Politics is supposed to be about the will of the people expressed by their vote and their activism which then shapes both the political parties and the ranks of elected officials. Would that it were that simple. Reality deals with the fact that there will always be those who are more influential than others in that process. Whether via connections or cash, some folks are better positioned to push a Party or a candidate one way or the other. The question is, of course, what to do when one person carries so much weight and influence that he can, by himself, influence or actually alter the course of politics in a state or a region.
This is not a philosophical or rhetorical question. It is happening across the country. People like George Soros spend billions to influence political discussions and the political process to effectively disenfranchise "regular" voters by manipulating what is seen and heard to the point where "reality" becomes what he wants it to be. People like Tim Gill and other wealthy individuals in Colorado have poured personal millions into state and local races, fundamentally altering the makeup of the state's political delegations in ways that don't necessarily fit with the makeup of the electorate there. It seems to be happening again. This time in Texas and the man behind the money is Fred Baron.
Baron is the man with the money behind the relocation and support of Rielle Hunter, John Edwards' mistress, and her child. Texas Watchdog reports Baron says he moved both Rielle Hunter and Andrew Young, the man who says he is the father of Hunter's child, on his own dime and for his own reasons without input or contact with Edwards or the campaign.
The reason for Baron shelling out money for the relocation? Young and Hunter were being dogged by tabloid reporters chasing rumors of the affair and pregnancy, according to the initial interview.“I made a decision on my own, without talking to Edwards or anybody, to try to help them move to a community to try to get away from those folks,” Baron told the [Dallas Morning News]. He said he used his own money –not campaign funds – but did not disclose how much he provided. Both Hunter, who now lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., and Young worked under Baron for the campaign.Critics say this raises all kinds of questions.“John Edwards’ affair on his cancer-stricken wife and Fred Baron’s apparent attempt to silence Edwards’ mistress by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on her reeks of the arrogance of two multimillionaire plaintiffs attorneys trying to buy the White House,” said Anthony Holm, an Austin-based GOP political consultant and creator of GivetheMoneyBack.com.Indeed, Baron initially described the help as a payout from his own pocket. That turned into a “loan” in a later New York Times interview. Some news reports put Hunter’s monthly maintenance fees at $15,000 per month. Baron denied the amount is that much but has not disclosed how much it is.
Interesting that such a connected and savvy political operator would choose relocation as the solution to being dogged by reporters as opposed to "Let's hold a press conference and clear this thing up once and for all!" But, hey, it's his money. Still one has to wonder why he chose this particular avenue.
Shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to move "people of interest" around the world isn't Baron's first move in the politcal game of "Show me the money!" Texas Watchdog also reports Baron, his wife and his law firm are behind almost $7 million dollars in donations over the last few years to candidates and causes that are decidedly on the Left side of the political spectrum. So much so, Texas Watchdog can also report
It’s difficult to overstate Baron’s importance to Democrats in Texas and to those in Washington. In addition to serving as John Edwards’ 2004 and 2008 presidential campaign finance chairman, he’s thrown jaw-dropping sums of money into other political races.He’s credited with helping the Democrats take over the U.S. Senate two years ago, as well as transforming Dallas County government to a Democratic-controlled body, wresting it away from the GOP.“I credit Fred and Fred’s energy with helping get the state Democratic Party back on the road to revival,” said Ken Molberg, a senior member of the state Democratic executive committee and a former Dallas County party chairman. “It’s something he did not have to do and, most certainly in my view, he did it based on his own belief system that they needed to be a viable state party.”
Texas Watchdog has even compiled a helpful listing of Baron's contributions which is posted online so you can see for yourself how much of Baron's money and other funds he controls were used to influence the political process and when it happened.
I'm all for a person being able to use what is his to influence the poltical debate. I have no problems with the reality that since some folks have more than others, they'll also have more influence. But, as has been noted in a recent blockbuster movie, with great power comes great responsibility. If Fred Baron wants to play in the deep end of the pool, then he should expect some scrutiny of both his actions and the results of those actions.
Just here is where the process breaks down. It is one thing for Baron and men like him to rebuild or to carry a political party on their shoulders in a state or nationally. It is another thing entirely for that man to use his funds to so manipulate politics that it changes the fortunes and outcomes of the electorate and the state or country. As Nashville radio talk show host Michael DelGiorno has noted, had the Edwards affair and the predictable fallout from it been a public matter earlier in the election cycle, Hillary Clinton would probably have been the Democratic nominee for President. Fred Baron, also "... based on his own belief system ...", played a key role in preventing that from happening.
In so doing, one man not only disenfranchised the work and votes of millions of his fellow Democrats who supported Clinton, he altered the landscape of the entire Presidential race for the rest of the country as well. That sort of power should only rest in the hands of a candidate since the candidate himself must live or die with the results of what he does. Baron's efforts meant John Edwards didn't have to answer to the electorate for what he did. It also meant Democratic voters didn't get a fair choice at the ballot box this year. That Baron, or anyone else, would choose to personally corrupt political events is a blight on what should be a process all voters can later say was untainted, especially when their candidate loses.
Republicans, too, must learn from this trampling of the everyday man by those who through personal hubris would be kingmakers. They must purpose now to resist the temptation. And temptation it is. The stakes are high and the issues are important. No one questions that. But what does it say about the solutions a person or a party brings to the discussion if the only way those solutions can make it into the debate is improper. The Democrats have no monopoly on the tactic of the end justifying the means. Should the Right adopt those tactics because they've shown themselves to be effective at times, they also willingly adopt the moral bankruptcy of which it is evidence.
May we be delivered and kept from the Fred Barons of the world, regardless of their affiliations.