(AP) Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards reversed course Thursday by signing onto the public financing system he once rejected with the belief he could raise more money on his own.
The 2004 vice presidential nominee claimed higher moral ground in the debate over money in politics while announcing the change. But it is a consequence of him bringing in far fewer dollars than his top rivals Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“It is worrisome seeing the amount of money that is being raised in this campaign,” Edwards said on CNN. “This is not healthy. ... This campaign should not be a fundraising contest.”
Money for the public financing system comes from a fund paid for by taxpayers who agree to set aside $3 from their income taxes for the presidential account. Taking money from the fund means the candidate must comply with spending limits.
Edwards' decision could put him at a disadvantage against his primary rivals and undermine the perception that he can win the nomination. He rejected that sentiment and insisted that he has enough money to run a serious campaign.
Obama has raised $58.5 million and Clinton has collected $52 million. She also has transferred $10 million left from her Senate campaign. Edwards raised just $23 million in the first six months of the year.
The deadline for the third-quarter fundraising is Sunday and candidates are expected to disclose their overall totals.
Edwards could get up to $21 million in public money for the primary, but his overall spending on the primary elections could not exceed about $50 million. Candidates eligible for public financing receive matching payments from the federal government for the first $250 of each individual contribution they raise.
The Obama campaign told the leaders of the Service Employees International Union in a private meeting earlier this week that a candidate would need $80 million to $100 million to compete in the unprecedented 25 states that hold elections in the first month of voting - and only Obama and Clinton can do that.
Edwards is a sentimental favorite of many in the union. But after hearing the presentation the leaders postponed their decision on whether to endorse him until after the third quarter campaign finance deadline.
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