Motel 1600

A memo recently released by the White House confirmed that the president and his top aides were deeply involved in orchestrating the fund-raising in the White House that netted millions of dollars for the president’s reelection campaign. This newest revelation does more than simply damage the president’s reputation or provide political fodder. It reinforces the kind of public cynicism that makes self-government impossible. President Clinton had barely begun celebrating his reelection when reports about Democratic fund-raising tactics began to appear in the news. Reports of penniless Buddhist monks contributing thousands of dollars led reporters to examine the fund-raising of both the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. What reporters found shocked even Washington’s notoriously cynical press corps. In exchange for hefty contributions, donors got to play golf with the president. Five-figure contributions got you invited to the White House for coffee. Really big donors—those giving $50,000 or more—were invited to spend the night in the Lincoln bedroom. All along, the president has insisted that these apparent abuses were the products of overzealous fund-raisers. But last week’s memos show that they were authorized by the president himself. The president’s spin doctors are insisting that no favors were exchanged for the money donated. Many of these donors were just old friends of the Clintons, the spin doctors claimed. Whether the administration violated the law will ultimately be decided by the courts. But by far the more important issue is: Does Congress have the political will to do something about the corrupting influence of money on our form of government? I doubt it. The Senate will soon begin hearings into the role money plays in politics. Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee has promised that while the Democrats’ possible violations will be the primary focus of the investigation, he won’t spare his fellow Republicans, either. This promise alone is enough to cause many Republicans to urge Thompson to go easy on the White House. Why? Because the Republicans’ hands aren’t clean, either. For example, the Republicans accepted millions from tobacco and gambling interests in the last election cycle. Was it merely a coincidence that Republicans seemed to go easy on those interests? And I’ve talked to one insider who says that the Republicans got the same money the Democrats did from John Huang and company. There’s much more at stake here than turning the White House into a Motel 1600, or letting the gambling interests off the hook. When this much money washes up against the White House and the Congress, self-government is threatened. Scripture tells us that we are to respect those in authority over us, because the biblical plan is that government officials are appointed to preserve order and maintain justice. But when the system is corrupted by money, the leaders can’t do justice, and the people end up no longer respecting them. Voters become cynical and stop voting. When voters become cynical and apathetic, self-government doesn’t work. That’s why Christians ought to take the lead in demanding that our leaders clean up their act. Or before we know it, instead of having a government of the people, by the people and for the people, we’ll have... the best government money can buy.


Chuck Colson


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