Sex Roundup: Where They Stand

By Matthew Cooper

Nevada Senator John Ensign's fundraising has collapsed. After more details emerged in The New York Times about how he tried to bury an affair with a staffer and find work for her husband, he's seen his campaign fundraising fall to just $33,000 last quarter, down from almost 10 times that during the previous period, according to new campaign finance reports that Politico examined. So just to keep track of the sexually troubled: Mark Sanford is still governor of South Carolina, and that's not going to change anytime soon. Meanwhile, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana looks like he's on track to be reelected next year. Vitter was the only sitting U.S. Senator to back Rudy Giuliani, who has had his own issues in this regard. He could be a strong candidate for governor of New York next year against David Paterson, whose troubled tenure began post Eliot Spitzer (!) when he disclosed his own extramarital affairs. So...lessons learned?

Anytime sex leeches into money, you have problems. That's why John Edwards has a grand jury on his butt, seemingly looking into whether the money his late presidential campaign's finance chair gave to his mistress violated campaign finance laws. This is what took the Ensign story from bad judgment to a killer. Sanford's problems were made much worse because of his weird lying and absence from his job, yes, but also the use of state funds. An Elliott Spitzer comeback to public life--it's already begun with his writing--is much more plausible because the wealthy heir to a real estate fortune paid for hookers out of his own pocket. This is a tolerant country. John McCain's admitted failings from his first marriage didn't hurt his chances at the GOP presidential nomination. Bill Clinton came back from impeachment. People understand failings in their pols and movie stars maybe because they see it in themselves. But the appearance of the abuse of public funds remains, I think, the sin that's much harder to forgive.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2009/10/sex-roundup-where-they-stand/28535/