The Price of Independence

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Despite his outspoken stance on full public financing of campaigns, Connecticut Senator and presidential candidate Chris Dodd's campaign finance records show a lot of money from corporate PACs and under interests whose investments in his campaign threaten to derail Dodd's efforts to appear indepedent.

The New Haven Advocate takes a long look at Dodd's fundraising efforts, particularly his money from the banking sector, in the larger context of a presidential campaign in which unusual attention has been paid to the role of special interest money in elections. Acknowledging the tough spot Dodd is in, Public Campaign's President, Nick Nyhart, offers this:

 

"It's not a surprise that he would rely on people from the financial industry to raise money," says Nick Nyhart, president of Public Campaign, a public financing advocacy group. "That's standard under our private financial system...In many cases, the donors are going to be people who have worked with him over a long period of time and who believe there's a good chance of continuing to work with him," says Nyhart.


[...]

Candidates who support public campaign financing are "in a bind," says Nyhart of Public Campaign. Nyhart credits Dodd with being one of the stronger advocates of public financing in the Senate. Even so, says Nyhart, presidential campaigns have to "raise huge amounts of money. If you want to raise a large amount of money you've got to put your arms around people who have an interest" in Congressional legislation.

Whatever favors may or may not be traded behind the scenes, this is fundamentally a problem where the appearance of impropriety is enough to cultivate distrust among voters about their elected officials -- and candidates can't turn down special interest cash without jeopardizing their campaigns.