions and receiving public funds for the general election if he receives his party’s nomination.” The FEC said a candidate could take that option. In response to a questionnaire issued by the Midwest Democracy Network in September 2007, Obama indicated that if the Republican nominee accepted public funding, then he also would be willing to do the same. Some saw his actions and statements as evidence of his intent to use public funds.

Since then, Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, committed to accepting public funds for the election and also refunded contributions that had been made to his general election fund in the amount of $3 million. Obama has stated that since he is not the Democratic nominee, it is too soon to commit to public funding.

Although Sen. Hillary Clinton’s fundraising hasn’t matched Obama’s, she has raised more than McCain and more than most other presidential candidates in prior years during the primary. Additionally, she never gave any intentions that she would opt-in. “I think she will definitely opt-out,” says Amy Kauffman, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a nonpartisan public policy organization. “She knows that she would be able to raise far more money on her own and her best chance is always to overcome her opponent with more money.” Nevertheless, her campaign is carrying about $19 million of debt in the primaries.
“It would be unprecedented if one or both of the candidates decided not to take the public grant,” says Kenneth Doyle, senior editor of BNA Money & Politics Report.

If Obama and McCain accept public funding, they won’t be allowed to raise any more money for their campaigns and Obama will also have to refund money he raised for the general election. Both candidates will be able to raise funds for their national parties but they are prohibited from coordinating with those parties on how the money should be spent.

“Barack Obama could probably raise three times the amount

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.


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