Were I to attempt to influence Texas Gov. Rick Perry's decision on joining the 2012 presidential race by writing him a check for a million dollars, I'd probably get a lot of critical media attention and risk prosecution for violating campaign finance laws.
Were I to write him a check for the same amount in return for being my personal advisor or a television host on my network -- conditional on his staying out of the race -- I'd simply be quietly influencing the race in much the same way that Roger Ailes, president of Fox News, has.
There's a widespread belief that a major reason Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin have stayed out of the race is to retain their generous stipends from Fox -- reputed to be $500,000 and $1 million respectively, well beyond what either made as governor -- which refuses to retain a network personality formally in the presidential race.
Money doesn't always talk decisively, of course, as the decisions by Newt Gingrich and and Rick Santorum to run at the cost of abandoning their Fox podiums suggest. Both jumped into the race after Fox temporarily suspended them until they made up their mind. Former UN Ambassador John Bolton apparently remains on the Fox air -- and payroll -- while he continues to contemplate making his first political campaign.
The question here isn't whether Fox is doing anything improper or whether this is part of a scheme by Roger Ailes to become GOP kingmaker, a role he's long allegedly aspired to, or perhaps GOP kingkiller.
It is merely musing about whether we see the development of a new political tactic -- history suggests that such ideas spread far more quickly than the rules can be changed -- and whether we'll next see others -- Hollywood liberals offering production deals, Wall Street consulting contracts, corporate America speaking fees -- that will divert credible candidates who aren't rich enough to spurn such offers or egocentric enough to be single-minded about their candidacy.
Such a development probably wouldn't improve the candidate pool in the years ahead.