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The political world is in a frenzy of moral dudgeon over the alleged high crimes and moral misdemeanors of Governor Rob Blagoyevich. The nerve of him! Wanting to make money off the appointment of a new Senator!

Besides, get a load of his hair.

Then I read a story about Governor David Patterson of New York considering Carolyn Kennedy for appointment to another vacant Senate seat. One of Kennedy’s strengths, New York politicos say wisely, is that she can raise a lot of money for the Kennedy-Patterson ticket in 2010.

I am confused. Someone explain the difference to me.

Blagoyevich is charged with wanting a couple of hundred thousand dollars for himself and his wife. Patterson apparently wants about $15 million for his reelection campaign.

I understand the law. It is illegal for a public official to take money in exchange for an official action. As in the notorious pay-to-play scandals that sent several of North Carolina’s finest public officials to the pokey.

But apparently it is not illegal to take campaign contributions in exchange for an official action. At least so long as it’s done with a Monty Python wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

As Michael Kinsley once famously said, the real scandal in politics is not what’s illegal, it’s what is legal.

No wonder people are cynical.

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