A few months ago I wrote an article titled “Elusive high moral ground with money and politics” (http://bit.ly/1nwlnkL). The article was my observations of the misconceptions and misrepresentations concerning money in politics.
Money in politics is not the corrupting influence people believe it to be. When all is said and done, a person’s vote is mostly driven by their individual partisanship and ideology.
This is not to say an excessive amount of money being diverted away from much more worthy causes, like ending world hunger, is a good thing. Hardly. What I am saying is that the truly corrupting element in almost all of our endeavors is human nature. A dishonest person will do dishonest things; money is just one of many excuses used to justify a person’s shameful actions or to rationalize the defeat of a favorite candidate or cause.
Some of you may doubt what I’m saying, but think about it. How many people do you know who ever change their minds on something so central to their core like their political beliefs? Campaign spending is far less important in determining election outcomes than many people fear. That is because in reality people just aren’t that malleable. The cause and effect is clear. The better the candidate/campaign, the better the money. Everyone loves a winner; very few people donate to the losing cause.
With that said, what is concerning is the hypocrisy by all of those who lead the charge against money in politics. Yet, this very same choir of self-righteous automatons has remained silent as it pertains to the recent revelation of N.H. Gov. Maggie Hassan’s illegal campaign contributions.
These are not “alleged” illegal contributions, they are tainted funds taken in violation of New Hampshire campaign law. The state attorney general’s office has ruled several contributions bona fide infecta, unlawful. Hassan was ordered to repay $24,000 received from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers PAC. Hassan also returned another $9,000, an illegal campaign donation from the Plumbers and Steamfitters PAC. One now has to wonder how many other illegal contributions Hassan accepted in both her run for 2014 and her run in 2012.
Hassan, the PACs involved and their supporters want to confuse the issue by trying to “distinguish” between those contributions that were made to Hassan’s PAC and her campaign fund. Both funds are one in the same, separated only by a name change that occurred over a one-day period. On June 11, 2014, the fund was the Hassan-backed PAC “Friends of Maggie Hassan.” On June 12, 2014, the fund was renamed to “Maggie ’14.”
Sadly, this is a common trick amongst New Hampshire politicians, Republican and Democratic alike. It is an effort to get around RSA 644:4, which sets a $5,000 limit that campaigns must adhere to before candidates officially declare their candidacies. One day Hassan is the leader of the PAC, allowed to take larger contributions. The next day Hassan is running for governor, required to adhere to RSA 644:4. As it happens, on the day Hassan declared her candidacy for governor, she stated she would not abide by campaign spending caps.
In light of these illegal contributions, one would expect further official inquiries into both Hassan’s 2012 and 2014 campaign activities. This would most likely require N.H. Attorney General Joe Foster to recuse himself, since he was part of Hassan’s 2012 financial campaign committee. Trust in government is already at an all-time low, and as a recent Concord Monitor editorial described so distinctly — “Hassan has a perception problem on her hands. A campaign’s broad interpretation of campaign finance laws is akin to a child hearing only what he or she wants to hear, and the political damage can be significant.”
Some will contend that Hassan was playing by the rules and therefore there is no issue. However, clearly Hassan was not playing by the rules since the state attorney general’s office ruled that money was accepted in violation of the law. The office went so far as to issue “cease and desist” letters to the offenders, and to date Hassan has returned $33,000. The citizens of New Hampshire deserve answers and Hassan’s integrity will remain in question should these issues linger without a proper, public airing.
Loyalty to a political party above all else usually reveals itself when it comes to criticizing the party or the candidate that an individual supported. Likewise, if that person has also been part of the choir complaining vehemently about the façade of undue influence of money in politics, where are they now that Hassan has succumbed to the influence of money in politics? Now is their time to speak up. Now is their moment. If their cause is just, then their integrity demands they speak out against Hassan’s improprieties. Either they believe in their cause or they show themselves to be hypocrites.
Further, where is the N.H. Rebellion, all the attendees/panelists of the April 7, 2014, “Saving Our Democracy — The Need for Campaign Finance Reform,” and the writers of the countless letters I read every day demanding accountability? Instead, what we will get is either silence, distractions or “but the other side is far worse.” I said in my original article that nothing will be solved because those screaming the loudest will ignore the transgressions closest to their beliefs, “vilify(ing) those with whom they disagree, while painting themselves as the noble saviors.” I had hoped I would be proven wrong, but actions, or the lack thereof, speak louder than words.
Individual partisanship and ideology may determine how we vote, but it should have no factor in defining our integrity, even if it means we speak out against those we once supported. Worry less about the money in politics and worry more about the dishonest actions of the people in politics.