Democratic candidate Martin O'Malley is to presidential fundraising what Donald Trump is to modesty — he's just not very good at it.
But instead of trying to compete with the $26 million-plus fundraising boasts of competitors Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the former Maryland governor used the morning after the Sep. 30 fundraising deadline to release his detailed plan to "get big money out of politics and restore our democracy."
"I'm not naive: campaign resources are important," said O'Malley, who raised just $2 million in the last quarter and will not say how much he raised this time.
"But the staggering figures required to run for the highest office in the land aren't as much a sign of muscle as they are an indication [of] just how broken our democracy is," added O'Malley, who is stuck at 0.7 percent in national polls, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average.
With his campaign finance proposal, O'Malley wants to do many of the same things that Clinton and Sanders have already said they want to do.
He wants to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which opened a flood of unlimited money into American politics. He also wants to push for a constitutional amendment to limit the influence of billionaires in elections, and to publicly finance congressional elections within five years.
But O'Malley's plan is also significantly more detailed, says Paul Ryan, the senior counsel at the campaign finance reform group Campaign Legal Center.
In a move seemingly targeted at Clinton's rule-stretching relationship with her super-PAC Correct the Record, O'Malley promises to clamp down on the brazen collaboration between campaigns and their supposedly "independent" super-PACs, which are allowed to spend significant money on the candidate's behalf so long as there is no "coordination" of the spending.
In practice, campaigns including those of Clinton and businesswoman Carly Fiorina have been exploiting loopholes to get around that rule, such as sharing advertising schedules in public and publishing polling data and opposition research on the Internet.
While the O'Malley proposal does not mention Clinton by name, its mentioning of the "internet exemption" is a not-so-subtle swipe at her campaign, given that is the loophole being used to coordinate with the pro-Clinton super-PAC Correct the Record.
Campaign finance reform groups were generally happy with the O'Malley proposal.
"Martin O’Malley has provided a strong plan, focused both on reducing the barrier of big money and raising the voices of everyday people in politics," said David Donnelly, president and CEO of Every Voice, a group dedicated to curbing the influence of big money on America's democracy.
"What’s missing is a proposal to fix the way presidential elections are funded and support for an executive order to require government contractors to disclose political contributions.”
But Ryan from the Campaign Legal Center said he could not help but notice some hypocrisy in O'Malley calling for tougher enforcement of campaign finance laws.
"Back in March we filed a complaint against Martin O'Malley for what we believe to be the use of his leadership PAC to illegally fundraise and pay for testing the waters expenses," he said.
"It takes a little bit of a punch out of what he would probably characterize as a hard-hitting campaign finance reform proposal."
The complaint — like so many to the gridlocked Federal Election Commission — has not resulted in any action so far, and the O'Malley campaign did not respond to questions about Ryan's criticism.