From CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic:
(WASHINGTON) Barack Obama announced this morning that he is opting out of public financing in video message sent to supporters.
"I have an important announcement and I wanted all of you – the people who built this movement from the bottom-up – to hear it first," Obama said, "We've made the decision not to participate in the public-financing system for the general election. This means we'll be forgoing more than $80 million in public funds during the final months of this election."
Throughout the video message, Obama called the public financing system "broken" and argued that his Republican opponents are likely to take advantage of it.
"John McCain's campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. And we've already seen that he's not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations."
Obama argued that his campaign has already changed the way that campaign funds are raised, noting that the majority of his donations are low dollar contributions. This is an argument that he has made for many months now, although he never definitely ruled out public financing until today.
The decision comes as somewhat of a surprise because Obama has been a staunch supporter of public financing for many years now. After announcing his candidacy in February, 2007, Obama said he would consider participating in the public financing system for the general election. He argued that if both the Republican and Democratic nominee would opt to receive public funding, the system could be preserved.
However, for over a year now, Obama has broken fundraising records often times exceeding even the campaigns own projections. In April, he took in $31 million in one month most of which came from small donations. The campaign projects that they could raise as much a $300 million of the general election.
Update McCain communications director Jill Hazelbaker responds to Obama's announcement with this statement: "Today, Barack Obama has revealed himself to be just another typical politician who will do and say whatever is most expedient for Barack Obama.
The true test of a candidate for President is whether he will stand on principle and keep his word to the American people. Barack Obama has failed that test today, and his reversal of his promise to participate in the public finance system undermines his call for a new type of politics.
Barack Obama is now the first presidential candidate since Watergate to run a campaign entirely on private funds. This decision will have far-reaching and extraordinary consequences that will weaken and undermine the public financing system."