Obama Donates to Public Funding of Campaigns, But Refused It for Himself

By Matt Cover | April 18, 2011 | 5:40 PM EDT

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(CNSNews.com) Both President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama chose to donate $3 each through their 2010 tax returns to help pay for government financing of elections. But as a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama declined to take such financing himself.

The public election financing, known as the Presidential Election Campaign fund, was created by Congress in 1971 as a limit on the amount candidates may spend on presidential elections. It provides a maximum amount -- $84 million in 2008 – to candidates who agree to make it their only source of funding.

In 2008, despite repeated promises to the contrary, Obama refused to tap the fund, electing instead to finance his campaign entirely with private and corporate donations. He raised approximately $745 million in the process.

Obama was the first presidential candidate in history to refuse the federal funds for his general election campaign. His opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), became the second when he followed Obama’s lead.

“The public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system,” Obama said in announcing he would refuse to take federal funds in 2008.

Despite his donation on his 2010 tax return, Obama is expected to again refuse the federal funds -- and the campaign spending limits that accompany them -- when he runs for reelection in 2012.

Earlier this year, Obama opposed the efforts of House Republicans to eliminate the federal election funding system – the same system he once called “broken” – with his administration saying, “The administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 359 because it is critical that the nation’s presidential election public financing system be fixed rather than dismantled.”

H.R. 359 would have completely eliminated the federal election financing program, saving a CBO-estimated $617 million over the coming decade.