Which Way

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It looks as though Sen. John McCain, presumptive Republican nominee for President will opt in to the public financing program for the general elections, while Sen. Barack Obama, his potential rival, isn't likely to do the same. Both campaigns are firing off statements defending their respective ethical beachheads but -- lucky me! -- I can position my ruler above the knuckles of both men, and raise my eyebrow in a scolding manner.

Obama is calling his base of small donors a "parallel public financing system." As the candidate with more small-dollar donors then anyone, he can certainly lay claim to appealing to a base beyond traditional big donors, and he has stated on numerous occasions his support for full public financing of federal elections, and acted on those convictions by co-sponsoring the Fair Elections Now Act in the Senate. However a quick look at the numbers shows he's taking as much in from donors of $1,000 and more as he is from donors of $200 or less -- it's a jump compared to previous cycles, but doesn't exactly parallel the gold-standard public financing systems like Arizona and Maine have where all donations are small donations.

As for Senator McCain, his acceptance of general election public financing has not been accompanied by an endorsement of full public financing systems for all federal elections - and his balance sheet is heavily weighted towards traditional big-money donors and donations. It's hard to tell whether his acceptance of public financing is a gesture of support for the program, or a sign of his own difficulty raising as much as his Democratic challengers. Meanwhile, he's still working to extricate himself from the public financing program for the primary election.

It's all quite muddled. What do you think -- is it more important that a candidate endorse better public financing programs, or that they use the ones in existence?