Monday, February 02, 2004

Ethicist Says Its OK for Donors to Lie and Engage in Trickery
Randy Cohen, the ethics columnist for the New York Times, says here that it is ethically ok for a Republican donor to give money to a Democratic candidate who he does not support, with the hopes that this candidate will win the Democratic primary and then be a lousy opponent to President Bush. The reason its OK, says Randy, is that the Democrat would be willing to go along with it.

Seems to me that this reveals the farce behind most campaign contributions -- that they are primarily a way for a person to voice their support for a candidate. Nonsense. They are a way to try to influence the outcome of an election through a means other than voting -- which is what is supposed to determine elections. Everyone has one vote, but some people can make more contributions than others, and so they do. If all they wanted to do was voice their support, they could wear a button or slap a bumper sticker on their car. By making contributions, especially large ones that are out of the reach of most people, they are trying to game the results of the election. Its currently legal, and you can't blame one person for doing it when many others are as well, but that doesn't make it ethical.

California Governor Gray Davis did something similar by spending millions of dollars to influence the outcome of the Republican primary. In doing so, Davis caused the most viable Republican candidate to lose, and allowed his own victory in the general election. That too was legal, but the voters of California didn't necessarily think he'd truly won his re-election, as evidenced by his recall less than a year later.

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