Topic: Government & Politics
The Child Porn Politician’s Money
One of the slimier news stories that has largely avoided national coverage is that of former New Jersey Assemblyman Neil Cohen, who resigned his seat last July after child pornography was found on his state computer. Cohen had introduced legislation that weakened protection for children employed as actors by the film industry, so his fondness for the performances of the abused children in kiddie porn productions was, if possible, even more offensive than it would have normally been.
Now Cohen is standing trial. His campaign coffers still have some money left over from campaign contributions, and according to law, the money belongs to the campaign account. Cohen directed that $7,500 of the funds be contributed to his hometown Roselle, New Jersey Democratic Party, which accepted them.
Sensing an opportunity to further tar Cohens party with the Assemblymans miserable conduct, Union County GOP Chairman Phil Morin attacked, saying:
"The Roselle Democratic Party should be ashamed of themselves. Accepting a campaign donation from an alleged child pornographer who resigned his legislative position in disgrace is indefensible and continuing to hold those funds after his indictment is unconscionable. I urge the Roselle Democratic Party to immediately donate those funds to a worthy charity, such as to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to help in the fight against child pornography and to assist the only true victims of such a heinous crime. According to their website, financial donations to the NCMEC help advance their mission to prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation' and assist victims of abduction and sexual exploitation, their families and the professionals who serve them.'"
If the Roselle Democratic Party
is really supposed to be ashamed of anything other than the fact that
one of its members was a child porn fan, then it must have done something
wrong itself. What, exactly, did it do wrong?
According to Morin, accepting a
campaign donation from an alleged child porn fan who resigned his legislative
position in disgrace is wrong. This is not really an accurate description
of what happened, however. This is money given by contributors to one
political candidate being transferred to that candidates party after
the candidate becomes unable to serve. This is using donors money in
a manner consistent with their original intent. Why would Morin find this
Apparently he regards the funds
received from Cohens campaign account as dirty money that must be cleansed
by passing it along to a charity that battles the exact conduct Cohen
seems to appreciate. Try as I might, I cant see Morins logic at all.
Why would the same campaign money unwittingly given to a child porn-obsessed
elected official be untouchable for his political party, but perfectly
acceptable to an anti-child abuse organization? If the money is really
tainted somehow by Cohens child porn activities, wouldnt that make it
especially offensive to the NMEC?
It would seem so. It appears that
Morin is a little confused about what constitutes dirty money. Heres
a refresher course, Chairman:
Money is dirty—tainted to a
degree that accepting it as a gift or in payment is itself wrong—when
Defining dirty money outside
these three categories is problematic. For example, treating money as
dirty that was earned with less than savory but tolerated business practices
would wipe out the best works many of Americas most revered philanthropic
institutions like the Ford, Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations. All
of them were established in part to assuage the consciences of captains
of industry (or their offspring) who made billions exploiting workers,
squeezing competitors or bilking consumers.
Cohens money wasnt even this
dirty. It was acquired through the political campaign process, and as
far as we know, wasnt a bribe or acquired through fraud. If it is dirty
money, money that sullies anyone who puts it in his or her pocket, then
that must be because it was once owned by a hypocritical Congressman who
liked child pornography. But it wasnt contributed to Cohen because of
that. The previous owners of the money contributed it for a legitimate
political purpose that was foiled by Cohens conduct. It would seem fair
and just for the funds to be given to a cause consistent with that purpose,
the political party Cohen belonged to. Why is it so heinous for the
party to facilitate that end?
The GOP Chairman was, one must
conclude, talking ethics gibberish. There is no coherent offense, ethical
or otherwise, in the Democratic Party accepting campaign donations given
to candidate Cohen in good faith, before his illegal conduct and character
flaws became known. If someone is neither listening carefully nor thinking
very clearly, the accusation that accepting a legitimate donation of honestly
acquired funds from a disreputable person is itself disreputable might
But it isnt. Neil Cohen may be revolting, but his campaign funds are just money.