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Public Financing Fraud

E.J. Dionne Jr. today bases his entire column on a claim without a shred of support: That the presidential public-funding system has "worked."

How do we know it worked? Well ... uh ... a lot of presidential candidates took the free money. Big surprise.

Bob Bauer takes on this logic this morning on his blog:

We can't really say that the system "worked" or "served the nation well" when we can't assert, because we can't know, what would have happened without this system.

But it's actually worse than that. It's not just that we "don't know" if it's worked. We do know something much more important: That the public is at best indifferent to the program, and at worst actively hostile to it. A lot of people may say they like public-financing if you word the question in a biased way in a poll, but where the rubber meets the road, in the voluntary tax check-off box, Americans let their real feelings be known: In 2005, only 9 percent of filers elected to support the Presidential Election Campaign Fund; the number's been declining for years.

If people want to defend public financing, great. But the press tends to let them get away with simply asserting things that are -- on the face of it -- patently ridiculous.