Not too long ago, I posted an examination of Republican candidates running away from President Bush, even while accepting the administration's assistance, albeit quietly, in raising funds for their campaigns. But it's not just Bush whose shadow the candidates are trying to outrun. The Republican leadership in Congress is also quite unpopular with the nation's electorate.
A perfect example of this is Martha Rainville, the Republican candidate for Vermont's at-large House seat, currently held by independent Senate candidate Bernie Sanders. You may recall Rainville as the candidate I wrote about back in February who was cynically campaigning in her military uniform, dodging reporters' tough questions by hiding behind her position at the head of the Vermont National Guard. Earlier this month, the Vermont Guardian caught her saying one thing and then doing another.
At her campaign kick-off less than two months ago, Rainville steadfastly assured her supporters that she would be a different kind of Republican in Washington than the current crop of ne'er-do-wells.
"I am a Republican," she crowed. "But candor compels me to say that some of the Republicans in control of the House have lost their way. In doing so, they have lost the respect of many Americans. Together, we can begin to restore a respectable Congress."
Who was she talking about -- DeLay? Blunt? Speaker Dennis Hastert? Majority Leader John Boehner? Or, maybe she had someone else in mind who hasn't yet been indicted or engrossed in the Abramoff imbroglio. It couldn't be them, because otherwise why would she take nearly $20,000 in campaign donations from Blunt, Hastert, and Boehner.
Given that, maybe she would have taken money from DeLay if he hadn't announced that he was resigning his seat in Congress.
In Blunt, Rainville has cast her political die with someone labeled as one of the 13 most corrupt politicians in Washington, according to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. He's got ties to DeLay and Abramoff and may have violated federal bribery laws.
It's awfully hard for Rainville to talk about campaigning "to restore a respectable Congress" when those who have done the most damage to peoples' respect for Congress are exactly the people bankrolling her campaign. It's even somewhat humorous to see this dynamic play out at all levels of the GOP leadership. Republicans all across the country will be running in the fall on the idea that, "hey, I'm a Republican, but not one of those crooked Republicans who's too weak to govern." But with said crooked Republicans stuffing bills into their back pockets, it's pretty clear that it's all just an act.
If conservative candidates really want to distinguish themselves from their corrupt Republican leadership, the answer is simple -- don't run as Republicans. Otherwise, their cowardly acceptance of so much dirty money exposes them for what they are -- lackeys for the GOP-directed status quo. Something tells me that's not going to fly in a state like Vermont.