Monday, February 9, 2009

Steeling booty

Corruption is a bipartisan activity. Even among Republicans, many politicians are honest with money. Is Michael Steele one of them? I'm willing to listen to his defense.

What Steele has said so far is not very reassuring. He appears to be pounding the table, trying to make this go away with rhetoric.

Steele has attacked the source of the allegation for being a convicted felon. True, his former aide Alan Fabian is now a convicted felon, but that just opens another can of worms. His spokesman makes the same attack. Both claim that nothing Fabian says is substantiated. That's plain bullshit; there's a real paper trail with only the explanation at issue.

Steele could show us more complete paperwork and be done with it - if everything is in order. The fact that he hasn't suggests the need for further questions. Where are all the invoices? The dates disclosed so far actually seem to confirm that there's a real violation. Paying a company eleven months after it was dissolved doesn't look above board. All the suspicions can easily be answered by an honest man.

Yet what Steele has provided is partial and wrong. Without a trust-me explanation, it doesn't explain anything.

Truth be told, even some of the semi-honest politicians are heavily involved in insider dealings. They do things with their campaign funds that are strictly speaking not illegal but which they still don't want to see the light of day.

Here's the most minor example I can think of: When a politician gives his campaign money, he generally declares it to be a loan. I did this when I ran. That way, he can recoup campaign seed money after winning. The ethical problem is that others who might contribute to defray this sort of debt are usually lobbyists who know you've already won and who (always) want something. And you're taking their money and putting it right into your pocket with only the lightest washing. (I escaped this dilemma by losing.)

The fundamental problem is that politicians and their aides and families tend to think of their campaign kitties as theirs to do with what they please. They just aren't. They're more like trusts, and politicians of all stripes need to remember that the public trust is their first priority.

No comments: