Hillary Clinton's campaign on Sunday accused Barack Obama of "flip-flopping" on the use of public financing in the general election campaign, claiming he has abandoned an earlier "unequivocal" pledge from a year ago to do use public funds.
Obama said last year he would accept public financing in the general election if his Republican rival agreed to as well. Obama said the pledge was necessary to minimize the role of special interest financing in presidential elections. His posture — unique among the field of Democrats at the time — won plaudits from campaign finance reform groups and some editorial pages.
This week Obama's campaign said it was reviewing its options on the public financing question in the general.
"Senator Obama does not have a long record in public life," Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson said. "He is asking voter to judge him on his rhetoric and promises. He pledged to take public financing. He's going back on that pledge, he's broken that pledge. And he has a history and pattern of saying one thing and doing another."
Clinton deputy communications director Phil Singer called Obama's equivocation on public financing a "broken promise" that would have "consequences in the general election."
"The Republicans will go out of their way to question his credibility," Singer said. "Breaking that pledge provides the Republican Party a significant piece of ammunition."
Bill Burton, national spokesman for Obama, said in response: "We don't need any lectures from the Clinton campaign on special interest money when her campaign has accepted more money from lobbyists than any other candidate in this cycle."
Obama's campaign has refused to accept any political action committee donations in his bid for the White House, but accepted them for his leadership political action committee, a fund that has doled out more than $333,000 in contributions to 46 members of Congress who are also superdelegates.
Burton said Obama will decide on the question of public financing at a later date.
"If and when we're the nominee, we'll pursue it (the question of public financing) then," Burton said.
Wolfson did not say Clinton, if she became the party's nominee, would accept the $85 million in public financing and the cap on campaign expenditures that comes with it.
"He took a different position and he won accolades for it," Wolfson instead said of Obama's public financing pledge. "It was beneficial to his campaign at the time he did it. There may be lots of excuses now, but the truth is he's gone back on it."
Singer said Obama's "squirreling away from the pledge," looks like "a pretty big flip-flop to me."
Wolfson said the "pattern" of shifting Obama positions includes once embracing a single-payer health care system in a 2003 speech before the AFL-CIO and saying he once favored the repeal of the Patriot Act but voted for the redrafted bill when it came up for reauthorization.