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Will Obama trash his signed pledge for public funds? Howard Dean goes mum

June 11, 2008 | 10:22 pm

Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean is notorious for speaking his mind. (Remember what he did to that cat during his harangue upon losing in the Iowa caucuses back in January of 2004?)

Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean, when he was a failing Democratic presidential candidate in January of 2004, in one of a famous series of photos taken after he lost the Iowa caucuses

But when it comes to whether Sen. Barack Obama is making a mistake to break his signed pledge to accept public funding for the general election campaign, the loquacious chairman and ex-governor (but it was only Vermont) turns suddenly mum.

"I don't know what he's going to do, and I'm not going to comment until he makes his decision," Dean said Wednesday.

Obama is widely expected to become the first major party nominee since the post-Watergate reforms of the 1970s to opt out of the public financing system in the general election.

Why? Because it's to his advantage. He can raise and outspend his opponent easily and, some might say, in effect, buy the election

The public funding, which will provide about $84 million for each party's nominee's to use in the 10-week fall campaign, was designed to level the playing field and erase the impact of big money in presidential elections.

Democrats, before they managed to match the Republicans in the money-raising department, used to be the strongest defenders of the public system. Some, including Dean, still say they would prefer to take all private money out of campaigns.

But Obama, who is expected to raise more than $300 million for the pre-convention phase of his campaign and could approach that figure in the fall, too, is likely to put expediency first.

Never mind the signed pledge. It's only paper. Who wouldn't want to outspend his opponent three- or four-to-one, as Obama is poised to do?

Dean pointed to Obama's base of more than one million donors, many of them relatively small contributors, probably meaning, like, under 5-foot-five. Kidding.

For the complete story of Dean talking about Obama's fundraising plans and rules, click here. To see the infamous Dean and cat photo, click on the Read more line below. Warning: You may be offended.

--Andrew Malcolm

Photo Credits: Timothy A. Clary / AFP / Getty Images

Ex-Gov Howard Dean was very angry after losing the 2004 Iowa Democratic caucuses and appears to have grabbed a nearby cat and is strangling him to demonstrate his unhappiness with Iowa voters. However this photo has been altered by addition of the cat and is distributed online to discredit Dean, now chairman of the Democratic National Committee

This is the controversial photo of an angry Howard Dean and what he didn't do to a nearby cat. The original photo shows that Dean was not holding a helpless kitten at all. This altered photo is widely distributed on the Internet to discredit or make fun of Dean and his famous temper.