Next time you have your contribution checkbook in hand, think about this:
When he was last running for the United States Senate from New Jersey in 2002, Robert G. Torricelli collected donations from thousands of people who apparently wanted to see him re-elected. They might be surprised to see how he spent a portion of their money.
Mr. Torricelli, a Democrat who was one of the Senate’s most flamboyant personalities and prodigious fund-raisers, abruptly quit the 2002 race amid allegations of ethical misconduct and became a lobbyist. Since then, he has given $4,000 from his campaign fund to Puerto Rico’s nonvoting member of Congress, $10,000 to Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois and more than $40,000 to Nevada Democratic Party organizations and candidates linked to the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid.
All of those politicians had one thing in common: influence over Mr. Torricelli’s, or his clients’, business interests.
Now, I have no idea if the central implication of the article (that Torricelli’s getting favors in return for his contributions), is true. But I’m rather certain that very few of his campaign contributors made those contributions with the idea that he’d be piecing out that money five years into his career as a lobbyist. It might be legal, but it certainly isn’t right. Think about this the next time a candidate dials you for dollars.
For more on my evolving views on campaign contributions, see this old post.