Fit subject matter

Well, yes, it is fair subject matter.

It’s a gray line sometimes in the area of political candidates when it comes to what’s properly public information and where the drapes of privacy should run. You can pretty reasonably say, though, that the higher the office, the less privacy you can expect (to the point that in the case of the presidency, your expectation should be not far from zero).

And most people probably would agree with this: That by the time you become a credible candidate for Congress, you should expect to disclose where your household income comes from, and in rough terms how much it is. Members of Congress have to make a lot of decisions that favor or damage people, and the voters who send them there – the voters being the boss – ought to know what sort of financial background is involved.

That’s the problem with the complaint by Republican congressional candidate Vaughn Ward, that yesterday’s Idaho Statesman story was an inappropriate attack on his wife, Kirsten, who has been a tech manager for the federal-backed (and fedreally bailed-out) Fannie Mae. During last year and this when Ward is spending nearly all his time running for Congress, her pay has evidently been the main income for the family. Ward complained (on KBOI radio) that the wives of Idaho’s senators haven’t been similarly scrutinized; but then, they aren’t and haven’t been the main breadwinners in those households.

The source of Ward’s income had puzzled quite a few people, since he evidently isn’t independently wealthy and seems to have had no employment for more than a year other than his part-time Marine reservist work. Had he, for example, been living off loans? If so, from who? Had someone just been donating funds to him personally? The reality turns out to be a lot better than some of the scenarios that could come to mind.

The Statesman‘s editor, Vicki Gowler, said that “Our interest in this story was not Ward’s wife, but the disparity between candidate Ward’s criticism of federal bailouts while his livelihood depends on an institution that had to be rescued by just such a bailout.”

Which may be fair enough on its merits, but just as fair would be this: For the same reasons that voters have available campaign finance reports, they should be informed – in general terms at least – where the candidates for high office get their personal money. The fact in this case that it had been a mystery to so many people for so long is telling by itself. And the nature of Ward’s response to it suggests too that it is having some political effect at the ground level.

Share on Facebook