Obama to Seek FEC Ruling on Financing

By Chris Cillizza and Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 8, 2007

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) signaled yesterday that he will begin raising money for a potential general election candidacy, joining Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) in rejecting the public financing system that has governed presidential elections for better than three decades.

Even as Obama starts to collect donations for a general election account, he has asked for guidance from the Federal Election Commission on whether he could reverse course if he wins the Democratic nomination and his Republican opponent accepts public money.

Dan Pfeiffer, a spokesman for Obama, said the senator's filing is intended to "preserve the public financing option for the party's nominees." Other aides explained that the request is aimed at defining what Obama can and cannot do in a murky area of campaign finance law.

Until now, candidates have accepted that once they start to raise a separate pool of money for the general election, they have committed to running without federal matching funds. Obama's filing questions that assumption.

Federal rules state that once a candidate "accepts" donations for a general election run, he can no longer accept federal money. Obama asked the FEC to determine whether he could "receive" contributions, but later, if he were to decide to take public funds, simply return the money.

The leading Republican candidates -- Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani -- have not said whether they will take public funds. But it is unlikely they would agree to limit their spending if the Democratic nominee is unwilling to do so.

Obama's campaign requested that the FEC rule within 20 days.

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