Blog readers already know the particulars of this story I'm about to mention in today's daily newspaper. How Gov. Mike Huckabee has been using a Virginia-registered PAC, Hope for America, to skate around contribution limits on presidential exploratory bids. How he's asking for $100,000 contributions from people he's favored as governor at his fund-raising gala this Saturday. How his Christmas card included a solicitation for money. (The article didn't have our tidbits on the auction of "naming rights" on his after-party and the use of gubernatorial staffers in the solicitations.)
Seth Blomeley of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette developed the plot line further today with a front-page story that included a number of quotes from political finance experts who seem to see this sham for what it is -- a dodge around campaign limits for legitimate presidential exploratory committees. And, as we've noted before, it's hypocritical, in that The Huckster has complained about some advantages -- albeit clearly legal ones -- enjoyed by Sen. John McCain. McCain may carry over Senate contributions to explore a race for president, but his contributions are capped at $2,100 and corporate money is not allowed.
Seth got the Christmas card/fund solicitation itself, which we haven't been able to snare. Ours must be lost in the mail. But the D-G doesn't seem to yet have a copy of the full fund-raising solicitation letter for big spenders, which provided still more language that makes it clear what Huckabee's intent is. A Republican official confirmed for the newspaper the amounts sought, which we reported from the letter in our item last week: And there was this clear indication of his intent:
Huckabee's letter says: "The proceeds from this event will be the seed money I will use to continue traveling to places like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina to see if my vision for our Nation resonates with our fellow Americans for 2008. If I continue to receive positive encouragement, I will take steps after I leave office next year to make the most challenging political decision of my life."
Does this sound like a man promoting health, the stated purpose of his PAC, or running for president? Maybe Iowa, N.H. and S.C. are particularly unhealthy, though most of the data shows Arkansas is in far worse shape.
Here's the Democrat-Gazette link to copy and paste. It's a good piece of reporting:
Here's the question: Can Huckabee get away with wiggling around ethical rules on the national level as he has done repeatedly in Arkansas over the years? One Republican insider tells me that he thinks potential opponents will lay low for now, waiting to see if his campaign gathers momentum. If it does, expect a good deal more scrutiny on the national level. As Bill Clinton learned, the national spotlight burns a good bit hotter than the one in Arkansas.
We confess a little disappointment that Huckabee didn't explode at Democrat-Gazette questions on this topic and accuse them of following the lead of a no-count tabloid gossip rag.