The Georgia Senate primary runoff is six weeks from now, a lot of time for allegations of one sort or another to turn up against either of the two candidates, David Perdue or Jack Kingston. Until this year, so it seems, Republicans liked to run as the “outsider”, the candidate not tainted by all the bad things associated with Washington, and if you had a business background, as they say in New York, you were in Fat City. In the May 20th primary you had Karen Handel and David Perdue running as outsiders, and Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun disingenuously trying to distance themselves from the pejorative of being Washington insiders.
The tables have turned and all of a sudden Perdue’s business background is bad, Kingston’s record of obtaining whopping earmarks (before being banned) for his district is good. Gingrey, Broun, and Handel, the three outsiders, now support Kingston the insider. Funny how politics work. (To be clear, I have no dog in this race, didn’t vote for either in the primary, and still don’t know who I will vote for in the runoff.)
I suspect that over the next six weeks I could write six commentaries on the accusations that will be lobbed back and forth between Perdue and Kingston. The current topic pertains to Kingston’s acceptance of $80,000 in bundled contributions from convicted felon, Khalid A. Satary, a Palestinian who served more than three years in federal prison for operating a major counterfeit CD business in the Atlanta area. He is currently fighting a federal deportation order. When this story unfolded, Kingston proclaimed to be surprised and would return the money.
First, I wonder why Kingston, who has not opposed the two recent Supreme Court decisions overturning campaign finance laws, would return the money. After all, the Supreme Court said that it is not a crime to pay for influence, that it is only a crime to bribe a public official. There isn’t even a whiff of a bribe in this instance, and all Satary did was attempt to gain access to Kingston, presumably to get his help to stay in the country. Since politicians take big dollars all the time from wealthy folks, from PACs put together by special interest groups---all seeking access and influence---what makes Sataray’s money so objectionable? There is zero information at this time that Satary asked for anything for his contribution. Perhaps he’s just a good citizen who supports good government, and Kingston is worthy of his largess as the right man at the right time to “restore our country.”
Actually, I am very cynical about this deal and all money in politics. For Kingston to argue that he didn’t know anything about Satary is willful ignorance. A very inexpensive data base search on the man would have turned up that he was a convicted felon and lots more. I’m not suggesting that due diligence be done on every contributor, especially those who can only afford token amounts, but I am saying that for someone that is virtually unknown to come up with $80,000 for a candidate, red flags should have been flying with hurricane force winds. Kingston is hardly new at raising money, and he should have known better. His explanations for accepting the money without some background check ring hollow.
There is currently a bill in the Senate to limit money in federal elections. Since no Republicans are supporting it that I know of, I assume that they agree with the Supreme Court rulings that money in politics is a form of free speech under the First Amendment. For those who claim that we need to go back to the original meaning of the Constitution, I can only ask where in that amendment there is one word or inference that money in politics is a protected form of speech. In America there should be political equality. No one should be able to buy access or pay for influence. Recently, casino owner billionaire Sheldon Adelson had prominent potential Republican candidates for president meet with him one on one for vetting. Surely none of these candidates were influenced by the money Adelson will bring to the 2016 race and his chosen horse. Wonder if any of the candidates would fly to Las Vegas to meet with an ordinary citizen to discuss issues? As long as money pays for access and influence, the rest of us can only hope to influence our representatives through another provision in the First Amendment, freedom of assembly. Remember that when there are more Occupy Wall Street movements.