Saturday, January 20, 2007

Campaign financing changing again

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

I wrote way back in April:

I think public funding for the general election is going to be declined by both major candidates in 2008. And once that happens, the money gates will be wide open. (And future convention dates won't have to be driven by financial considerations).
And it looks like that's the direction things are heading. From today's Hotline on Call:
Clinton becomes the first candidate to officially acknowledge that she won't accept federal matching funds for either the primary and the general election.
In our convention focused world, I've always kept on eye on the financing situation, because it has driven convention dates and strategy for the last 12 years, and it's changing again.

To review,
it used to be there were advantages in having an earlier convention due to money. For a candidate taking public money for the primaries and the general election, they wouldn't get the general election money until after the convention. For example, Bob Dole in 1996 had a huge money problem in May and June. He was broke, and could do little advertising until he received his general election money in early August. Having an early convention was critical to a candidate low on funds.

But 8 years later, much had changed. Both Bush and Kerry opted out of public financing of their primary campaigns, and could therefore spend unlimited money until they had their convention. So the later the convention, the less time the General Election public money had to cover. This is why the Kerry campaign was looking at ways of potentially delaying the official acceptance of the nomination, so they could continue to use their unlimited primary money.

Kerry made this statement about his biggest mistake in 2004:
"I think the biggest mistake was probably not going outside the federal financing so we could have controlled our own message," the Massachusetts senator said on NBC's "Meet the Press." The Kerry campaign opted to accept federal money and federal spending limits and other rules after he won the Democratic nomination. The nominating convention in Boston occurred more than a month before the GOP renominated Bush, forcing Kerry to begin spending under federal rules much earlier than Bush.

"We had a 13-week general election, they had an eight-week general election. We had the same pot of money. We had to harbor our resources in a different way and we didn't have the same freedom," Kerry said. "I think the most important thing would have been to spend more money, if we could have, on the advertising and responding to some of the attacks," he said.

Now, with the conventions back-to-back, neither candidate would have the advantage Bush had in 2004. But if Clinton plans on not using matching funds in the General election, then it's likely all the other major candidates will do the same. And it doesn't matter if Clinton doesn't get the nomination. Candidates will make the decision now, so they can hit their contributors for the double contribution now, and have the money in the bank before the General election starts. And getting back to our convention focus, what does this mean for future convention dates? I have no clue. We'll just have to see how 2008 plays out first.