Now that the Norman Hsu story has lifted the veil on the criminals past, present, and potential filling out the donor rolls of presidential contenders the Washington Post takes the opportunity to point to a few familiar, nefarious names giving big to Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, and John Edwards among others. As for the candidates, they're stuck choosing between a credible campaign and question-free cash.
Hillary Clinton's under fire for taking money from William Stuart Price, an oilman who openly admitted to using money and gifts to try and influence the Clinton administration, and one of Mitt Romney's bundlers is awaiting trial on a 23-count indictment. Scandal lurks behind every corner in the modern campaign, where technology facilitates opposition research and citizen journalists can doom your bid with a single YouTube clip. Why then would candidates in this most competitive of races open themselves up to criticism by taking money from people plagued by ethics inquiries and criminal charges?
"Candidates, particularly at the presidential level, are primarily driven by one overarching imperative, which is to raise money," said Donald J. Simon, a campaign finance lawyer who has worked with Democratic candidates and with Common Cause. "They don't want to believe there is a problem with their fundraisers because they want to maximize the amount of money they generate. At the end of the day, vetting bundlers and tossing bundlers overboard works against their self-interest."
Ick. Joe Trippi, strategist for the John Edwards campaign, responds to the campaign money arms race and swiftly identifies the primary concern:
"Too many in office have fallen under the spell of campaign money at any cost -- and do not see that when they defend the system, they are protecting those that have rigged the game that puts corporate profits ahead of the interests of working Americans."
What's going to come first if we are to change the rules of this game and implement a viable full public financing system? A candidate who doesn't play the game and gets elected anyway, or a candidate who plays the game, gets elected, then nixes his or her own home court advantage to do what's in the best interest of the voters?