Updated at 7:17 a.m. on January 31.
On the eve of a presidential election that may cost President Obama alone more than $1 billion in private money, it's time to ask: Who killed public financing?
House Republicans appeared to kill it last week when they voted 239-160 to defund the presidential public-financing system in a bid to save the Treasury an estimated $617 million over 10 years. Said the repeal bill's author, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., on the House floor, "Right now, this is money we can't afford to waste, and this is a system that's broken."
Speaking of Obama, might he shoulder the blame for public financing's demise? He was, after all, the first presidential candidate to reject public funding in a general election, and the $745 million in private cash that he raised in 2008 makes the Treasury's public grant look pretty paltry by comparison.
Obama also failed to make good on his campaign promise to fix the presidential system, which was the crown jewel of the post-Watergate reforms of the 1970s. Now that Republicans run the House and Democrats barely control the Senate, it's likely the president's missed his chance.
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But Obama forcefully defended public financing on the eve of the House vote last week, warning in a statement that killing the system would "expand the power of corporations and special interests" and narrow the field of candidates. Reform advocates who've resisted criticizing the White House were all smiles.