By Sylvia Gurinsky
In Newsweek's excellent chronicle of the 2008 presidential election, the term "pay for play" is mentioned. Essentially, it's an updated description of the old-time political backroom dealing. The magazine mentioned that Barack Obama wasn't playing in a couple of the states in which the process was known to take place.
When I read it, it reminded me of the line by Captain Renault (Claude Rains) to Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) in the classic film "Casablanca": "There are many exit visas sold in this cafe, but we know you've never sold one. That is why we permit you to remain open."
Perhaps "pay for play" was part of the concept of politics as usual. Naturally, it didn't get the media coverage it might have warranted - until Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich apparently took it to extremes.
Has the Blagojevich matter done collateral damage to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who had been Obama's nominee for commerce secretary?
Maybe. Richardson got the green light from Obama not only on the basis of his record, but also on the theory that the "pay for play" investigation of Richardson wasn't that big a deal and would end soon. Recently, the word came that that wasn't the case. Whether the hijinks in Illinois or new discoveries in New Mexico inspired investigators to press on, who knows?
The bottom line is, Richardson, who has had a stellar career as a diplomat and an elected official, is in trouble. Obama may have some temporary egg on his face until a new Commerce nominee is named.
And the first buzzphrase of 2009 is "Pay for play." Hopefully, the Blagojevich mess can end that practice.