Truthout: Secret Cash: The Worst Political Scandal of All

-by: Michael Winship

June 5, 2011- Sometimes I feel like Gus, the father in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" — you know, the guy who thinks you can cure all maladies with a spritz of Windex and declares, "Give me a word, any word, and I show you that the root of that word is Greek."

Only in my case, it's give me a scandal, any scandal, and I'll show you how the corrosive influence of money on politics is at its root and makes what's bad even worse (okay, maybe not in the case of Anthony Weiner — yet). It's not an especially effective party trick, I know, unless you're at a really dreary policy wonk picnic, but you work with what you've got.

John Edwards' illegitimate child? The legal case being built against the freshly indicted, former presidential candidate isn't about paternity or custody or any of that kind of stuff, but revolves around felony campaign finance charges; whether or not two wealthy backers — his now deceased fundraising chair Frederick Baron and 100-year-old heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon — provided hundreds of thousands in contributions that in reality paid for the hiding of Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter, and their baby.

Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista's big fat, revolving, no interest credit account at Tiffany's? It might be tin-eared and wrong for someone who purports to be a fiscal conservative and a man of the people to throw around big bucks for expensive bling, but that ain't necessarily the scandal. Look a little deeper. On May 24, Jeff Stein of The Washington Post blog "Spy Talk" reported, "At the same time Tiffany & Co. was extending Callista (Bisek) Gingrich a virtual interest-free loan of tens of thousands of dollars, the diamond and silverware firm was spending big bucks to influence mining policy in Congress and in agencies over which the House Agriculture Committee — where she worked — had jurisdiction, official records show."

Until 2006, Ms. Gingrich was chief clerk at the committee. During the years between 2005 and 2009, Tiffany's annual lobbying costs shot up from around $100,000 to $360,000, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The jewelry giant strongly denies any connection: "We had no reason to lobby the Agriculture Committee and we did not… Our focus has been on the Natural Resources Committee." The company also said it had never spoken with Newt or Callista Gingrich about federal mining policy.

FULL STORY HERE:


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