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Robert Penn Warren said it best in All the King’s Men:

“Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something.”

There was something on Jim Black. And, as Warren’s Willie Stark would say, it stuck.

So now Raleigh is abuzz: Will Black name more names? Will they be Republicans or Democrats? Lobbyists or legislators?

Whether he does or not, this is clear: Both Raleigh and Washington are awash in a fundamentally corrupt fundraising system.

Politicians need millions of dollars to run for office. Hundreds of millions, if you’re running for President.

Where does that money come from? Where it always comes from: people who want something from government.

That means more and more pressure to raise more and more money. More and more opportunity to do something wrong. And more and more temptation.

As one wise veteran reminded me this week: “Human beings are always vulnerable to temptation.”

Witness Jim Black.

Republican legislators, of course, leapt to the microphones in indignation. But they have no room for self-righteousness. I don’t recall them being indignant about the Abramoff-DeLay-Cunningham affair in Washington.

Their crowd took corruption to new heights of organization, efficiency and ruthlessness.

The Democrats in Raleigh need to take up this issue now. It’s time to stop pretending that all is well, the cancer has been removed. It’s time for leaders to step forward, acknowledge the problem and wrestle with a solution.

For myself, I’m beginning to think that public financing of campaigns – for all its problems – is the only answer.

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