On Sunday, Mitt Romney told reporters on his campaign plane that while he wishes he could spend more time in swing states, he has had to focus on fundraising because President Obama has raised so much money. Though Romney has consistently opted-out of the obsolete presidential public financing — and his own vice presidential nominee repeatedly voted to kill it — he blamed Obama’s unwillingness to abide by its limits.
ROMNEY: I’d far rather be spending my time out in the key swing states campaigning, door-to-door if necessary, but at rallies and various meetings. But fundraising is a part of politics when your opponent decides not to live by the federal spending limits.
In a January Republican primary debate, Romney called for repeal of all campaign limits, saying “Wouldn’t it be nice if people could give what they’d like to to campaigns and campaigns could run their own ads and take responsibility for them?”
The federal public financing system for presidential elections was enacted in the 1970s and provided matching funds for primary candidates and a grant for general election candidates — as long as their campaigns agreed to live by strict spending limits. The grant for the general election would be about $91 million for 2012 — well below what it would cost to keep up with outside super PACs and 501(c)(4) groups are spending on the race in the post-Citizens United era.
Only candidates who “opt-in” to the public grant are required to adhere to limits, making Romney’s claim misleading. Like President Obama, Romney opted-out of accepting the limits for both his 2008 and 2012 primary campaigns and for the general election. 2008 Republican nominee John McCain said in 2009 that the public financing system was “dead,” noting that “no Republican in his or her right mind is going to agree to public financing.” 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry encouraged Obama to opt-out of the system to avoid his own fate.
Why is the limit so low? While the original amount was indexed to the cost-of-living, it was not indexed to the cost of running a presidential campaign. Efforts by campaign finance reform advocates to modernize the system have been blocked and House Republicans have even voted to kill the system entirely. In 2011, Paul Ryan voted for both the “Repeals Taxpayer Financing of Presidential Election Campaigns” and the “Abolishing Federal Financing of Presidential Election Campaigns” bills.
A recent National Journal analysis noted Romney has relied much more of large-dollar donors than the Obama campaign — and a significant number of Romney’s donors have already donated the legal limit.
In the past week, Romney was scheduled to attend at least seven fundraising events in California, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Utah. Over the same period, he reportedly appeared at just nine rallies and events — as well as a televised forum.