040311_hmed_mccainbush_10ahmedium.thumbnail.jpgIn what looks to be the first step for Barack Obama to help Hillary Clinton pay off her campaign debt (without really saying that’s what he’s doing), both Obama and Clinton have signed a joint fundraising agreement with the DNC:

As part of the agreement, a new entity, “Democratic White House Victory Fund,” has been formed. The fund will allow both candidates to raise money for the Party, forming one joint fundraising committee account that will accept money for the nominee’s primary and general election and for the DNC.

McCain is doing much the same thing with the RNC and the "McCain Victory 08" fund, which was set up to skirt the intent of McCain/Feingold:

The new structure allows up to $70,000 in individual contributions by channeling the money into different McCain-centric funds. The first $2,300 of that would go to McCain’s primary campaign. The Republican National Committee would receive $28,500 of the donation. The remaining funds would be divided equally, up to $10,000 a piece, among four states the campaign has designated as battlegrounds for November: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado and New Mexico.

McCain and the RNC say they’ll raise $120 million through the fund. He can do this and still take public financing in the general — worth $84 million. Since McCain has installed loyal lobbyist Frank Donatelli to oversee this fund at the RNC, his campaign effectively controls both. Now that the Bush administration has removed FEC Chairman David Mason, who raised uncomfortable questions that could affect McCain re-joining the public financing system for the general, that path for the cash-strapped McCain seems ever more likely.

Of course, Obama could do the same thing through the DNC. I spoke to a knowledgeable reform advocate, who offered this opinion about what Obama should/will do:

1. Agree to a spending limit with McCain set at the amount of public money. Tell McCain, if you want to raise it or take the public money, whatever. Doesn’t matter.
2. Pledge to limit his own donations to $200.
3. Say he’ll revisit 1) and 2) if attacked by GOP 527s or c4s, or in a particularly vicious way by the RNC or state parties (like NC GOP Wright ad)
4. Shut up about 527 spending from progressive groups — it’s drying up money for down-ballot races — not just his own — and tying everyone’s hands behind their backs.

The last one is particularly important. Since many 527s support both the Presidential candidate and Senate/House candidates, discouraging contributions to these groups creates problem for Democrats in other races who depend on these vehicles for support, too.