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Will Everybody Please Quit Pretending to Be Shocked?

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When oil pipeline promoter Roger Tamraz laughed off the $300,000 contribution that so scandalized the Senate by saying, "next time, I should give $600,000," he wasn't the only one with a case of the giggles. Nor is Al Gore the only droll wit with his "no controlling legal authority" line.

Washington insiders know you can cut the irony in the current campaign finance scandal with a $5,000-a-plate dinner knife.

Will everybody please quit pretending to be shocked over what big money has done to political ethics? I've been in rooms where future presidents, senators and governors scheme of glory and the conversation goes something like this:

Future President: How do I keep Senator Sprocket and Governor Beanbag from challenging me in a primary?

Pollster: Raise more money than anyone else, of course. You should hire this guy I work with who can line up all the big donors in Chicago, LA, and New York. He'll charge you 15 percent of what he raises.

Media consultant: Do you know Senator Marzipan? He's a client of mine, and you should keep him posted on what you're doing. Have a reception at the Convention in his honor. Some of his biggest donors will be there. I can make a call.

Fund-Raising Consultant: Alec Baldwin will do an event, but only in the Hamptons, and we can't mention a price on the invitation. He thinks that's tacky. After that we should do two or three big-ticket dinners and a bunch of smaller events between now and the summer.

Future President: Fine. Good. Whatever. I want to raise so much money that their biggest money guys all tell them to think twice about making a race.


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