In his first press conference since announcing he was turning down public funding, Barack Obama reinforced his argument that the campaign finance system is broken, fractured by huge spending by outside groups bankrolled by special interests.
The presumptive Democratic nominee says his 1.5 million donors represent a real grassroots campaign. "What we've built frees ourselves from special interests," he said, unlike Republican John McCain's operation, which Obama said is based on big donors and lobbyists.
In 2004, Obama noted, public funding totaled $192 million for the two major-party candidates, but advocacy groups known as 527s, which can accept unlimited contributions, spent more than $440 million.
Obama acknowledged, however, that other candidates are not likely to be able to be as successful attracting small donors as he has been, so he still supports campaign finance reform.
In the event in Jacksonville, Fla., he also hit McCain again for calling for ending the federal ban on offshore oil drilling, saying it wouldn't help ease gas prices for years and would threaten the coastlines of Florida and other states.
"Believe me -- if I thought that there was any evidence at all that drilling could save people money who are struggling to fill up their tanks by this summer or this year or even the next few years, I would consider it," Obama said. "But it wonít. And John McCain knows that."
Instead, Obama said he would spend $150 billion over the next 10 years on clean energy and encourage conservation.
"Thatís how we can protect our coastline and still make the investments that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and bring down gas prices for good," he said.
UPDATE: Tucker Bounds, a McCain spokesman, responded: "Just one day after breaking his word to the American people that he would accept public financing, Barack Obama went before the cameras to make clear he opposes any measure of short-term and long-term energy relief. He is now on the record opposing every single initiative that might help Americans with their current pain at the pump. Barack Obama himself has said that the only problem is that gas prices went up too fast. The American people cannot afford Barack Obama's do-nothing, out of touch energy policy. Unlike Barack Obama, John McCain has laid out a clear strategy that will provide Americans needed relief at the gas pump while giving the statesí the right to choose deep water energy exploration and the ability to move America toward energy independence."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.