The occasion of John Edwards' decision to use public financing for his presidential bid, and the subsequent chin-wagging about what a risk this is, prompts USA Today to express displeasure that the public financing program has fallen behind the times, and to urge the federal government to take a cue from the states and move towards a Clean Elections model for presidential races.
The funding mechanism for the presidential system, a check-off on tax returns, isn't providing sufficient income to keep publicly financing candidates competitive with privately financed and the program has not been updated to keep pace with skyrocketing campaign costs. Moreover, the current system ties too many strings around candidates when it comes to when and where they can spend their money.
Rather than force other candidates to, as they claim Edwards has done, "[pay] an awfully high price for his [or her] convictions," it's time to follow the state's lead with a new public financing program that would keep candidates competitive:
Leadership on this issue, as in so many others, is coming from states. Seven have adopted much more extensive and innovative public financing laws for candidates for state and local office. Until federal lawmakers can do the same, money's role in presidential elections will eclipse the will of the people. And everyone will lose.