It's amusing to me that the defense of Barack Obama's decision to refuse public funding centers on the idea that no one will have leverage over him because he has so many small donors. It exposes the essential silliness of campaign finance reform rhetoric. Consider the opposite case. Even if all his donors were maxing out, why would Obama care what one person gave him? What leverage would they have? The maximum federal contribution is $4600 (primary and general). He's raised over $200 million.
Ironically, Obama's reliance on small donors actually increases their leverage over him. Rather than raising money from self-interested donors who want private benefits -- any one of whom can be ignored at little cost -- he has to appease vast legions of liberals who will be upset if he pivots toward the center. To the extent that future candidates follow his lead, elections will be more polarized than they are today.
PS Expect to hear more about this soon from Washington establishment types bemoaning the death of centrism. It's tomorrow's David Broder today!
Update 6/23 8:16 PM: In comments, Willie correctly points out that so-called "bundlers" can package together contributions that add up to much more than $4600. But even a top-level bundler who raises $200,000 or more is a tiny fraction of what will ultimately be a $400-500 million campaign. They just don't have any leverage.