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Preschoolers For Rudy!

I absolutely loved, loved, loved today's Washington Post piece about how maxed-out political donors skirt campaign finance laws by having their kiddies donate. It was a case study in how people are willing to tell the most shameless lies--perhaps even to themselves--to justify doing exactly what they want.

While there is no age limit on political contributions, the FEC specifes that all donations must meet 3 criteria to be legal: 1. It must be the child's own money. 2. Parents cannot reimburse the child. And 3. the donation must be made knowingly and voluntarily. 

Aris Mardirossian assures us this is absolutely the case with the $2,300 that her 7-year-old daughter and her eight-year-old son each donated to both Barack Obama's primary and his general election campaigns. "My children are very engaged in politics," Mardirossian explained to the Post. "The whole family is engaged. Every Sunday we get together, all the cousins, everybody comes and talks about politics. The children sit down and listen to the debates and everything." And then they pull out their tiny little checkbooks and, without any prompting from anyone, send off $4,600 a piece to support Barack's message of hope. 

Or how about this howler from Massie Ritsch Susan Henken*, whose 13-year-old son Samuel donated $2,300 of his bar mitzvah and "dog-sitting" funds to Mitt Romney. "My children like to donate to a lot of causes. That's just how it is in my house." Clearly dog-sitting is more lucrative than you'd think.   

 Alas, no one was able to contact the family of two-year-old Carlyn Williams, who sent $2,300 to Obama, because I'm certain her parents have mind-boggling tales of the wee one's civic spirit and oft-expressed faith in Obama's plan to get us out of Iraq. Indeed, next to Elmo, I bet Obama is hands-down her favorite celebrity.

It's hilarious--except it's not. Let's forget for a moment the precocity of these specific young political enthusiasts. Of course donors are abusing the system this way because, let's face it, the rules on the books are a joke. Voluntary, knowing, and non-reimbursed donations from kids barely old enough to tie their shoes (or not). Who are we kidding here? In how many of these cases do you actually believe that some time, over the next year or so, parents won't find a way to repay their offspring for the $2,300--or $4,600--the young 'uns donated? Who needs to do anything as gauche as sneaking the money back into the kid's piggy bank (or trust fund) when compensation can come in the form of extra Christmas gifts or bar mitvah cash or a weekend at Walt Disney World? When you're talking about a parent-dependent relationship, the whole concept of reimbursement is absurd.

If the FEC has any interest in preventing this sort of nonsense, it needs to come up with less laughable criteria. Otherwise, do us all a favor and stop pretending to oversee this area altogether. My two-year-old has some very specific views about Hillary Clinton that she'd like to express. 

--Michelle Cottle

 *Oops. I originally misattributed the quote to Ritsch, who appeared in the piece not as nutty parent of a politically precocious dog-walking tot but as communications director for the watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics. Deepest apologies.