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Private money now, public funds later

Illinois Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama

TEXT OF STORY

SCOTT JAGOW: You know that little box your tax return? The one that says, would you like $3 to go to the presidential elections? Well, a lot of candidates don't use that money because it comes with spending limits. They'd rather stick with private funds. But one presidential candidate wants both — and it looks like he'll get it. Eric Niiler reports.


ERIC NIILER: The Federal Election Commission ruled on a first yesterday: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama will be able to raise private money now, but still be eligible for $85 million in taxpayer money later.

Steve Weissman of the Campaign Finance Institute says the decision gives Obama more flexibility.

STEVE WEISSMAN: To be competitive, he feels he has to privately raise money. On the other hand, he wants to present himself as a fresh face and a reformer, so he doesn't want to totally abandon the public financing system.

If he gets the Democratic nomination, his campaign officials say Obama will only take public money if his Republican opponent does the same. The race to raise private money is on.

In Washington, I'm Eric Niiler for Marketplace.

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