Robert Lenhard, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission writes in support of the presidential public financing program in this piece for the Washington Post, but he notes the faults that have emerged in the program and the pressing need to address the level of funding the system provides.
Lenhard understands why candidates seem to be shying away from a system that he believes has served America well: it's underfunded. Fewer and fewer people are checking the box on their income tax form to earmark money for the public financing program (I'd argue that's because not much public education is done about it -- many younger taxpayers likely know very little about the program or how the check-off works):
No one believes that this system can be saved without raising the cap on what candidates can spend and, similarly, raising the amount of money that taxpayers are willing to spend on the program. This is the political choice that Congress and the American people will soon face.
By April 15, more than 130 million American will have told the IRS whether they support public financing of presidential election campaigns. This choice will make a difference, both in allowing the government to set aside money to pay for the 2008 election and, more important, for the life of the program beyond. I believe the program has performed well and should be improved, so I will be checking yes.
A bill has been introduced in the Senate that would upgrade the presidential public financing program and increase funding levels. Will this election cycle with its record fundraising, sure to be record spending, and media coverage of the underfunded public financing program be sufficient to get Congress energized to adopt the fixes the Senate bill proposes?