What’s Wrong, Really, With Using Campaign Funds For Personal Purposes?
I’m not a big fan of Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party favorite and unsuccessful candidate for the Senate from Delaware. Indeed, whenever one of her “I’m you” commercials appeared on my TV, I got up and shouted: “No you’re not.”
But whatever the merits of recent reports that say she may be under investigation for inappropriately using campaign funds, I have to say that laws that make this illegal strike me as wrong. Why shouldn’t candidates for public office defer personal expenses with such funds — so long as they tell supporters in advance that some of their money will be used in this way, and that money that is used in this way is reported to the IRS as taxable income?
These days our congress, governors’ offices, local elected posts of all kinds are filled with people who pretty much buy these posts outright because they can afford to do so. These “self-funded” office holders get on the ballot in the first place because they convince party officials they didn’t need party cash to run. Then these self-funded office aspirants choke the airways with their self-funded, self-serving, invariably deceptive ads.
And that’s OK, according to the present law of the land. The rich can buy public offices in the most blatant ways and that’s just super. But people who don’t have scads of their own money? Well, these financially deficient individuals just have to go around with their hands out to the rich. And to get by while doing so over a campaign season that these days might last more than a year, they also have to be supported by a company that keeps them on its payroll (or on its board). Or maybe keep food on the table by hiring a spouse to a campaign slot. Or maybe have that spouse hired as a special interest lobbying job. And this is just fine and dandy.
So how about to these perfectly legal shenanigans we just let someone live directly off campaign contributions — provided always that they tell donors in advance they will do do and pay taxes on the money they use to support themselves in this way. This would allow a person who has great qualifications, wonderful ideas, and a sincere yen to serve the public good but who just happens to be poor to run with the rich and the handouts-from-the-rich crowd
I’m not saying people with a lot of their own money or those who take such money aren’t honorable and won’t serve well in public office. I’m just saying that honor and competence are more widely dispersed in our population. And that a new class of professional politicians, who live openly on campaign contributions, might not end up being better fit for public office than the present crop.
More from this writer at http://blog.wallstreetpoet.com