In May of 2015, NH Congressman Frank Guinta was under fire for allegations of campaign spending irregularities during the election the previous fall. The details of the allegation hinged on some technical definitions that were in dispute: he dumped a large amount of money from a family trust fund, to which he says he contributed over the years, into his campaign, accounting it as a legally-permissible personal contribution; his opponents asserted that the trust fund, though a family enterprise, was controlled by his parents and that, therefore, it represented an illegally large (and illegally reported) campaign contribution from an outside entity. Ultimately, the FEC agreed with his accusers and made him return the money and pay a fine (and, ultimately, he was defeated for re-election the following year, a fact which probably had less to do with his alleged campaign finance misdeeds than with the general mood of the electorate).
I thought the allegation, and the subsequent investigation, was a waste of everyone’s time and attention, a classic case of using the letter of the law as a political weapon while utterly ignoring its intent.
During that time, The Exchange, a public affairs discussion program on NHPR, hosted a conversation about the allegations as part of its political coverage. I sent this in as food for thought, but it was not used in the discussion.
15 May 2015
The only stated reason I’ve ever heard for why we need to constrain political participation by limiting campaign contributions is to prevent undue influence over government actions by those who contribute.
Perhaps Frank Guinta took too much money from his parents. But why is that such a huge thing? What are we afraid of?
Are we really concerned that his parents now have too much influence over him because they gave him money for his campaign?
Perhaps it is the rule that is a problem, not how well or badly it was followed….
© Copyright 2015, Augustus P. Lowell