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CFI analysis of campaign reports

The monthly presidential campaign disclosure reports filed May 20 by President George W. Bush and Democratic Senator John Kerry say on their respective front pages that they are reports of the two candidates' pre-nomination campaigns. But from the reports' contents, it is clear that the candidates have been raising and spending unprecedented amounts for the early phases of a general election campaign that began the day after the Super Tuesday primaries of March 2.

Ironically, Senator Kerry's campaign staff chose May 21, the day after these financial reports, to float the idea that their candidate might postpone accepting his party's nomination for a month to correspond with the nomination date for President Bush. Having departed from the public financing system to avoid spending limits for the primaries, both candidates would like to stretch the fundraising season before they begin the publicly funded, and limited, part of their campaign.

"These reports show how badly outmoded is the current public financing system," said the Campaign Finance Institute's Executive Director Michael J. Malbin. "The thirty-year-old law was designed for a nomination process that once lasted through June and then flowed directly into a convention and general election. Obviously, that is not what we have now. Unless the public financing system is revamped - including realistic spending limits and additional incentives for small donations - the leading candidates will continue to abandon it and do whatever they can to win." -- Candidates Avoid Spending Limits in Primaries To Spend Unprecedented Amounts For the Early Phase of their General Election (Campaign Finance Institute, 05/25/04)