Former liquor distributor Chris Tigani recently pled guilty to violations of federal law concerning donations to various candidates for elected office in Delaware, including then-Sen. Joseph Biden’s failed 2008 presidential campaign. These revelations have caused quite a stir in political circles, with many looking to the future to see what might happen next.
In those private conversations, many people have highlighted the victimless nature of these donations. After all, if you believe the worst about Tigani’s bundling to Vice President Biden’s campaign, who really got hurt?
However, hidden inside these recent news reports you can find two victims of these crimes: former Superior Court Judge Bill Lee and former prosecutor Ferris Wharton.
In 2004, Tigani allegedly conspired with four N.K.S. employees to each contribute $10,000 – for a total of $40,000 – to the Delaware State Committee of “a major political party.”
A $40,000 injection to the Democratic State Committee at a time when then-Gov. Ruth Ann Minner was struggling in her campaign against Judge Lee would have been a significant lift, and could have easily been directed at independent expenditures, on-the-ground organization and other get-out-the-vote activities. And that kind of firepower could not have been matched by the Republicans.
On Election Day, Gov. Minner was able to get 50.9% of the vote to win re-election. If it is revealed that NKS illegally bundled $40,000 to the Delaware Democrats, it wouldn’t be hard to argue that those dollars won the race for the Governor.
In Friday’s article announcing that former Chief Justice Norman Veasey would be named Independent Counsel, another major revelation:
In late 2005, less than a month after Biden announced his first official candidacy for the attorney general’s job, Tigani, N.K.S and six employees or their family members each were reported on the same day as making maximum $1,200 donations to the campaign. Biden’s total contributions exceeding $100 from all sources in that year were $131,825.
Although only one other direct contribution from Christopher Tigani appeared on Biden’s campaign reports in later years, the cluster of N.K.S-related donations in 2005 amounted to about $1 out of every $7 of reportable, individual contributions received by Biden for that year.
Wow. $1 of every $7, in a race that Beau Biden won by just 13,000 votes. Again, that’s certainly enough to account for the difference in that race.
A couple of things to note. The details of the case have yet to shake out, so there could be simple explanations for how all that money changed hands. Also, there’s no evidence that shows that candidates Biden or Minner knew, asked or directed anyone to ask for bundled donations. Tigani could have done this on his own, without ever seeking a quid pro quo.
In the end, however, for good or for bad, money wins elections. And the level of funding suggested by these news reports is enough to tilt the scales in favor of the candidates mentioned. If it shakes out that these were illegal donations, it puts a bold asterisk on the Minner administration and on Beau Biden’s first term as AG, and only because that’s the only remedy we’ve got.
These were not victimless crimes.