Remember that kid you or someone close to you hung out with in and possibly shortly after high school that always had nice things–cars, bikes, clothes, etc? The kid probably always insisted that he/she paid for these things with their own, earned money yet barely if ever worked some shitty job. Furthermore, it was an obvious, open-secret among you and all your friends that their relatively well-off, above-middle-class parents were bankrolling their expensive tastes?
Apparently those kids grow up to run for public office. As it turns out, bankrolling your kids’ expensive habits, although frowned upon by anyone with a functioning work-ethic, is actually legal until little Frankie develops a taste for public power and needs money for campaigning. As it turns out, hitting up mom and dad for a brand new Dodge Charger complete with a special edition sport-package is one thing; doing so for money during a campaign for public office is illegal.
I’d like to say that United States representative from New Hampshire Frank Guinta learned that the hard way when the Federal Election Committee found that he had taken illegal campaign funds from his parents during his 2010 bid for Congress. But in saying that, I’d be implying that he didn’t know it was illegal in the first place and I would never imply such a thing. Implying that Mr. Guinta wasn’t aware that his parents’ contributions exceeded legal campaign donation limits would be incredibly insulting to his intelligence. Especially because, since the FEC began its investigation in 2010 and even since ruling has surfaced in public, Mr. Guinta has consistently maintained no wrong doing.
Now I would never want to insult Frank’s intelligence because the man is quite accomplished and has a distinguished political resume. Mr. Guinta has been a staple of New Hampshire government since 2000 when he won he first seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, a seat he would defend in 2002. While serving in the NH House, Guitna ran two successful campaigns for Alderman in Manchester, NH Ward 3. He resigned the seat in the NH House in 2004 for work as an adviser for U.S. Congressman Jeb Bradley, resigning from that position only a year later to run for Mayor of Manchester, a position for which he successfully campaign not once but twice. Additionally, Guinta has campaigned for Congress three times since 2010, twice successfully.
I’m no geometer, but Mr. Guitna has run at least nine campaigns for public office, eight of which were successful. In other words, saying that Guinta only recently learned the hard way about campaign finance regulation would imply that Mr. Guinta is incredibly inept at a job he’s been doing for the worse part 15 years. It would be incredibly insulting to his intelligence. But Guinta might as well have confessed to the charges when, in light of the FEC finding, Guinta agreed to “give the money back” and pay a $15,000 dollar fine. Agreeing to the FEC’s terms is like getting arrested and pleading guilty to criminal charges; you don’t get to claim no wrong-doing afterwards.
If you refuse to believe that Mr. Guinta, a college and graduate school graduate, successful business man, and business owner is an inept bungler then the alternative is that he’s a fraudulent liar. If you chose this option you wouldn’t be alone. Joseph McQuaid, publisher of the Union Leader, NH’s flagship conservative newspaper, ran an editorial in which the entire piece featured a picture of Guinta with a caption “Guinta is a damned liar.” Similarly but in gentler terms, NH House Speaker Shawn Jasper said that Guinta’s explanations and the FEC findings “simply don’t add up.” Lastly, NH GOP chairwoman said that Guinta “lied and betrayed the public trust.”
I don’t know which personal quality is more desirable for an elected official: a lair or a bungler; I guess if we’re being optimistic we generally expect both. But what makes Guinta a special kind of clod, the kind whose party turns against him after an FEC finding? Senator Kelly Ayotte–the Granite State’s highest ranking party official–and, soon after, N.H. Senate President Chuck Morse along with Speaker Jasper called for Guinta to resign his seat, as did Jennifer Horn, saying that “Congressman Guinta’s actions are beneath the honor of his office.” Parties and partisan journalists often circle the wagons in defense of politicians, like in the Tom Delay or John Edwards cases, claiming that the FEC investigations are politically motivated, creating enough political turmoil that the charges get dropped or, in the delay case, rulings overturned. Even most recently, “rising-star” GOP Congressman Aaron Schock of Illinois, who resigned his seat in light of an FEC investigation, hasn’t been as alienated by his party, which has kept relatively quiet about his case, possibly because of his voluntary resignation, his six-pack abs, or his virile fundraising abilities.
Not only did Guinta have 5 years to make this “go away,” two of which were years spent out of office, but he also hit up mom and dad for campaign money, $355,000 that the FEC is aware of. The FEC finding might as well have been titled “Frank Guinta unable to raise funds for GOP and own campaign.” Whereas Schock, for instance, was a top GOP fundraiser in 2014. Far from a “rising-star,” Guitna, from what I understand is a GOP water-boy with a Congressional office isn’t making the party any money.
Nor has Guitna firmly secured his seat for the GOP, losing the 2012 election to his Democratic rival Carol Shea-Porter. In the process of winning the 2014 race against Shea-Porter, Guinta beat out party favorite Dan Innis in the GOP primary by a relatively narrow margin–49-41 percent. Innis is a prominent NH business owner, former Dean of UNH business school and chairman of the NH Republican Party’s finance committee. At a time when the GOP is suffering loses at the polls, both public opinion and elections, over social issues like gay marriage, Innis, along with his impressive professional and academic background, is openly gay, one of three openly gay GOP candidates that ran in the 2014 election. In other words, along with being a NH GOP Committee insider, the NH GOP officials could have seen in him a chance at securing that Congressional district, knowing full-well about Guinta’s existing FEC troubles. And if Guinta doesn’t resign and he isn’t challenged in the primaries, it is unlikely he’d be able to win in the general election and not only because his parents might be out of money.
But the real reason Guinta should resign is not because he’s a bungler or a liar–indeed this should come as no surprise since we expect both from politicians–but because he’s indecent and lazy. It is because he didn’t even have the decency, or refused to put forth the effort, to hide his campaign contributions through the proper, shady channels. Could he not have just as easily created a super-PAC through which to launder the money? Could he not have just incorporated his family name Guinta Inc. and let the board of Guinta Inc. (his parents) contribute as much money as the Supreme Court has allowed since the Citizens United decision? In other words, why did he believe that he didn’t have to jump through the same campaign finance hoops as his colleagues?