As Sen. Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination takes on an air of inevitability, rival John Edwards sharply criticized her fundraising activities over the weekend. The Los Angeles Times reported that Clinton had collected a $380,000 windfall at a single April fundraising event in New York City’s Chinatown, where people listing their jobs as dishwasher, server, or chef made individual contributions for as much as $2,300. Edwards’ campaign manager, David Bonoir, said the news “raised eyebrows;” Clinton adviser Howard Wolfson said her campaign didn’t “ethnically profile donors.”
What the commentators said
“This appears to be another instance in which a Clinton campaign's zeal for campaign cash overwhelms its judgment,” said The Washington Post in an editorial (free registration). Clinton’s campaign should have “seen the red flags” here, just as it should have when it was collecting “mega-bundles” brought in by disgraced fundraiser Norman Hsu. The campaign said Asian-Americans in Chinatown have as much right to contribute as anyone else, but rather than getting defensive it should focus on “uncovering problems” instead of “justifying the acceptance of checks.”
It’s hard for Clinton’s staff to “keep tabs on all the donors” when her campaign is “raking in so much dough,” said Carl Hiaasen in The Miami Herald (free registratoin). First there was Hsu, the “natty schmoozer of high-level Democrats who was recently busted on fraud charges,” and now it emerges that Clinton also accepted money from trial lawyers at the firm Milberg Weiss who were “implicated in a sleazy kickback scheme.” But—oops—Edwards took money from those guys, too.
“The business of the American election has become, if not necessarily corrupted, at least swamped by big money,” said Anna Quindlen in Newsweek. Scandals have proven time and again that big-money donors get access to power for their donations. Maybe it’s time for reform. Giving candidates enough federal matching funds to mount “a credible race” might improve the system, by making it impossible for candidates to “declare victory based not on democracy but on dollars.”