John Edwards Officially Eligible for Federal Public Funds

The Federal Election Commission on Thursday declared Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards officially eligible for federal matching money to help finance his campaign.

The step acknowledges that Edwards has met the minimum requirements to obtain money from the Presidential Public Funding Program, which is financed by taxpayers who set aside $3 for the fund in their tax returns.

Edwards' fundraising has been lagging far behind rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. Between January and the end of September, Edwards had raised $30 million while Obama and Clinton had raised $80 million each.

The presidential fund matches the first $250 of each individual primary contribution to an eligible candidate. To obtain the money, candidates must abide by spending limits in each primary state and to an overall spending limit of about $50 million. That figure does not include money spent on staff, fundraising and several other costs that could significantly increase the base limit.

The Federal Election Commission will not make the money available until Jan. 2, but candidates typically borrow in anticipation of receiving the funds.

Republican presidential candidates Tom Tancredo, a Colorado congressman, and Sen. John McCain of Arizona have also been declared eligible for public funds. McCain has not yet decided whether to participate in the program, however.